Volunteer for the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute’s Conservation Discovery Day, Oct 5

Be part of the most sci-taclaur and exclusive event at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI) in Front Royal Va., the Conservation Discovery Day.

We are always looking for enthusiastic volunteers to help with our event. If you enjoy meeting new people while promoting the interests of wildlife, try volunteering. It is rewarding, fun, and something different to do!

Besides having a packed series of special lectures, there will be hands-on activities, science demonstrations, tours of the vet hospital, discussions with animal keepers and conservation ecologists.

So this is where you come in. Special event volunteers play a pivotal role in making the event run smoothly, and our guests have an enjoyable experience. If it weren’t for the help, we receive from community volunteers like you; we could not offer such a fantastic event. Would you like to be part of our team delivering a tremendous visitor experience by lending a hand to our scientists, veterinarians, animal keepers, and researchers run their exhibits, facilitate hands-on themed games and activities, and help engage visitors by providing exceptional customer service and raise awareness of our vital conservation work? We’d love you to bring your skills to the Conservation Discovery Day.

This year’s event is on Saturday, October 5, 2019, from 9:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. with two shifts: 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. or 12:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. you may sign up for one or both shifts. Lunch will be provided. *A vegetarian option will be available, but we will not be able to accommodate other dietary restrictions

 

If you are interested in making a difference in one day, consider volunteering at this year’s Conservation Discovery Day.

For more information: SCBIeducation@si.edu

Your chance to design 2020 VMN recertification pin

VMN is planning its 2020 VMN recertification pin, and they have decided that the species for the pin will be an aquatic macroinvertebrate.  They would like to invite any VMN volunteer (certified, member or trainee) to submit artwork that could be the basis for the pin design.

Guidelines:

1. Species: You can choose any benthic macroinvertebrate species (for example, species of mayflies, stoneflies, caddisflies, etc.)  The artwork should be of the immature stage of the invertebrate that lives in the water.  Please identify the invertebrate in your drawing at least to taxonomic order (e.g., mayfly, stonefly, etc.)  If your artwork is of an invertebrate from a particular family, genus, or species, please let us know that as well.

2. Drawings or paintings are preferred, as they tend to make a better pin in the end, but photographs will also be considered.

3. Full color is best.  Something that is uniform in color or very dark likely will not show up well as a pin.

4. The drawing or photo can be any size, but the pin is typically going to be about 1 inch in diameter, so keep in mind how the details will look when shrunk down to that size.

5. We plan to have the pin be cut out in the shape of the design (versus an oval or round pin), in the same style of the turtle and frog pins from 2016 and 2017, for example.  Because of that, it is best if the artwork is just the aquatic macroinvertebrate, without any background or other objects.  Try to visualize how your artwork will look cut out all around its edges.

6. The artist or photographer must be a current VMN volunteer (certified, member, or trainee.)

7. If you have been the artist for a recertification pin in a previous year, you are welcome to submit again, but if we have enough submissions that would work well for the pin, we are likely to try to choose a volunteer who has not had the opportunity before.

8. All entries will be recognized in our fall newsletter and at our statewide conference!

For inspiration, see past artwork that we used for the pins at http://www.virginiamasternaturalist.org/recertification-pins.html.We would like to have your submissions by 5:00 pm, Monday, August 26.  Please email a high resolution digital scan of the artwork or digital photograph to me at mprysby@vt.edu.

 Learn how to plant a riparian forest

September 11, 9:00-2:00pm

Virginia Department of Forestry Training Room                                                                           

900 Natural Resources Drive Suite 800

Charlottesville, VA 22903                                                                                                           

.                                                                      

This training is being offered to 

Master Naturalists and Tree Stewards.

There is no cost to you and lunch is included.

Learn from professionals with years of experience 

  • Techniques used to plant forest buffers that can be applied to the Virginia Total Maxiumum Daily Load commitment to the Chesapeake Bay restoration efforts.
  • Why planting in riparian areas takes a unique skill set than other tree plantings.
  • How to select a site and species that will result in a successful riparian planting.
  • How the professionals handle seedlings, draw up plans for planting sites
  • Little tips that save dollars but don’t compromise results
  • Learn outreach words and techniques that speak to landowners’ needs, concerns, and stewardship ethics.

The desired outcomes of the training are: 

There will be Master Naturalists and Tree Stewards willing to select planting sites, recruit groups of citizens to help with plantings, and shepherd planting projects from start to finish.  You will have the assistance and support of those who have the experience to produce sustainable tree planting projects in riparian areas.  All trees, and needed supplies will be supplied and available for plantings. 

**Continuing education credits will be made available

FMN photo contest winners announced

The second annual Fairfax Master Naturalist photo contest is complete.  With thirty-five entries and six entrants, the judges were overwhelmed with superb choices.  Our  judges were only allowed to chose one photo for each category to forward to the statewide Virginia Master Naturalist contest.  For the statewide competition, the entries will be judged by a qualified group of judges who will select First place, Second place, and Third place for all five categories. Honorable Mention(s) will be awarded as the judges see fit. All entered pictures will be exhibited via a PowerPoint at the Fredericksburg Expo Center for the duration of the 2019 VMN Statewide Conference and Training.

Congratulations and best of luck to our Fairfax Master Naturalist contest winners:

Virginia native wildlife.  Photo by Ana Ka’ahanui.

Virginia native plant and fungi world. Photo (c) by Barbara J. Saffir.

Virginia native landscapes.  Photo by Fred Siskind.

Virginia native macro and night photography. Photo (c) by Barbara J. Saffir.

Virginia master naturalists in action. Photo (c) by Barbara J. Saffir.

How can universities and colleges advance community science?

Reposted from On the Job, a blog hosted by the American Geophysical Union

A cool thing about working at Thriving Earth Exchange is learning about excellent work being done in community science. There is a lot going on in colleges and universities, and even research-focused universities are starting to change in ways that advance and support community science. In making those changes, they can look to a history of community science in two-year colleges, agricultural extension offices, tribal colleges, and historically black colleges. I love that idea that the emergence of community science is an opportunity to recognize their long-standing leadership.  How cool is it that Stanford might learn from Haskell Indian Nations University?

Here are some of the things universities and colleges are doing, distilled into a set of recommendations for any university or college seeking to advance community science.  Don’t think of this as a list of hit singles, think of it as the tracks on an album, where the songs are mutually reinforcing and tell a larger story (e.g. Lemonade). That is, the biggest impact seems to come from tackling all the practices described here.

 

  1. Redefine Success. For the past 75 years, professional success in science has been based primarily on original discovery, usually measured by publications and citations. Worcester Polytechnic Institute has revised their tenure process based on Boyer’s model of scholarship, so that they recognize not only discovery and teaching, but also application and engagement. West Chester University has long allowed faculty to shift the relative weight of service, teaching, and research in their tenure portfolios, which means faculty who focus on community science can weight that higher. At University of Washington, the dean of the college of the Environment invites new faculty to write one less paper, and instead spend that time working with her team to translate their work into real world impact.
  2. Learn to Count Impact. I am convinced that one of the reasons papers count is because we know how to count papers. How can we shift from impact factor to societal impact? Let’s support research into the benefits of community-engaged approaches, including their benefits for communities, faculty and students.  I think a promising place to start is around the idea of community science literacy, which emphasizes a community’s capacity to use science by linking it with their members other skills and assets.  This framing is powerful because it’s asset-based and it includes both concrete accomplishment and future potential.
  3. Organize around priorities, not disciplines. Community priorities don’t map onto single disciplines, so being good at community science means being multidisciplinary. Colleges can make interdisciplinary work easier though centers that bring together faculty and students from many departments, like the School for Innovation and the Future of Society at ASU or the Haskell Environmental Research Center. Centers like these can also offer seed-funding, new kinds of course work and preparation, project management support, and coordinate community partnerships. For communities, these centers can help communities avoid getting lost in university bureaucracy.
  4. Build Institutional connections to community organizations. For community science to succeed at scale and last over time, a university or college has to build strong, trusting relationships with community groups. A long-term, university or college-wide commitment allows a college to reach across disciplines, engage different people over time, present a single point of contact for managing projects and relationships, and guide the institutional evolution necessary to support community science.  Of course, motivated faculty and students will build relationships anyway, but without university support and alignment, those relationships disappear when the students or faculty move on or risk being undermined  by actions in another part of the university.  An institutional leadership can look like a vice-chancellor for community engagement, or even a presidential commitment to community partnership. UC Davis has a Center for Citizen and Community Science that serves as hub for both doing and studying community engagement.
  5. Build the infrastructure for community science. One of the things I often hear is that community science is hard to do and takes a long time to get results. Numerical modeling is also hard and it also takes a long time to get results, but we make it easier by providing infrastructure (computing centers, for example). What if colleges and universities invested in infrastructure for community science?  Infrastructure includes space to hold community meetings, hubs in local neighborhoods, online engagement tools, workplace flexibility that allows people to manage engagement around community work schedules, help navigating languages and cultures, solid partnerships with community-serving organizations, and administrative services that support community engagement (see point 8).
  6. Educate people to do community science. Make it a part of every science graduate program and encourage proficiency before graduation. Create opportunities to learn and practice community ethics, community engagement, cultural humility, conflict management and listening as a research skill. There are fields that do this well already – public health, human geography, ecology, and anthropology – other sciences can learn a lot.  Offer mentorship program around community science.   For physical scientists, NSF has a new program that pays students and advisors to do internships – why not internships in community science?  One thing that would be especially cool is classes where community leaders and scientists learn community science together. Cornell Lab of Ornithology has a remarkable project, the NOISE project, that does exactly that.
  7. Make equity the foundation of community science. Science is already influenced by and a partner in the implicit biases and systemic inequities that are part of the larger world. Unless you are designing with equity in mind, you’re probably perpetuating inequity. Equity as a foundation of community science means respecting, welcoming, and advancing all communities. It also means being a partner to communities in their efforts to tackle inequity and looking for ways science can help elevate community voices and perspectives. Institutions that were designed to advance equity – Tribal Colleges, HBCU’s – are the obvious exemplars, but I think any institution, can and should, make a commitment to equity.
  8. Share power, money and decision-making. Doing community science means that institutions with power and privilege, universities and colleges, will make a conscious decision to share that power and privilege.   The most successful community science projects share the budget so that community organizations benefit as directly as the science institution, build in fair compensation for the expertise and participation of community members, have well-defined leadership roles that are shared by community leaders and scientists, and have clearly outlined processes for making decisions. This backed up by open agreements about intellectual property, community review boards, and shared ethical principles of engagement.  One thing I would love to see is research dollars going to community groups, so they can invest in the research to answer their questions.   We should also look at how resources are shared among colleges and universities. Will new funds for community science go to smaller schools that have been doing it well forever, or to high-profile institutions that are new to community science?

 

The cool thing about all of these practices is that they are doable. In fact, some institutions are already doing them – as revealed in the recent AGU Union Session.  What that means is that the revolutionary part of the community science revolution isn’t knowing how to do community science, or even finding people who are doing community science. The revolutionary part is changing structures and systems so that we encourage, facilitate, and reward community science.  I think universities and colleges have an opportunity to lead that revolution, and some already are.  What do you think?

Raj Pandya, Director, Thriving Earth Exchange, American Geophysical Union

Ten tips for creating successful community science projects

Join Thriving Earth Exchange for a free webinar on community science on 15 August,  2:00–3:00 p.m. EDT. Speakers will offer key tips and strategies based on their experiences with successful community science projects.

Register to attend.

Citizen science in chest waders

Photo: Barbara J. Saffir

David Gorsline

David Gorsline monitoring nest boxes in Huntley Meadows. Photo by Barbara J. Saffir

For the past 25+ years, I have participated in a program of monitoring nest boxes for Wood Ducks and Hooded Mergansers in Huntley Meadows Park.

Our team monitors 16 boxes in the park’s wetlands. We are the people with the big boots and sticks, because almost all of the boxes are mounted on poles in one to three feet of water.

These two species of duck begin laying eggs in very late February, and the last of the eggs hatch by about Memorial Day, sometimes a little later. Both of these birds bear what are called precocial young; that is, the ducklings come out of their eggs already covered in down, ready to be on their own, and they leave the nest box with their mother after only a day or two. Thus, it’s not often that we see chicks in the nest, unlike our counterparts on the Eastern Bluebird team. But, come April, if you keep a close eye on the vegetation at the edge of the marsh, you might spot a line of little ducks swimming behind a female.

FMN Kat Dyer inspecting box #68, Huntley Meadows Park, June 2017. Photo: David Gorsline

There’s about six of us on the team, including FMN Kat Dyer. At the start of the breeding season, we clean the boxes and lay down a fresh layer of wood chips. We handle simple repairs in the field; we notify park staff if a box needs to be completely replaced. During the season, we check boxes once a week, count any eggs we find, and record hatching events. Our collected information goes on file at the park, as well as to the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology’s NestWatch project.

Since the 1991 breeding season, the number of boxes that we have deployed and monitored has varied between 14 and 21. Not all the boxes are used in a given season, but typically about three-fourths of them are used. Hooded Mergansers, expanding their breeding range, began nesting in our boxes in 2001.

Between the Mergansers and the Wood Ducks, the number of ducklings leaving our boxes has fluctuated year to year. Our lowest year was 2015, with only 26 fledged; our big year was 2013, with 140 fledged. The annual average for the past 28 years (I’m still compiling results for 2019) was 87 ducklings.

Clutch of Wood Duck eggs. Photo: David Gorsline

Who enjoys this birdy bounty? Everyone who visits the park. Especially the nature photographers take particular pleasure when they can document a fledging. When the monitoring team is out on the marsh, we often field questions from park visitors who wonder what we’re up to, and how the ducks are doing.

This project falls under C106: FCPA Citizen Science Programs. We’re always looking for new volunteers. I like us to work in pairs, just in case someone takes a tumble or gets stuck in the mud. What can I say? Nature happens.

For me, perhaps the greatest pleasure comes at the beginning of the season. It’s cold, there may be snow on the ground and the wetland iced over. Yet, I know that I will be giving these birds a boost in their struggle to thrive.

Work with a scientist on a community priority

With its new Community Science Fellowship program, Thriving Earth Exchange is ready to support more communities than ever before! Please take a moment to share this opportunity with a colleague:
Would you like to work with a scientist to advance a priority in your community? If you have time and community buy-in, Thriving Earth Exchange will help you design a practical project, match you with a scientist, and accomplish something meaningful.
Learn more. (apply by 16 August to be considered for a September start)
(Don’t forget to have the incredible project you design approved so that you get credit.)

VMN CE webinar: Building Cultural Competence

Thursday, 25 July  2019
12:00 pm
Meeting Number: 908-683-587
Link to Join: Join Webinar
Link for recordings of this and past webinars:
VMN Continuing Education Webinar page

This workshop will take an active, participatory approach to building cultural competence. As we walk through the world, our own bias can effect how we interact with people and places. By recognizing our identity, we can increase our ability to create welcoming environments to serve our stakeholders. Building cultural competence can help attract and retain youth and participants from diverse audiences and encourage the Virginia Master Naturalists to expand capacity in their volunteer network to continue managing natural resources and natural areas in their communities.

Dr. Tiffany Drape is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Agricultural, Leadership, and Community Education at Virginia Tech. She conducts research and teaches about program planning and evaluation.

Chesapeake Bay Ecology trip, August 17-18, 2019

Calvert County, MD
Saturday, August 17, 9:30 a.m.
Sunday, August 18, 11:00 a.m.

Fee: $95 Audubon Society of Northern Virginia members, $115 non-members, includes guided tour of Battle Creek Cypress Swamp, lunch on Saturday, admission at the Calvert Marine Museum, and a two-hour private charter on the Dee of St. Mary’s.

Group Limit: 15 participants.

The group will explore Calvert County, MD. They’ll meet at 9:30 a.m. at Battle Creek Cypress Swamp, where they’ll explore one of the northernmost naturally occurring bald cypress stands in North America. Then they’ll head to Solomon’s Island for a guided tour of the Calvert Marine Museum and private charter on the Dee of St. Mary’s, one of the few remaining skipjacks on the Chesapeake Bay. We finish our visit with an early Sunday morning visit to Calvert Cliffs State Park (state park fee $7/car), the site of astonishing quantities of prehistoric marine fossils. Although Calvert County is close by, it still seems remote and is a treasure to visit.

The Chesapeake Bay provides the ecological, cultural and historic foundation of our region. To understand the bay, its seasonal narration, complex history, and stewardship needs each of us should be grounded in this place. For over 150 years, our stewardship of the bay region has been disrespectful to the complex natural systems. Water quality, indigenous species, and even people living around the bay have suffered from the impacts of mistreatment. With increased public awareness, public policy has slowly changed, and some progress has been made. Join Dr. Tom Wood on this experiential learning weekend to explore this national treasure.

Dr. Wood is an Associate Professor of Integrative and Interdisciplinary Studies in the School of Integrative Studies at George Mason University. He conducted his doctoral research at the Smithsonian and helped create the Smithsonian-Mason Semester and directed the development of Mason’s joint program with the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute.

Hotel Reservations: A block of rooms has been reserved at the Holiday Inn Solomon’s Conference Center and Marina at a rate of $109 (not included with fee.) Please make your reservation no later than July 26. Group rate code will be included in the confirmation email sent from EventBee.

Register here.