Fairfax County Regional Science and Engineering Fair needs judges, March 21st

Robinson Secondary School
5035 Sideburn Road, Fairfax VA
Saturday, 21 March 2020
7:30 am – 12 pm

Be an organizational judge for Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District’s special award at the Fairfax County Regional Science and Engineering Fair! Overall, each year 250 judges are required to evaluate over four hundred science fair projects in a wide variety of categories ranging from plants sciences to physics and astronomy. Of course the ones for this award will relate to NVSWCD’s work.

Master naturalists receive service hour credit using code E155.

For more information and to volunteer, contact Tessa Bennett.

City Nature Challenge! April 24 – 27th

The City Nature Challenge is a friendly competition among 160+ cities worldwide to see who can observe the most species and involve the most citizen scientists. You can join the project as a citizen scientist from April 24th to 27th using the iNaturalist app.

Participating in the City Nature Challenge is fun—and it’s a great reason to step outdoors for some time with nature. Your observations of plant and animal life will help scientists collect valuable data on the biodiversity of our planet. AND you’ll help the Washington DC area win!

How it works

Resources, and a video

2019 City Nature Challenge Leaderboard

Be a Citizen Scientist at Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts! Bluebird and Purple Martin monitors needed. Training March 15th

Orientation and Training
Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts
1551 Trap Road, Vienna, VA 22182
Sunday, 15 March 2020
1:00 to 3:30 pm

The National Park Service and Friends of Wolf Trap, would like to enlist the help of a team of volunteers who would form a Bird House Monitoring Team to monitor and maintain the Bluebird boxes and Purple Martin housing at the Park. No experience is necessary, as volunteers would be provided with training and guidance by our lead bluebird trail volunteer, Mr. Dale Thornton. Volunteers would learn about Bluebird stewardship efforts, including how to monitor the nest boxes, nest identification, and collecting and reporting nesting data to track population trends. In addition, volunteers would receive training from Mr. Mike Bishop of the Northern Virginia Purple Martin Initiative who will provide an overview of the Purple Martin and the process for monitoring and maintaining the colony.

The bluebird and purple martin monitoring season typically starts in late March and continues through August.  Nests are monitored on a weekly basis during the spring/summer nesting season and volunteers will help with box repair and maintenance during the off season, on an as-needed basis.  A team of trained monitors who will work on a rotating basis throughout the season and continue next year and into future seasons.  Ideally, each trained volunteer would be on a three- or four-week rotation; however, the monitoring schedule and associated details will partly depend upon how many people choose to volunteer.

The interested volunteers should be adults who have received the appropriate training and hands-on experience monitoring bluebirds on the Wolf Trap bluebird trail.  Children under the supervision of the trained volunteer monitor are welcome to assist the volunteer while they are conducting their monitoring duties.

Interested volunteers please sign up here. For more information, contact Allen Hoffman (Friends of Wolf Trap and FMN)

Master Naturalists may receive service hours at S263, Wolf Trap Stewardship Projects.

Invasive Management Workdays at Lake Accotink

Lake Accotink Park
7500 Accotink Park Rd., Springfield VA
Saturdays, 15, 22 and 29 February 2020
9 – 11 am

Invasive plants prevent us from enjoying our forests. They degrade our natural ecosystems. Ever get stopped in the woods by climbing vines or shrubs with thorns? They may have been invasive species. Some of them, like multiflora rose, can completely swarm over a section of woods and block out everything else. However, invasive can be thwarted.

Join Fairfax Master Naturalists Elaine and Beverly as they combat invasives at Lake Accotink. No experience is necessary, this is a great opportunity to learn and everyone is welcome.

They have work gloves and equipment but please bring your own drinking water as the park’s drinking fountains have been winterized – the restrooms are still open.

If you can join them – even for an hour or so it would be greatly appreciated.

Lastly, the weather at this time of year is so unpredictable, please call or text Beverly at (571) 314-2107 if you are not sure.

Directions: There are several entrances to Lake Accotink Park, but it is easiest to take the Accotink Park Road entrance that comes off Highland Street in Springfield. Once you enter the park, follow the road all the way to the end and you will see the marina, mini golf course and a children’s carousel. There is ample parking. They are working in the area directly behind the children’s carousel but please call or text Beverly if you can’t find them.

Mass Audubon Firefly Watch–Citizen Science in action

Also known as “lightning bugs,” fireflies are neither bugs nor flies—they’re actually beetles that light up using a chemical reaction in their lower abdomen (the bottom part of their body). Some of them light up in a specific blinking pattern, like a secret code that they use to “talk” with other fireflies and to find mates. Flashes can be quick or long-lasting, and one kind is in a j-shape.

Are firefly populations growing or shrinking, and what could lead to changes in their populations? Mass Audubon has teamed up with researchers from Tufts University to track the fate of these amazing insects. With your help, they hope to learn about the geographic distribution of fireflies and what environmental factors impact their abundance.

Join a network of citizen scientists around the country by observing your own backyard, and help scientists map fireflies. Anyone in North America can participate in Firefly Watch. Just spend at least 10 minutes once a week during firefly season observing fireflies in a single location. All firefly sightings — or lack thereof — are valuable!

Learn more about fireflies and participate in the Firefly Watch this summer.

Mount Vernon High School needs Science Fair Judges, Feb. 4th

Mount Vernon High School
8515 Old Mt Vernon Rd, Alexandria, VA 22309
Tuesday, 4 February 2020
(Snow date Monday, 10 February)
8 am – 12 pm

IB and Honors science students have been working on their projects since September. Volunteer to be a part of their Science Fair experience. Judging is easy! Previous experience as a judge is not needed, however, judges should have in interest in science. Judges will listen to student presentations, ask questions, and evaluate student work using a simple rubric. Refreshments will be served.

Please contact Alexander White at ahwhite@fcps.edu for further details about Science Fair judging.

Master naturalists earn service credit using code E152.

Become a Citizen Scientist with the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute

Are you ready for a chance to visit some of the most gorgeous wild places in Northern Virginia–places you’d never find on your own?

Would you like an opportunity to apply your naturalist skills to ground-breaking scientific research (and get credit for service hours)?

Does cost-free training in survey and preparation protocols for specific guilds (birds, plants, pollinators) appeal to you? And admission to citizen science workshops that are interesting, informative, and fun?

Are you looking for opportunities to network and make friends with others who have similar interests?

Consider working with the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI). Every spring, Virginia Working Landscapes (VWL), an SCBI partner, recruits citizen scientists to assist with plant, bird, mammal, and pollinator surveys across the Piedmont of northern Virginia.  These surveys are part of an ongoing study of working grasslands that examines species diversity under various management regimes and at different stages of warm season grass establishment.  Fairfax Master Naturalists receive service credit (C200).

Joe Guthrie, VWL Survey Coordinator, prepping specimens at 2019 pollinator workshop at Blandy Farm

You do not need to be an expert to participate in the surveys (although both the plant and bird surveys demand a working knowledge of local flora and birds). All you need is an interest in learning and sufficient time to dedicate to the project.  Each survey features a mandatory introductory meeting to cover important information such as survey protocols, identification skills, and site assignments.

Yup, there are a few low-stress requirements, given that SCBI is part of the federal government. All VWL volunteers are required to register as a volunteer with Friends of the National Zoo.  FONZ manages one of the largest single-unit volunteer forces in the Smithsonian Institution, which supports nearly every function of daily life at the Zoo and beyond.  FONZ requires participants to be be a minimum of 18 years old, submit a Registration Application on the FONZ website, and (when selected) pass a Smithsonian background check. 

If you are interested in volunteering as a citizen scientist for VWL surveys, please contact: SCBIVWL@si.edu. 

POLLINATOR SURVEYS

Washing bee specimens at 2019 VWL workshop at Blandy Farm

Training includes information on pollinator life history, survey collection protocols in the field, identification of the most common bees and butterflies and specimen preparation for taxonomic identification. Citizen scientists are expected to process and store specimens properly, fill in survey sheets, and deliver or coordinate delivery of samples to the pollinator survey coordinator. The final identification of specimens will be completed by para-taxonomists.

  • You’ll perform surveys in late May-June and August.
  • Each survey takes about 4 hours per site, plus the additional time it takes to sort and identify the bees.
  • Survey dates can be at your convenience within the specified sampling periods (Spring = June, Summer = August).
  • Must be able to commit to 30-40 hrs.
  • Survey training, supplies and equipment provided.

 BIRD SURVEYS

Introductory training includes a brief overview of project goals, survey protocols, data collection and site assignments. A practice survey session for new volunteers is then held one month later and focuses on counting techniques. Knowledge of local bird species is essential.

  • Survey season runs May 15-June 30.
  • Counts are carried out within 3 hours of sunrise and take approximately 45-60 minutes per site (three 10-minute counts).
  • Time commitment is a minimum of 6 survey sessions plus training (estimated 15 hrs not including travel).
  • You will need personal binoculars and a field guide; all other survey supplies provided

PLANT SURVEYS

Training includes protocols, identification skills, and specimen preparation. There is no need to be an expert in Virginia’s native flora, but VWL does ask that you have familiarity with Virginia flora, and the ability to key out unknown specimens with a dichotomous key and the VWL reference collection. It is possible to pair with a more experienced person.

  • Surveys are performed in June and again from the last week of July through August.
  • Each site takes approximately 6-8 hours to survey.
  • Must be able to commit at least 5 days (an estimated 30-40 hrs plus travel), but the scheduling of the survey days is flexible.
  • Supplies and equipment provided.

MAMMAL SURVEYS

This survey uses camera-traps and our custom eMammal software to determine the occurrence of a wide range of mammals. Volunteers will use a GPS device to navigate to predetermined locations and setup cameras. Cameras will be left to survey for 3 weeks at a time without scent or food lure. Every 3 weeks they will retrieve the camera, replace memory card and batteries, and place camera in new location (estimated 1 hour per camera). Volunteers will then upload photographs and metadata using eMammal software (approximately 1 hour per survey period), where it will be reviewed by project staff.

  • Surveys are performed May through November.
  • Each site takes approximately 2 hours per survey period.
  • Participants will need a personal GPS device, all other survey supplies provided.

WHAT VWL and SCBI WILL NEED FROM YOU

  • Fill out the form (click here) to join the volunteer applicant email list.
  • Participate in introductory training sessions and sampling days.
  • Join the FONZ network, and undergo fingerprinting and background check.
  • Complete assigned field surveys within the allotted time period.
  • Reply to emails concerning logistics and data management.

If you are interested in volunteering as a citizen scientist for VWL surveys, please contact: SCBIVWL@si.edu. 

Unpaid Internship Opportunity with Plant NOVA Natives

Plant NOVA Natives seeks a communications intern for Spring 2020. Application deadline Friday, January 24, 2020.

The job will be to gather material, help write the scripts and produce a new podcast series on the theme of “unity gardens” in Northern Virginia. A unity garden is one that contributes to a connected landscape where people and nature can thrive together. Together we are restoring balance to our communities, one property at a time, to provide wildlife with sanctuary corridors and to provide people with beautiful places to play and relax,
enjoy nature, and grow healthy food . We do so by reducing lawn, incorporating native plants,removing invasive plants, growing the soil, conserving water, reducing run-off, and avoiding chemical applications and insecticides.

The final product of this internship will be at least ten finished podcasts of 30 minute duration, designed to provide practical how-to detail as well as inspiration, specifically for a Northern Virginia audience.

Complete details here.

City Nature Challenge introductory conference call Jan. 7th, for potential organizers

Article by: Carrie Seltzer
Stella Tarnay
Deborah Barber
DC area CNC co-organizers

The City Nature Challenge is a friendly, annual, global competition to record biodiversity. From April 24-27, 2020, participants will document wild plants, animals, and fungi using the iNaturalist mobile app and website. The Washington DC area is participating! Following the observation period, everyone will pitch in, with the help of experts, to identify what they’ve seen in our region– and compete globally for most species observed. Winning cities will be announced on May 4. It’s like a virtual bioblitz where you can participate from anywhere in the region.
 
Do you know an organization in the broader DC metro area that cares about biodiversity? Please join an introductory phone call on Tuesday, January 7, 10-11 am to learn more about the City Nature Challenge. 

The Washington Metropolitan Area has participated annually since 2017. Dozens of environmental organizations, parks, libraries, nature centers, and other local groups help spread the word and incorporate iNaturalist into events. There are many ways to be involved and many ways to collaborate with other organizations.
 
We have outreach materials in Spanish, encourage bilingual events, and welcome other ideas for broadening participation. 
 
Think you’re too far from DC to be included? Check! Beyond Washington, DC, the following counties in VA, MD, and WV are in range:
 
Virginia-Alexandria, Arlington County, Clarke County, Culpeper County, Fairfax County, Fairfax, Falls Church, Fauquier County, Fredericksburg, Loudoun County, Manassas, Manassas Park, Prince William County, Rappahannock County, Spotsylvania County, Stafford County, and Warren County.

Maryland-Calvert County, Charles County, Frederick County, Montgomery County, and Prince George’s County. Baltimore and surrounding counties organize separately-contact Maura Duffy at MDuffy@aqua.org.

West Virginia-Jefferson County

Bold counties indicate places where there hasn’t been very much participation yet so we are especially interested to have groups from those areas, but organizations from any area are welcome to join.

You can see on iNaturalist what has been recorded each year in the City Nature Challenge and how participation has grown.
2017 >900 species and 200 people
2018 >1700 species and 900 people
2019 >2100 species and 1300 people

We hope you’ll Join this exciting event in 2020 and we look forward to connecting with new groups across the region!

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.