Certified Interpretive Guide course, Feb. 24-27th

Green Spring Gardens
4603 Green Spring Road, Alexandria VA
Monday, 24 February – Thursday, 27 February
8:30 am – 5 pm
28 February a possible snow make-up day

A Certified Interpretive Guide course is being offered by the Fairfax County Park Authority. This certification workshop focuses on the skills needed to interpret natural and cultural resources to an audience allowing them to not just learn about resources but connect to and care about them.
This is a national certification program offered by the National Association for Interpretation hosted by the Fairfax County Park Authority for its staff. It requires no prior knowledge or training.
There are 5 spots open to the public. You can register online.
Here is the link:


The course is 32 hours and meets 8:30am-5pm for 4 days, more details will follow after registering. Remember to indicate whether you want the certification option.
For more information about the course, please contact Patricia Dietly at patricia.dietly@fairfaxcounty.gov or call (703) 642-0128.

Fireflies: Hosting Nature’s Light Show into Your Garden, program Feb.3rd

American Legion
400 N. Oak Street, Falls Church VA
Monday, 3 February 2020
7:30 pm

Lightning bugs (aka fireflies) are part of the magic of growing up in the eastern United States, yet most people know very little about them. Nature education specialists Kris and Erik Mollenhauer have studied fireflies, seen “blue ghosts” and “synchronizing fireflies,” and explored some of the dark secrets of the Night Country. This program explores the “fairies of the night” and how we can create habitat in our gardens to keep them flashing for years to come.

BIO: Erik and Kris Mollenhauer are retired educators but committed volunteers. Erik taught high school science for 15 years, then worked as an educational program developer for 24 years. He developed a program with Costa Rica based on songbird migration as well as an international teacher exchange program that led groups to several countries, including Russia, Australia and Japan. For 5 years he helped National Geographic improve geography education in NJ schools; for 30 years, he’s used a portable planetarium to teach the night sky to people of all ages in the US, Canada, Russia and Japan.

Kris was an elementary school teacher for 14 years, then spent 12 years as a Reading Recovery teacher, teaching struggling students how to read. Working with the Monarch Teacher Network, the Mollenhauers have taught monarch butterfly workshops across the US and Canada for the past 20 years and guided groups to the winter monarch colonies in Mexico and California. They’ve also developed many educational projects together, including the East Coast Vulture Festival, the Mad Hatter’s Tree Party, the Gloucester County Bird Quest and, most recently, the Gloucester County Firefly Festival.

Bringing Peregrine Falcons Back to Virginia’s Mountains, Mar. 1st

Mount Vernon Government Center
2511 Parkers Lane, Alexandria VA
(Near U.S. 1 and a mile from The George Washington Memorial Parkway)
Sunday, 1 March 2020
2 pm
Free, open to the public

National Park Service biologist, Rolf Gubler, will give a talk about the Peregrine Falcon restoration project at Shenandoah National Park.

A team brings at-risk Peregrine Falcon chicks from bridge nest sites in eastern Virginia to Virginia’s mountains, once part of their historic range. They hope the birds will imprint on the park’s cliffs and return as breeding adults. This project boosts mountain peregrine populations and aids in the survival of bridge nest peregrine chicks where fledging is often difficult due to insufficient updrafts.

Peregrine Falcons were used for hunting or falconry as early as 2000 B.C. in China and Egypt and in World War II, both the British/U.S. and the German armies had a falcon corps to intercept their opponent’s homing pigeons. Peregrines are found in rural and urban environments and on every continent except Antarctica.

Winter Birds with Larry Meade, Mar. 5th

National Wildlife Federation
11100 Wildlife Center Drive, Reston, VA 20190
Thursday, 5 March 2020
7-9 pm
Field trip: Saturday, 7 March 2020, TBD
Cost: $30 ASNV member/$40 non-member

March can offer spectacular birding, marking a transition between winter and spring. Many of our winter birds, such as waterfowl and sparrows, are still around, but they are joined by early migrants returning to breeding territories. In this workshop, the presenter will discuss birds that occur here at this time of year, with a special focus on species that are migrating into our region and their arrival dates. An ancillary field trip offers a chance to encounter many of these birds in their natural settings.

Larry Meade, Audubon Society of Northern Virginia Education Committee and President of Northern Virginia Bird Club, will lead.

Register here.

Drawing Winter Weeds, Nature Journaling, Feb.6th

Hidden Oaks Nature Center
7701 Royce St., Annandale VA
Thursday, 6 February 2020
7-9 pm
Cost: $15

Some flowers, ferns and grasses persist in winter as dried stalks and provide food for wildlife. Learn about local winter weeds and try drawing some from our collection. Ink pens work especially well with this subject. See a brief demonstration, then try it yourself using our collection of dried plants. A suggested list of supplies will be sent upon registration.
Code F3B.F818

To sign up use this address: www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/hidden-oaks/classes or google Hidden Oaks Nature Center and click on the programs section, or call 703-222-4664.

102nd NVSWCD Green Breakfast, Jan. 11th

Brion’s Grille
10621 Braddock Rd, Fairfax, VA 22032
Saturday, 11 January 2020
Breakfast begins at 8:30 am, $10 at the door, cash preferred
No prior registration required

Getting Winter Ready – An Update on the Northern Virginia Salt Management Strategy
Sarah Sivers, Water Quality Planning Team Lead with the Virginia DEQ-Northern Regional Office

It’s been two years since the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality began the stakeholder process to develop a salt management strategy and address the elevated chloride levels in Fairfax County streams. Since then, DEQ along with a stakeholder group have prepared a draft list of recommendations. Join the Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District for a warm breakfast and hear from Water Quality Planning Team Lead, Sarah Sivers, who will provide background on how all of this began, the status of the program, and draft strategies and recommendations.

Breakfast includes an all-you-can eat hot buffet with fresh fruit and coffee, tea, orange juice or water. No prior registration required. If you have any questions, please contact the Northern Virginia Soil and Water at conservationdistrict@fairfaxcounty.gov.

Register for Behavior-Centered Design for the Environment, April 1-2, 2020

Marilyn Kupetz

During a two-day workshop at Rare’s Center for Behavior & Environment this past October, one of the participants, a professor of restorative ecology, described an initiative that he’s launching at Longwood University: getting students, faculty, and staff to reduce the number of single-use plastics that they deposit into the waste stream in Farmville, Virginia. 

He was credible and inspiring, and when I went home that day, I examined every bit of plastic that I inject, virtuously, into my recycling bin: sushi trays, shampoo containers, pill bottles, salad boxes, plastic utensils, yogurt packaging, dog treat wrappers, water bottles—I could go on for a while, but I’m sure you get it. I was surprised at the variety and appalled by the numbers.

I was also surprised to learn that manufacturers are not buying plastic right now because it costs more to wash and prepare recycled waste than to make new plastic. So the fact that we recycle doesn’t actually reduce the effects of the plastic we toss. It still ends up in landfills or the ocean. The path forward seems to require some combination of avoiding plastic all together—very hard; repurposing as much of what we do have to buy as possible; and thinking creatively about options that haven’t occurred to us yet, but could if we summon the collective will.

Because Rare teaches Behavior-Centered Design for the Environment twice a year and leads projects that practice it—all over the world, all the time—our facilitators asked us to workshop in real time how we ourselves might encourage just one organization to reduce the number of plastic products they consume and throw away during lunch each day. 

Collectively, our ideas touched all of the levers of behavior-centered design:

  • We suggested a material incentive: giving staff branded, reusable containers for lunch or takeout. Because they would cost the organization very little, and could be made of recycled plastic, the incentive might be valuable on several levels.
  • We’d engage in positive storytelling, by, for example, posting signs reminding staff that although waste adds up, change is in their hands, literally.
  • We’d leverage social influence, perhaps with a trash art installation inside the front door to remind ourselves of what waste really looks like, without any personal public shaming.
  • We’d push information via fun infographic reminders to forego plastic and adopt reusable utensils and containers.
  • We’d enable choice architecture by hosting a cache of reusable containers right near the cafeteria so that staff could borrow, wash, and return them if they forgot their own.

Doable, right? A question of will, not wherewithall. 

I’m working out how to use what I learned—from the gifted teachers and the fabulous participants—in my own life and activities. I encourage those of you who want your efforts to preserve the natural world to have meaningful outcomes to participate in the next workshop, to be held April 1-2, 2020.

Free Resources

Behavior Change for Nature: A Behavioral Science Toolkit for Practitioners is a useful, short booklet for getting started, and perfect for those of you who learn best from the printed word.

Behavior Beat is Rare’s monthly newsletter full of stories and links to resources. Great resource for news and easily digestible stories of what works.

Lots of webinars and inspiring stories on the site itself.

And, of course, come talk with me, too, any time.

If you are a Fairfax Master Naturalist, the workshop easily fulfills your education requirement for the year. I’ve already added it to the calendar.

Herbivory: Why It Is Important that Plants Get Eaten, Jan. 9th

Green Spring Gardens
4603 Green Spring Road, Alexandria VA
Thursday, 9 January 2020
7:30 pm

Please join the Potowmack Chapter of the Virginia Native Plant Society for a talk by Charles Smith, to kick off their lecture series this year. Charles will discuss native plants and their role as the foundation of ecosystems, coevolution with other organisms and importance for maintaining biodiversity.

Charles is a native of Arlington, VA, a naturalist and ecologist with 27 years of experience in natural resource inventory, planning, management and monitoring. He is currently branch chief of Fairfax County Stormwater Planning Division, focusing on stream and natural area restoration. He worked for 17 years for the Fairfax County Park Authority, mostly in natural resource management, and five years for the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority. Charles is a US Army veteran, a board member of the Virginia Native Plant Society, a certified Ecological Resotration Practitioner and is an instructor for three chapters of the Virginia Master Naturalists.

VNPS programs are free and open to the public.
No reservations are necessary for lectures.

Earth Sangha seed cleaning events

Earth Sangha office
5101-I Backlick Road, Annandale VA
Sunday, 15 December and Monday, 16 December 2019, 10 am – 1 pm
Sunday, 5 January and Monday, 6 January 2020, 10 am – 1 pm
Sunday, 12 January and Monday, 13 January 2020 , 10 am – 1 pm
Continuing until all seeds are cleaned

Ever wonder how Earth Sangha grows the plants in its nursery? It all starts with the seeds! Come volunteer and learn how the process works. The size of the office conference room dictates a maximum of 15 people participating at a time. If you want to join these activities, please register by sending an email to Lisa Bright at lbright@earthsangha.org. Regrettably, volunteers may have to be turned away if they show up without communicating to Lisa.

Audubon Afternoon: “Winter Waterfowl of the Potomac River,” Jan. 12th

National Wildlife Federation
11100 Wildlife Center Drive, Reston, VA 20190
Sunday, 12 January 2020
2:30 – 5 pm

Join Audubon Society of Northern Virginia (ASNV) to learn about waterfowl that visit our area in winter. Greg Butcher, ASNV Vice-President and Migratory Species Coordinator for the US Forest Service, will be the guest speaker. Please bring a dish to share. This event is FREE and open to the public.

Greg Butcher first became an Audubon member when he was 11 and his grandfather bought him a membership. He has been birdwatching ever since, the last 16 years in the D.C. area. During weekdays, he is the Migratory Species Coordinator for U.S. Forest Service International Programs, working with birds, bats, monarch butterflies, and dragonflies. Greg has previously worked for National Audubon Society, American Birding Association, Partners in Flight, Birder’s World magazine, and Cornell Lab of Ornithology. He studied ecology in Costa Rica with Organization for Tropical Studies and has worked closely with BirdLife International over the past 16 years. He is a Fellow of the American Ornithologists’ Union (AOU) and a 2010 TogetherGreen Fellow.