Science Saturday: Box Turtles, May 11th

Image: Courtesy of The Clifton Institute, Box Turtles

Saturday, May 11, 2024
1:00 – 4:00PM

The Clifton Institute
6712 Blantyre Rd
Warrenton, VA 20187

Cost: FREE

Registration is REQUIRED.

In 2022, The Clifton Institute started a research project to study what habitats Box Turtles use at different times of year. This will help inform researchers and other landowners about the best time of year to mow fields and do other land management practices that might disrupt or even kill Box Turtles. On this second installment of Science Saturdays, participants will help get the 2024 season started by looking for turtles that were radio-tagged last year as well as potentially finding new turtles to tag. This is a special opportunity to tag along with the staff researchers and see how field science is done.

Cancellation policy: If you register and can no longer attend this event, please let the Clifton Institute know as soon as possible so that they can open your spot to someone else.

By registering for this event, you are affirming that you have read and agree to the Clifton Institute liability release policy.

Volunteers Needed: Habitat Restoration Project at Occoquan Bay NWR, April 20th

Photo: Courtesy of ASNV, Garlic Mustard

Saturday, April 20, 2024
1:00 PM – 3:00 PM

Occoquan Bay NWR
14050 Dawson Beach Road
Woodbridge, VA, 22191

This program is part of the Stretch Our Parks initiative, in partnership with the staff of Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

On Saturday, April 20, help remove invasive garlic mustard from a meadow in the refuge. Volunteers will partner with Refuge staff, Audubon volunteers and neighbors to make more space in the meadow for native grasses that birds love!

Garlic mustard’s roots release chemicals that alter the important underground network of fungi that connect nutrients between native plants, inhibiting the growth of important native species. Luckily it can be easily removed – but there is a lot of it! Learn more about Garlic mustard here.

No experience necessary! The staff will show you how to identify and remove Garlic mustard. Trash bags will be provided. The area may be muddy so please bring rain boots or waterproof shoes, and gardening gloves if you have them.

Meet at the Central Parking Lot, not at the Visitor Information Center lot. Registration recommended but not required, please feel free to bring a friend!

Volunteers Needed for Earth Day Fairfax 2024, April 20th

Image: Wonder Wagon, courtesy of Fairfax County Park Authority

Saturday, April 20, 2024
Various shifts
Sully Historic Site
3650 Historic Sully Way, Chantilly

Sign up here.

Join Fairfax County’s largest official Earth Day Event! Earth Day Fairfax is a day-long extravaganza featuring workshops, vendors, and activities to help us improve our environment and health. The event attracts nearly 5,000 people from across Fairfax County. Volunteers are needed to fill shifts in a variety of capacities.  Possibilities include set up and take down, and attendants for nature activities, the stage, the ice rink, and the golf station.  There’s something for everyone.

This is a fabulous volunteer opportunity for service hours and making a difference in your community.

City Nature Challenge, April 26th – 29th

Image:, Washington DC metro area

Friday, April 26 – Monday April 29, 2024 take photos of wild plants and animals

Tuesday, April 30 – Sunday, April 5, 2024 identification of what was found

Do you like observing nature? Make your observations count! The City Nature Challenge is an adventure in metropolitan areas worldwide to discover and identify wildlife. You will be looking for signs of life in parks, neighborhoods, and backyards to see what plants and animals share our environment. Join the City Nature Challenge and become a citizen scientist!

Everyone in the Washington DC metropolitan area with access to a camera and the internet can observe wildlife for the Challenge. Anyone worldwide can help with identifying your finds!

Annual Fairfax County Spring Watershed Cleanup, Several Dates in April

Photo: Courtesy of Fairfax County Park Authority Clean up


Registration for the annual Fairfax County Spring Watershed Cleanup in partnership with The Nature Conservancy and Fairfax County Park Authority is now available at  This year’s cleanup will take place over several dates at over 20 Fairfax County Park locations. Nearly 600 volunteers are needed to help clean up plastic bottles, cans and other debris.

Registration for the 2024 cleanups is now open. Please spread the word!

Event capacity is limited. Please follow instructions about registering in groups in the detail section of the registration pages. You can view a list of all park locations, dates, times, and number of volunteers needed here and below. Locations that still need quite a few volunteers are highlighted in yellow.

Saturday, April 6

Friday, April 12

Saturday, April 13

Cub Run Stream Valley Park Cleanup Locations:

Sunday, April 14

Saturday, April 20

Saturday, April 27

Sunday, April 28

A confirmation email with additional details will be sent to registered volunteers about 3-5 days before the scheduled cleanup. If you have questions between now and then, please let Brynna Strand ([email protected]) know. If the sites reach capacity, you are encouraged to find additional opportunities to volunteer and connect with nature at:

Thank you for your support of our local waterways!

Brynna Strand
Volunteer Coordinator
[email protected]
+1 540 255 5717 (Mobile)

The Nature Conservancy In Virginia
652 Peter Jefferson Pkwy
Ste 190
Charlottesville VA, 22911 U.S.A.

Meadowlark Botanical Gardens Seeks Volunteers

Photo courtesy of Meadowlark Botanical Gardens

Meadowlark Botanical Gardens in Vienna, VA has long had a native plant collection. This collection plays an important role in educating students and the general public about regional native plant conservation. During the last few years, the native plant collection did not receive the attention it needs to thrive. Keith Tomlinson, former long-time manager of Meadowlark and the driving force behind the native plant collection, recently initiated an effort to reinvigorate the collection and is looking for volunteers to help.

Activities will include invasives removal, mulching trails and plantings. Volunteer days will likely be on Tuesdays and Thursdays, beginning March 5th. For more information, see Meadowlark’s Facebook page or reach out to Keith at [email protected].

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.  Members interested in volunteering for Wonder Wagon can contact [email protected]

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.