Volunteer opportunity: Serve as a Science Fair Judge

Every year thousands of kids do Science Fair projects.  Judges are needed to evaluate the projects done by our own Fairfax County high school students, and to give them an opportunity to practice their presentation skills.  This is an opportunity to get to know a younger generation and to hear and challenge their thinking.
Judging typically occurs on a school day afternoon or evening, or on a Saturday morning.  Judges work in groups according to their chosen fields within science, and judges are provided with the criteria to use in evaluating student work.  Each judge is assigned to evaluate 8 to 12 specific projects, and each project is assigned to 2 or 3 judges. All the participating students with their projects are stationed in a large room until they have had the opportunity to present their project to their judges.  Groups of judges meet afterwards to compare their evaluations of the projects and to identify those that should receive awards and be forwarded on to the countywide science fair.  First time judges work with experienced judges to become familiar with the process, and some schools can even provide childcare for their judges!
About two dozen Fairfax County high schools will be having science fairs this winter, starting on January 17  and continuing through February.  The typical time commitment is for 4 hours, starting at 2 pm in the afternoon.  This is a great opportunity to get to know teens who are working hard to gain skills and understand the world.  You will be impressed with how many of them care about good environmental stewardship.
Come encourage them!
Contact Cathy Greulich  to match your availability with the location and dates of the science fairs at the various high schools, or contact your local high school to find their date.

Review of Nature is One of the Most Under-appreciated Tools for Reigning in Carbon, by Emma Bryce

Reviewed by Tami Sheiffer

I’ve always been a big-picture person more than a details-person. in Virginia Master Naturalist basic training, I appreciated learning about the geology, flora, and fauna specific to Virginia and Fairfax County, and I value the focus on native plants and animals in our service projects. But my mind always wants to zoom out to the global scale and to my primary concern, which is human-induced climate change. I wonder, does our volunteer work as master naturalists have a significant effect on mitigating climate change, even when our service projects are not directly related to the issue? Encouragingly, the answer seems to be yes.

In Nature is One of the Most Under-appreciated Tools for Reigning in Carbon (20 October 2017) in the magazine Anthropocene, Emma Bryce summarizes Justin Adams’ (2017)  study, Natural Climate Solutions, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America . The study found that natural climate solutions–reforestation, conserving wetlands, sustainable fertilizer use, and other land management strategies–have a great effect on removing carbon or keeping carbon out of the atmosphere. Even with constraints added to the model, to ensure that land requirements for food production are met, and costs are kept down, a conservative model estimates that natural climate solutions can save 11 billion tons of annual emissions, providing 37% of the mitigation needed to meet the Paris Climate Agreement goal of 2℃ of warming.

The study’s findings are encouraging, and Bryce sums up the key takeaways so that they are easy to remember. The article gives readers information about which land management strategies have the largest impact on carbon mitigation, and assures us that we have enough knowledge about their effectiveness to act on these solutions now.

It turns out that when we plant trees and other native plants, or engage in park restoration, or educate a landowner or farmer to use less fertilizer and disturb the soil less, collectively we are not just improving the local environment but the global one as well.

Want to review a resource? We’d love to hear from you. Instructions for submission await your click and commitment.

Paid internship opportunities at U.S. Botanic Gardens, 5 February deadline

The U.S. Botanic Gardens in Washington, D.C., is offering 12-week paid summer internships for students at least 16 years old as of 30 June 2018 and enrolled in school or college.


Position 1: Laborer or Gardener Aide

Position 2: Horticulture Aide

Compensation: $13.63/hour

Deadline to apply is 5 February

January 6 Hike to the Tundra Swans is postponed

The Friends of Mason Neck State Park’s hike to see the Tundra Swans on January 6 has been postponed.  The Great Marsh is freezing over, and the Tundra Swans will have to move further offshore or to another protected spot.  The hike will be rescheduled for February,  when the swans will be more visible.

2018 Native Seedling Sale: Plant List and Theme Announced!

Hold on to your trowels – the native species included in the NoVA Conservation District’s 2018 seedling sale have been announced!! This year’s species were all chosen for their deer tolerance. The Shrub and Small Tree Package ($16.95) will include two each of the following: Common Witch Hazel, Silky Dogwood, False Indigo Bush, Spicebush and Shadblow Serviceberry. The Tree Package ($11.95) will include two each of Eastern Redbud, Shortleaf Pine and Pawpaw. All species are Virginia natives and wildlife friendly! Online ordering will start February 1st, and seedling packages can be picked up at the Packard Center in Annandale on April 20th and 21st.

Michelle Prysby’s December Keynote Highlights Virginia Master Naturalists’ Response to State and National Needs

As wild habitat disappears across the United States, and funding for natural resource conservation recedes, the need for conservation volunteers has never been greater. According to Michelle Prysby, Virginia Master Naturalist Program Director, master naturalist programs help buffer natural and man-made threats in measurable ways.

Since the 1990s, master naturalist programs have sprouted up in more than 30 states, many inspired by the 20-year-strong Texas program and nurtured by grants from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

Created in 2005, Virginia’s own program now has 29 chapters, with a new one in the works in the Middle Peninsula region, on the western shore of the Chesapeake Bay.

In 2016, Virginia Master Naturalists delivered about 140,000 hours of volunteer work to the Commonwealth, worth approximately $4 million. Most of that work came in the form of citizen science.

This context for the Fairfax Master Naturalists was central to Prysby’s keynote at our December 8 annual meeting and graduation of the Fall 2017 class of volunteers. Prysby serves on the extension faculty of the Virginia Tech Department of Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation, and spoke at the December meeting in honor of the 10th anniversary of the Fairfax chapter.

Prysby, who remembers the founding of our chapter, highlighted  outcomes that have helped natural resource agencies with conservation efforts. Results range from maintaining songbird habitat and native wildflower gardens to water monitoring and repairing riparian buffers that improve water quality.

With seven different natural resource agencies as sponsors, Virginia Master Naturalists is unique among programs in the United States. The agencies’ faith in and funding for this growing cadre of volunteer naturalists stem from the return on their investment in the program. Statewide, master naturalists deliver many benefits: Managing invasive species, adopting birding and wildlife trails, and providing needs assessment and strategic planning that support and expand agency capacity.

A certified Virginia Master Naturalist herself, Prysby also serves as the current president of a national organization–the Alliance of Natural Resource Outreach and Service Programs. Wearing that hat in addition to her Virginia role gives her a keen perspective on conservation stewardship nationally.

To sustain and further our excellent work, Prysby and FMN leadership invite applications for the Spring 2018 class.–Michael Reinemer, FMN President

Alonso Abugattas speaks on interconnectedness of natural world, Saturday, 20 January, Frying Pan Park

Alonso Abugattas, the Natural Resources Manager for Arlington County Parks, VA, and the Co-Chair for the Beltway Chapter of Region 2 of the National Association for Interpretation, will speak on behalf of the Annual Invasive Management Area meeting. Alonso writes the Capital Naturalist blog, found at http://capitalnaturalist.blogspot.com/ . Brunch fare and drinks will be provided.

Saturday, 20 January 2018

9-11:30 AM

Visitor’s CenterAuditorium

Frying Pan Farm Park

2709 West Ox Road

Herndon VA 20171


RSVP by 8 January to [email protected] or [email protected] or by calling (703) 324-8681

Charles Smith speaks on relationships between plants, fungi, bacteria, and insects, Thursday 11 January, Green Springs

Charles Smith kicks off the 2018 Green Springs Gardens lecture series with a talk on the interactions and relationships in plant communities. Learn about organisms that interact with plants, such as insect larvae, lesser known pollinators and bacterial and fungal allies.

Thursday, 11 January 2018

7:30 – 9:00 pm

Green Spring Gardens

4603 Green Spring Road

Alexandria, VA 22312




Review of Dire Predictions: Understanding Climate Change (2nd ed.), by Michael E. Mann and Lee R. Kump

Reviewed by Jim Wilcox

The facts about global warming and climate change are indisputable at this point, but all good naturalists still do their own research. To this end, for the past five years, I’ve completed more than 20 online courses and read about 30 well-researched books (references coming in a related post). If you have time to read only one book now, though, consider Dire Predictions (2015, 224 pp).

Mann and Kump, both professors at Pennsylvania State University, cover the science behind global warming and climate change; Earth’s climate history; how the water cycle and carbon cycle affect climate change; projections for future changes and what impact those changes will have on our environment, ecology, and sociology; possible mitigating actions; adaptive responses; and much more.

As scientists, the authors don’t shy away from data or math, nor are they dogmatic. Instead they speak in terms of probabilities and write for a general reader in easily understandable terms. Photographs and effective graphics document and illustrate complex concepts. A comprehensive glossary serves as a ready reference as do the frequent embedded bookmarks to other sections within the book.

Dire Predictions draws its information primarily from the 5th Assessment Report (AR5) of the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (hence the book’s second subtitle: The Visual Guide to the Findings of the IPCC).

Dr. Mann is probably best known for his work showing the rise of Earth’s average temperature graphically, the graph for which became known as the hockey stick.

You can preview the contents and layout of Dire Predictions at no charge and with no effort by clicking on this link to the abridged pdf. The Fairfax County Public Library system has 13 copies of the complete book. Borrow one. Read it. You will walk away better able to have an informed discussion.

Want to review a resource? We’d love to hear from you. Instructions for submission await your click and commitment.

Fairfax County Park Authority Certified Interpretive Guide classes, 5-8 February 2018: Register now

This FCPA certification workshop teaches the skills you need to interpret natural and cultural resources to any audience you choose. You will graduate understanding how to connect learners to the value of natural resources so that they care about them and pay the message forward.

This is a national certification program offered by the National Association for Interpretation hosted by the Fairfax County Park Authority for its staff.

Two sessions with five spots per session are open to the public. Register online NLT 20 January for either the session at Green Springs Gardens in Alexandria or the session at Dranesville Tavern in Herndon.

Registration Cost: $230 (Certification is an additional $150). Qualifies for learning hours for master naturalists.