FMN Spotlight: Tammy Schwab and FCPA

Cover photo – Jerry Nissley

FMN would like to shine the spotlight on our Chapter Partners and introduce the partner contacts so you can associate a name with an organization when you receive information from them. This also provides FMN a chance to thank them for their tireless contributions to our chapter over the years.
It makes sense to start off by spotlighting Fairfax County Park Authority (FCPA), that is by far FMN’s most supported Chapter Partner. The venerable Tammy Schwab, who really does not need an introduction, is our FCPA partner contact and an FMN member. She is responsible for many of the FCPA programs and keeps FMN engaged year after year. So please join us in a big thank you to Tammy for the big and small things she does for the chapter!

Tammy running the bug identification station at Lewinsville park Bug Fest. This event was supported by FMN. Photo FCPA

In addition to chapter partner contact for the FCPA she has provided extraordinary support to the Chapter from its inception and was recognized with an FMN Trailblazer Award. From her trailblazers award: Tammy played a key role in initiation of the Fairfax Chapter, serving as first Continuing Education Committee Chair and long-term Mammalogy and Interpretation instructor for the Basic Training Course. Tammy’s experience as Manager, Education & Outreach for the Fairfax County Park Authority’s Resource Management Division provides a wealth of knowledge that greatly benefits the chapter. Tammy has made significant individual contributions, including:

• Served as the first Continuing Education Committee chair. She identified training opportunities, evaluated training proposals, and coordinated FMN-oriented training classes,
• Serves as Mammalogy and Interpretation instructor for the Basic Training Course, providing interesting authoritative information both in class and on field trips,
• Taught FMN-oriented Animal Tracking and Wildlife Mapping courses,
• Led a Sully Woodlands walk for an FMN chapter meeting,
• Identifies FMN volunteer service opportunities with FCPA.

Tammy continues to develop and enhance county programs and she would like to promote the newest park initiative and identify a sample of continuing programs that FMN volunteers can get involved with now.

FCPA Wonder Wagon – Photo FCPA

The newest initiative for FCPA and FMNs to partner on is the Wonder Wagon Mobile Nature Center. WONDER stands for Wild Outdoor Nature Discovery Everywhere Revealed.
FMN and FCPA share a mission to spread the knowledge and love of nature to local residents.  The purpose of the Wonder Wagon Mobile Nature Center is to bring nature exploration straight to the underserved and underrepresented members of the community. FCPA will enhance current programming by activating the exploration of nature in the community and connecting people with nature where they are.  Thanks to the support of Community Partners like the Fairfax Master Naturalists we can meet the community members where they are – Libraries, community centers, events, unstaffed parks and School Age Child Care centers. Through these “Nature activations”, previously underserved members of the community will feel a stronger connection to the nature that is around them where they live and play. This effort will promote equity and community engagement by removing the barrier of accessibility and will result in a deeper connection to nature for our residents.

FMN is currently vested in the Wonder Wagon through a financial donation in 2023 and FMN can now signup as volunteers to support the program in the field.

Additional volunteer opportunities in the parks:

Ongoing opportunities to be part of a team:
Youth Program Support; 2-4 volunteers; Primarily weekday mornings, shifts can be 9am-1pm

Share your passion for nature with school aged children at Hidden Pond Nature Center. Help with school programs and public programs for ages 3-11 year olds.Some experience working with kids preferred. Background check required. Must commit to at least one program a month for a season.

Contact [email protected] for more info.

Animal Care:

Help with the care of animals at Hidden Oaks Nature Center, including feeding and watering turtles, snakes, toads, and other animals and cleaning their enclosures. Learn about the natural history of reptiles and amphibians. Training provided. Contact Janet Siddle at [email protected] or 703-941-1065. 

Volunteer on Duty (Front Desk Support):

If you love nature and enjoy talking to people, consider volunteering at Hidden Oaks Nature Center’s front desk. You will welcome visitors, orient them to the park, answer questions, and check in program participants. This is an opportunity to learn about the natural resources of the county and share your knowledge. Contact Janet Siddle at [email protected] or 703-941-1065. 

Assistant Program Leader:

Help us teach kids and have fun doing it, at your local park! Children learn all about the local environment, nature and history during our programs and while on field trips. This is a wonderful opportunity for anyone with a passion for the outdoors and a drive to help instill it in a new generation. Opportunities are intermittent and based on registration. Contact Janet Siddle at [email protected] or 703-941-1065. 

Elklick Preserve (in western Fairfax County near Centreville): has significant openings.  It is part of an on-going forest restoration project to restore a rare forest type.  It involves using hand tools like loppers and pruners to cut competing vegetation to promote oak and hickory seedlings.  The learning opportunities involve forest tree and shrub identification in the winter, spring and summer and to learn about the process of forest restoration. This would be an ongoing effort throughout the year and not a one time event. Training will take place from FCPA staff. Anyone who is interested can contact Owen at [email protected].

Bluebell Fest Saturday, April 6, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Riverbend Park, Great Falls:

Contact Andrew Wilk at Riverbend park for more information and to volunteer [email protected]

Earth Day Fairfax April 20th at Sully historic site Chantilly VA:
Help the Wonder Wagon at its first public event! To get on the Wonder Wagon volunteer interest list for this and other opportunities contact:

Nikki Zita [email protected] or

Molly Neeson [email protected]


Stream Monitoring Citizen Science & Training Opportunities, March

Photo: FMN Janet Quinn, Hidden Pond stream monitoring

*NVSWCD Workshop*
Wolftrap Creek Stream Monitoring Workshop
When: Saturday, March 2, 9:00am-12:00pm
Where: Wolftrap Creek Stream Valley Park/Foxstone Park, Vienna

Join NVSWCD for our first stream monitoring workshop of the spring season. This site features a small, shallow stream which usually has a good number of beetles. Learn more and register for this workshop and others here.

Accotink Creek Spring Stream Monitoring
When: Saturday, March 9, 9:30-11:30am
Where: Lake Accotink Park, Springfield

GET YOUR BRAIN WET! Join Friends of Lake Accotink Park and Friends of Accotink Creek for a rewarding and fun time for adults and children who enjoy helping our parks and environment by identifying and counting stream critters to document the health of the stream. It’s fun for the whole family to learn what’s in the water by seeing and counting stream critters. The critter count is ever-changing, but volunteers have made some exciting finds, including small crayfish. Learn more and be sure to register here

*NVSWCD Workshop*
Difficult Run Stream Monitoring Workshop
When: Sunday, March 24, 9:00am-12:00pm
Where: Difficult Run Stream Valley Park, Great Falls

This stream site in Great Falls is a short walk through the woods to a river with wide, sandy banks. These trails are very popular with hikers and volunteers often get high water quality scores at this site. Learn more and register for this workshop and others here.

*NVSWCD Workshop*
Big Rocky Run Stream Monitoring Workshop
When: Thursday, March 28, 1:00-4:00pm
Where: Ellanor C. Lawrence Park, Chantilly

This stream monitoring site on Big Rocky Run is located near the historic Cabell’s Mill in Ellanor C. Lawrence Park. This park features great trails with interpretive signage and the stream site is a stone’s throw from Walney Pond, where you may get to see the happy beaver family that lives there. Learn more and register for this workshop and others here.


More Training and Stream Monitoring Opportunities

The NoVa Soil & Water Conservation teams are  very excited to contribute their stream data to state and national datasets. If you’d like to see data from all the NVSWCD regional stream monitoring team’s active sites, you can find our organization on the Clean Water Hub.

Sangha Stewards Applications Open Now!

Image courtesy of Earth Sangha

Sangha Stewards Application here.

Earth Sangha is excited to announce that they’re opening applications for their Sangha Steward program! The Sangha Stewards is a way for volunteers looking for more independent and technical work to join them at their nursery, field sites, and office to help them manage more complex tasks and receive extra training.

Sangha Stewards will be invited to work more closely with their staff and to join their monthly staff training sessions (they’ll have snacks!). Days and times are more flexible and they’re looking to work with their Stewards to develop their skills and what sort of work they’re most interested in.

They have four categories for Sangha Stewards:

Nursery and Propagation: While they already do a lot of potting up, they frequently have species that need a little bit more detailed care: perhaps it’s a tray with mixed species, maybe they have delicate seedlings that need to be teased apart, or they need someone with a keen eye and a steady hand to remove weeds among rare or sensitive native plants. Or maybe you just want to relax and help them hand water through the summer. This is work that can be done independently or as part of our regular volunteer days.

Building and Infrastructure: They always have a backlog of maintenance and construction tasks at the nursery, whether it’s adjusting irrigation lines or helping them build more oak and hickory rodent exclosures. If you’re handy with tools, they could use the help here!

Invasives and Field Sites: The invasives never sleep, so they could use an extra set of eyes and hands out at some of their field sites. This could mean checking sites periodically for Early Detection Rapid Response species or even doing a little bit of independent pulling or helping them lead volunteers at their field days. They’ll make sure to familiarize you with their sites and train you on the species and areas they’re looking to target. Keeping invasive vines off their Habitat Refuges will be one of their top priorities.

Office: For those of you who would rather be inside, they do need periodic help at their office. It may not be as frequent as the other categories, but printing labels and helping them organize their Acorn newsletter mailings would be a big help!

If you’re interested in joining, they’ve put together a Google Form you can fill out (see link above) and Michaelanne will be in touch soon. (If you have any questions, please see the volunteer page of our website or email Michaelanne at [email protected].) As they’re beginning this program, they’re going to limit the number of spots; as they grow, if folks are interested, they can open up this opportunity to more people.

CE – Blue Bird Trail at River Farm, March 7th

New on-line CE opportunity for FMN.

When: Thursday evening, March 7th at 7pm.
How long: Approximately 1 hour
Description: Eastern Bluebirds were once as common as robins in Northern Virginia until the early 20th century when introduced species, habitat loss and pesticides caused alarming population declines. Join in to learn how this lovely species has made a heartening comeback and how Fairfax Master Naturalists are helping at Washington’s River Farm.

Presenter: FMN Susan Farmer is a longtime Blue Bird nesting box monitor at Huntley Meadows and a member of Virginia Blue Bird Society. She is the FMN liaison for the FMN-AHS partnership and recently organized the installation of 8 nesting boxes at River Farm. An article on that installation may be found in this newsletter.

This is an FMN only CE session and registration is required via Better Impact (BI) by 5 March.

To register:
1. Login to BI and click on your ‘Opportunities’ tab.
2. Select ‘Opportunity Calendar’ from the pull-down list.
3. Find event in the displayed calendar and click on it to see event details.
4. To sign up, click on the ‘Sign Up’ box in the lower right. This automatically signs you up and puts the event on your personal calendar.
5. To claim 1 CE hour: please use “All Continuing Education -> FMN All other Chapter Training”, as the Approved Org.

6. The Zoom session link will be sent to all who register by 5 March. The email will be sent to the email of record in BI. The session will be recorded.

FCPS Science Fair Judges Needed, Various Dates

Image courtesy of FCPS.

Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) is looking for science experts to judge their Fairfax County Science Fairs across the county.

Local FCPS Science Fair Judges

— Local high schools are looking for judges for their individual fairs.
— Judges do not need any prior experience judging but should have a background in science.

Regional Science Fair Category Judges

— Saturday, March 16, 2024 at Robinson Secondary School, 5035 Sideburn Road, Fairfax, VA
— Judges need to have an education and expertise in one of the many categories at Regional Fair.
— All interested parties are encouraged to apply but should preferably hold an advanced degree or possess extensive academic and/or professional experience in a science or engineering category.
— Chairpersons are needed to oversee the judging for each category.
— Parents, teachers, and family friends are not allowed to judge in categories in which their child, student, or family friend’s child is competing.

Please fill out this Google Form to indicate how you’re interested in supporting FCPS Science Fairs.

Invasive Removal and Habitat Restoration, Various Dates

Photo: FMN Margaret Fisher, Trees being engulfed by invasive plants

Various dates and times

Various locations

Join these efforts to remove invasive species, repair trails, and otherwise beautify natural spaces! Visit the links below to learn more.

Winter Waterfowl Count, February 3rd and 4th

Photo by FMN Ana Ka’ahanui.

Saturday, February 3, 7:00 AM – Sunday, February 4 – 2:00 PM
Various locations
FREE, but registration is required!

The Winter Waterfowl Count is a citizen science effort organized by Audubon Society of Northern Virginia (ASNV) to track data about winter waterfowl. This survey complements the Christmas Bird Count, and the data is shared openly with the public. When it started in 2008, ASNV volunteers covered the Potomac River from Algonkian Regional Park in Loudoun County to Quantico Marine Base in Prince William County, as well as many inland bodies of water. In 2020 ASNV expanded the survey to include areas along the Potomac River in King George and Westmoreland Counties down to the mouth of the Potomac River where it empties into Chesapeake Bay.

Although ASNV expect many veterans from past years to return, they can always use new volunteers. Beginners are welcome but are strongly encouraged to attend the Duck and Waterfowl Identification webinar on January 25. Each volunteer will be assigned to a team led by an experienced birder. Each team determines the start time, which will vary between 7:00 and 8:30am. End times may also vary depending on assigned survey locations.

This count is organized by Larry Cartwight. The deadline to register is Tuesday, January 30 at 9:00 PM so that you can be assigned to a team in time for the count on Saturday morning.

Larry Cartwright is an avid birder and leads several avian related surveys in Northern Virginia. He lectures on birds and birding for the Lifetime Learning Institute at Northern Virginia Community College. His lecture topics have included the evolution of birds from feathered theropod dinosaurs and birding in the Alaskan tundra. Larry has received several awards from scientific and conservation organizations, including the Virginia Society of Ornithology’s Jackson M. Abbott Conservation Award for 2013.

Surveys: Occoquan Bay NWR Natural Resources, November 29th and/or December 20th

Photo: Blue-gray Gnatcatcher by Rusty Moran

Wednesday, November 29, 2023 and/or
Wednesday, December 20, 2023
7:30 am – 12 pm
Occoquan Bay NWR
13950 Dawson Beach Road
Woodbridge, VA

Participation is limited. Email to make a reservation here.

Many know Northern Virginia for its economic dynamism, cultural development and ever-changing landscape. Less well known are the places sheltering remnants of an earlier, vital, natural history. If you would like to discover native birds, other fauna and flora — in the company of dedicated citizen scientists — then consider joining one or more of the continuing natural resource surveys at Occoquan Bay NWR, Meadowood Recreation Area and other parks and preserves in eastern Fairfax and Prince William Counties. Each of these publicly-protected sites has a particular blend of habitats representative of Northern Virginia’s special natural character.

A report of each of the weekly, monthly surveys is emailed to participants as well as the U. S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management and other managing agencies. Summary reports, checklists and analyses of survey data provide an up-to-date inventory of species and insight into the state of populations.

Service Project at Monticello Park, November 19th

Photo: Northern Parula by Randy Streufert

Sunday, November 19, 2023
1 – 3 pm
Monticello Park
320 Beverly Drive, Alexandria

This program is part of Audubon Society of Northern Virginia’s Stretch Our Parks initiative, in partnership with the staff of Alexandria Recreation, Parks and Culture.

Please join them for a service project in Monticello Park to restore trails damaged by erosion and remove non-native invasive plants to make room for more native plants that will benefit all of the park’s wildlife including its birdlife. This park is well loved among birders – so pitch in to help keep this gem of a park in good shape!

Please dress in layers, wear solid footwear and bring work gloves if you have them.

About Monticello Park: Among local birders, this 6.5-acre park is renowned for its great diversity of migrating warblers; nearly all eastern species have occurred here. The park’s creek is a focus for migrant activity, which is significant throughout the day. A steep canyon and creek are the prominent features of the site. This site was designated a Community Forest. Visit to learn more about the bird species that depend on this crucial migration stop-over.

“Take Back the Forest” Twin Lakes Golf Course Invasives Management Area, November 5th

Photo Image: Courtesy of FMN Joe Gorney

Sunday, 5 November 2023
2:00-6:00 PM

Twin Lakes Golf Course
Invasives Management Area
6201 Union Mill Road
Clifton, Virginia

Site Leader Contact Information:
Joe Gorney
Cell/Text: 703-861-7322
[email protected]

FMN Members,

I’m the Site Leader for the Twin Lakes Golf Course Invasives Management Area in Centreville (just south of the Centreville High School). I have a workday planned for Sunday afternoon, November 5, staring at 2:00 PM. While I already have my full slate of 10 volunteers for that day (mostly students and their parents), I’m soliciting extra FMN volunteers to remove large vines and shrubs from a particularly overgrown area. I have reserved a large (30 yards) roll-off dumpster for the day, which will only be available for the weekend, and I would like to fill it.

The work would consist primarily of lopping or sawing off woody vegetation and dragging it about 75 yards to the dumpster. Our tools will be loppers and small tree saws. The principal targets include Autmn olive, Asiatic bittersweet, honeysuckle vine, and honeysuckle shrub. We might also dig out some of the roots with shovels.

If you are able to help on that day, please let me know via email. Although this event is already “full” on the on-line FCPA volunteer system (which is capped at ten volunteers), I could use at least another 10 people so that we can fill the dumpster! While I normally plan my volunteer workdays for two hours, I plan to keep cutting and dragging from 2:00-6:00 PM, to take full advantage of the dumpster. I will also reserve extra loppers, saws, shovels, tarps, and gloves from FCPA for the workday. I will report volunteer information and hours worked to FCPA after the event.

Please let me know if you can help “Take Back the Forest.” Thanks!

Tools and gloves will be supplied. Please bring water, insect repellant, and sunscreen. Wear long sleeves, long pants, hats, and sturdy shoes.

Enter the golf course from the main entry off of Union Mill Road, just south of Centreville High School. Once you enter through the gates, drive about 0.4 miles to the northern clubhouse parking lot and turn left into the lot. Park along the northern edge of the parking lot, closest to Work Area 1.

Work Areas:
Work areas are the north of the northern parking lot. Most student volunteers will continue to focus on Area 1. FMN volunteers will focus on the mature invasives within Area 2.

Joe Gorney

TWIN Lakes IMA Site Leader
[email protected]