Virtual Walk & Talk: Healthier Streams for a Healthier Community

Thursday, 10 September 2020
7-8:30 pm EDT
Register and learn more.

Join Fairfax County staff Charles Smith & JoAnne Fiebe for a virtual walk and talk about ideas for making a stream part of the community again. Sponsored in part by Audubon Naturalist Society, they’ll show videos of a recent site visit, talk with Charles and JoAnne about the vision for the Route 1 redevelopment, and talk about how, as we face bigger rain storms, redevelopment can be tied to creating healthier streams, and therefore a healthier world for us. Free.

Wetland Ecology, Webinar 8 September

Tuesday, 8 September 2020
7:30 pm

Dr. Christian Jones of George Mason University’s Potomac Science Center will give a presentation titled “Wetland Ecosystems in the Mid-Atlantic: Types, Functions and Threats.” Hosted on Zoom by the Friends of Dyke Marsh, registration required in advance. To sign up, please email info@fodm.org and put “September 8 program” in the subject line and your name in the body of the email. Free.

Xerces Society: Gardening for Invertebrates Webinar Series, 20 Aug & 3 Sep 2020

Your Insect Allies: Meet the Beneficial Insects Controlling Pests in Your Garden – Thursday, 20 August, 1-2 pm EDT

Learn about the wide range of insects that help keep garden pests in check, and strategies you can use to support them in your yard.

Click here for more information and to register.

Beyond Plants: What Else do Insects Need to Thrive? – Thursday, 3 September, 1-2 pm EDT

A garden that has an abundance of flowers will support insects—but to maximize the diversity of insects your garden can support, you’ll also need to provide places where they can nest, lay eggs, and shelter. Join Matthew Shepherd to learn about what you can do to support the entire life cycle of insects and help them to thrive in your backyard.

Click here for more information and to register.

Creek Critters App

Ready to start stream monitoring, but not quite ready to take on official training and certification? Creek Critters has got you covered! This app guides you step by step through the process of finding and identifying bugs in your stream. Perfect for families, public programs, and even as a solo activity, Creek Critters is easy and fun. Collect bugs by following simple step-by-step instructions, and identify your bugs with an interactive identification key.

Once you’ve identified your bugs, Creek Critters does the rest! The app automatically calculates your Stream Health Score based on your findings. This score can tell you how healthy your stream is!

Download Creek Critters FREE from the Apple Store or Google Play Store.

Coming soon: Your results can be shared with the entire country on the national Clean Water Hub!

Brought to you by the Audubon Naturalist Society and the Izaak Walton League of America.

Join Team Cricket for an Evening Sound Census, August 21

Friday, August 21 

Listen to the sounds of summer! Help researchers by collecting data in your own backyard!

If you live in the DC or Baltimore area, head outside this Friday 8/21 after 8:15pm and listen for crickets.

Visit https://www.discoverlife.org/cricket/DC/ for tips on identifying 6 common species and the data form to report your findings. Fun for the whole family!

Note: Even if you don’t live in the area, you can still learn all the sounds of species and practice listening wherever you are! Check out this site: https://songsofinsects.com/

#CricketCrawlDCBaltimore #citizenscience #crazyforcrickets #communityscience #naturenerdsunite

Help Science Fight Wavyleaf Basketgrass

Can you help University of Richmond biologist Dr. Carrie Wu collect samples of invasive wavyleaf basketgrass (Oplismenus undulatifolius) in your area? Dr. Wu is conducting a research project to help understand the genetic structure of this invasive plant in order to help control its spread across the Mid-Atlantic region. She is the recipient of two previous Virginia Native Plant Society Research Grants to study wavyleaf basketgrass.

Would you be able to collect several basketgrass samples as described below and send them to Dr. Wu by postal mail? Please contact her directly with any questions.

This summer, Dr. Wu is seeking additional collections from as many locations as possible across the introduced range. The goal is to have 10-15 individual plants collected from large populations when possible (with individual plants at least 3 feet apart from one another). Smaller populations would have a reduced number of plants sampled. Observations from several folks suggest that wavyleaf seems to be setting seed earlier than several years ago, so if you encounter seeds later this summer, those would be greatly appreciated too.
Tissue sampling is pretty straight forward, especially if the plants aren’t too wet. Dr. Wu can send a detailed protocol if requested. In brief, record collector and site information, including GPS coordinates. Collect at least 5-8 fully expanded leaves (or entire stalks!) per plant into coin envelopes/regular envelopes/paper bags. Please keep leaves from each individual plant in separate bags/wrappings. If storing for an extended time, place filled envelopes in a plastic bag with a little silica drying gel (or the “Do Not Eat” packets that come in lots of items). When sampling multiple plants in population, try to separate collections by at least 1 meter. Mail them to Dr. Wu. She is happy to offset shipping costs as needed.

If you are able to collect tissue, or would be willing to have Dr. Wu access sites where you know the plants are growing, please let her know. She can provide more detailed sampling instructions as needed.
And of course, please share this request widely with colleagues who you think might also be able to help!

Carrie Wu, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Biology
Coordinator, Environmental Studies Program
University of Richmond
138 UR Drive
Richmond, VA 23173
cwu@richmond.edu
Office: A114 Gottwald Science Center
Phone: (804) 289-8712

Creating a Wildlife Sanctuary on Your Property: The Audubon at Home Program, webinar 27 August

Photo: Audubon at Home Certified Wildlife Sanctuary, Toni Genberg

Webinar
Thursday, 27 August 2020
7 – 8:30 pm
$5
Register here

What can you do on your own property to attract and support wildlife? To learn how, join online for “Creating a Wildlife Sanctuary on Your Property: The Audubon at Home Program.” Originally scheduled as a live event last March, the program had to be canceled due to the pandemic. Now you’ll be able to attend from the comfort of your home.

Betsy Martin will talk about the Audubon at Home program, Wildlife Sanctuary certification and Habitat Best Practices. Betsy is a member of the ASNV Board of Directors and a Co-Coordinator of ASNV’s Audubon at Home program. She is a Virginia Master Naturalist, a founder and President of the Friends of Little Hunting Creek and the Mount Vernon representative to Fairfax County’s Chesapeake Bay Exception Review Committee, which she also chairs.

Laura Beaty will relate how she transformed her yard into a wildlife habitat with a slide program entitled: “Your Landscape as Habitat.” She will show how to support nature’s relationships in your wildlife habitat, and why it’s important to view your habitat from two perspectives: the eyes of turf-grass traditionalists and native pollinators. She’ll show you the truth behind the phrases, “The greater the plant diversity, the greater the wildlife” and “Plant it and they will come.” Laura Beaty is Horticulture Chair of the Virginia Native Plant Society and Propagation/Plant Sales Chair of the Potowmack Chapter of VNPS. She also represents her Fairfax County district on the Fairfax Tree Commission.

This program is co-sponsored by the Friends of Mason Neck State Park and Audubon Society of Northern Virginia. They’re charging a nominal fee of $5.00 per registration to help defray the costs.

Making Scents of Your Yard

Photo: Ana Ka’Ahanui

Margaret Fisher

Fragrant flowers can add a whole extra dimension to gardening, and the flowers of native plants are no exception. The scents are there for the sake of the pollinators, but we can enjoy them as well. If you try putting your nose up to every flower you meet, you will have some interesting surprises.

Modern day humans are good at identifying human-made smells such as suntan lotion or diesel fumes but are pretty oblivious to the smells of nature.  This may be partly from lack of practice and partly because of our species’ tendency to run roughshod over the planet which includes the olfactory environment as well. If we pay attention, though, we can experience some of the sensations that are so important to other animals. Can you sometimes predict a rainstorm by the smell of the air? You already have developed some skill at interpreting nature’s cues. That slightly metallic odor is ozone, pushed down by atmospheric disturbances. If you have a dog, he or she may have introduced you to the scent of foxes, which is surprisingly strong and similar to a skunk. Once you learn to recognize it, you may find yourself spotting foxes that would have sneaked by you otherwise. The smell released by rain after a long dry spell has its own name – petrichor – and is created by a combination of chemicals released by plants and soil bacteria.

As you walk along in the woods, you will notice that the scent of life and decay (which is actually just more life) is subtle and complex but distinct enough for you to know when you are passing from one layer to another. In this unusual year when so many people are out walking their neighborhoods, one local resident has watched as folks stop in front of the Common Milkweed that volunteered itself near her sidewalk. Some people comment on the beautiful flower, one person only noticed the bees, but many were brought to a halt by the intoxicating fragrance. So many people inquire about it that she plans to put up a sign.

Why not create a natural olfactory landscape in your own yard? Planting fragrant native plants is the perfect way to do that while simultaneously pleasing the butterflies. Many have sweet smelling flowers, some faint, some strong. Some are a little unusual. The tall white spires of Black Cohosh, for example, smell simultaneously sweet and barn-like. Wild Bergamot smells like, well, bergamot, which gives Earl Gray tea its flavor. The flowers of American Holly trees are tiny but fill the air with sweetness for many weeks in late spring. Arguably the winner of any fragrance competition would be the aptly named Sweetbay Magnolia, with its large, soft flowers that smell of lemony rose. Plant one by your front door and you can inhale a lungful of beauty whenever you pass by.

For a list of fragrant native plants and where to buy them, see the Plant NOVA Natives website. The site index will point you to sources for signs. Let your neighbors in on your secrets! Why should the bees have all the fun?

Entangled Life: How Fungi Make Our Worlds, Change Our Minds, and Shape Our Futures, by Merlin Sheldrake

Reviewed by Diana McMillion

Merlin Sheldrake uncovers the surprising magic of hidden worlds in his fascinating book, Entangled Life.

Published in May 2020, Entangled Life takes the reader on a journey through the rich and varied worlds of fungi and the often-invisible struggles and triumphs of these essential organisms.

Looking beyond the fungal fruits we can see, such as ordinary toadstools, Entangled Life explores complex concepts in beautifully explained, simple language that non-scientists can feel a connection to. Sheldrake examines the inter-workings of fungi and plant roots, the extraordinary ability of lichens to survive in improbable places, and the ways in which fungi can affect the human brain.

Merlin Sheldrake has a wonderful ability to explain the arcane workings of fungi in ways that make these concepts easily understood to laymen. I give this work 5 out of 5 stars for conveying the complex in a simple way, and for its thoroughness in showing how fungi are entangled in all the doings of plants and animals, including humans. It’s an essential read for anyone curious about the natural world.

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

Order Your Earth Science Week 2020 Toolkit Today

Place your order for an Earth Science Week 2020 Toolkit now. The toolkit contains everything you need to prepare for Earth Science Week (October 11-17, 2020), which celebrates the theme “Earth Materials in Our Lives.” This year’s toolkit includes:

  • 12-month school-year activity calendar, suitable for hanging
  • New Earth Science Week poster, including a learning activity
  • Factsheet on minerals in cellphones and Navy gear from USGS
  • NASA materials on water science and a poster on agriculture
  • National Park Service resource on paleontology in our parks
  • Factsheet from the Soil Science Society of America
  • Geologic Map Day poster dealing with Earth materials
  • Mineral Education Coalition material on mineral science
  • IRIS flyer dealing with seismology and earthquakes
  • AmericaView Earth materials board-game poster
  • Geothermal Resources Council poster on energy science
  • American Geophysical Union poster on environmental science
  • UNAVCO sticker and poster on geoscience measurement
  • Switch Energy Project sticky notes about energy science
  • Hydrology flyer from Nutrients for Life Foundation
  • Bureau of Land Management dinosaur coloring page
  • National Science Foundation worksheets on rocks and water
  • GemKids poster from Gemological Institute of America
  • Water Footprint Calculator information on water science
  • Forest Service, Paleontological Society, AIPG items and more

Order the Earth Science Week 2020 Toolkit today. The toolkit is free and available for the cost of shipping and handling. Pay just $8.50 for the first toolkit and $2.25 for each additional toolkit in the United States. See the AGI Store for special pricing on a multi-pack of three years’ toolkits addressing different topics.

Toolkits are available for advance order now. The Earth Science Week 2020 Toolkit will begin shipping in August 2020. For ordering, special shipping, bulk orders, and more information, email AGI Publications at pubs@americangeosciences.org

About AGI

The American Geosciences Institute (AGI) is a nonprofit federation of scientific and professional associations that represents over a quarter-million geoscientists. Founded in 1948, AGI provides information services to geoscientists, serves as a voice of shared interests in the profession, plays a major role in strengthening geoscience education, and strives to increase public awareness of the vital role the geosciences play in society’s use of resources, resiliency to natural hazards, and interaction with the environment.

AGI is a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to serving the geoscience community and addressing the needs of society. AGI headquarters are in Alexandria, Virginia.

The American Geosciences Institute represents and serves the geoscience community by providing collaborative leadership and information to connect Earth, science, and people.