Look what you’ve done!

by Michael Reinemer

As I sign off as president, passing the baton to Joe Gorney, I want to thank each Virginia Master Naturalist in the chapter for what you do. The numbers of volunteer hours are astounding.

It’s hard to overstate how desperately your hours and your expertise are needed. Fairfax County and the whole region suffer from habitat loss, climate change, pollution, fragmentation, overuse – among many other assaults.

Meanwhile, we humans are increasingly disconnected from nature, suffering from the “landscape amnesia” Pete Mecca describes to FMN classes. Or shifting baseline syndrome: It’s impossible to notice the many gradual declines in the natural world – unless you understand the natural world, and you care about it and you actively monitor it. Which is one of the things you do as master naturalists. The statewide mason bee monitoring project is a great example.

You may have read “The Insect Apocalypse Is Here,” the cover story by Brooke Jarvis in the New York Times Magazine, Nov. 27, 2018.  The now global, scientific alarm about loss of insect diversity and abundance was triggered in part by small bug club in Germany. That club of 63 amateur naturalists, which included a few with science backgrounds, documented an astounding 80 percent drop in insect numbers in their research plot over a 30-year period. They had been consistently monitoring and recording changes in insect numbers or biomass in addition to species.

What’s the big deal? As E.O. Wilson put it, “If all mankind were to disappear, the world would regenerate back to the rich state of equilibrium that existed ten thousand years ago. If insects were to vanish, the environment would collapse into chaos.”  While the “10,000 years” part is probably optimistic, the role of decomposers, pollinators, and other insects is indisputable.

In her NYT piece, Jarvis talks about the long amateur naturalist tradition in Europe and how that has figured into faster, more aggressive response to the insect apocalypse there, compared to the U.S. 

So as part of the growing master naturalist movement in the U.S., you are a vital resource in this era of shrinking budgets for conservation and a time of overt hostility toward science in some quarters of the federal government. Your work as monitors, mentors, and stewards is invaluable.

While all the 2018 numbers aren’t in yet, look what you’ve done:

680 hours staffing information desks at nature centers

445 hours working on nature programs for the county

435 hours removing invasive plants

375 hours as Audubon at Home ambassadors, assessing wildlife habitat

360 hours for the Cornell Lab of Ornithology feederwatch program

350 hours managing habitat and land for Fairfax County Park Authority

343 hours for school programs for Fairfax County Park Authority

330 hours for citizen science programs for the park authority

267 hours monitoring trails for Virginia Bluebird Society

260 hours working with the Plant NoVA Natives campaign

That’s just a small snapshot of your amazing numbers and work. Congratulations, and thank you. 

And a hearty thanks to the many volunteer leaders who serve as officers, committee chairs, and committee members who manage the training and all the mechanics that make the Fairfax Master Naturalists the force for nature that it is.

Virginia Working Landscapes 2018 Biodiversity Survey Results

The central mission of Virginia Working Landscapes (VWL) is to promote sustainable land use and the conservation of native biodiversity through research, education, and community engagement. First assembled at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute: Front Royal, VA in 2010, VWL was formed at the behest of regional landowners, citizen scientists, and conservation organizations who wanted to better understand how to conserve Northern Virginia’s native wildlife on working (i.e., agricultural/forestry) lands. 

According to The International Union for Conservation of Nature, grasslands are “the most endangered, the most altered, and the least protected biome on the planet.” Today, many plants and animals that depend on grasslands have declined, due primarily to the loss or fragmentation of their native habitat and one-third of North American species considered endangered are found on grasslands. Recognizing the need to consider grassland species when studying native flora and fauna on working landscapes, VWL’s initial research focused on grasslands. Since 2010, they have expanded our focus to other working lands (forests) and to consider the impact that changes in the overall landscape mosaic have on native biodiversity. 

VWL partners with scientists, graduate students, interns, and volunteer citizen scientists to organize and conduct annual biodiversity surveys on public and private lands throughout the region. This work is important because humans receive many tangible and intangible benefits from the natural world — from the spiritual (a walk through nature) to the utilitarian (the value of food production). 

Research prioritizes studies of biodiversity, threatened species, and ecosystem services to answer such questions as: 

  • How will current land-use practices (and projected changes thereto) impact grassland biodiversity? 
  • How are ecosystem services, like pollination, related to species presence or native biodiversity? 
  • Are quail Habitat Management Areas effective at restoring bobwhite populations? How might they be improved? 
  • Does arthropod community composition or nutritional value differ in cool- vs warm-season grass fields? What are the implications of this difference for birds or other insect-eating animals? 
  • What impact does field management timing have on overwintering bird or insect diversity? 
  • How does the establishment or maintenance of native grasses impact plant communities?

To this end, VWL conducts six surveys on breeding birds, bumble bees, grasslands, orchids, mammals, soil, and arthropods.

Each year, VWL and SCBI train a group of citizen scientists to conduct these surveys on private and public lands and recruit private landowners who enable us to collect these data on their property. FMN supports this work and you can claim service hours for your participation (C200: Citizen Science Projects for the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute).

For more information, please contact Outreach Coordinator, Charlotte Lorick, at 540-635-0038, visit www.vaworkinglandscapes.org), or find VWL on Facebook & Instagram. 

This specific report is on the survey results for The Clifton Institute. Reports for other sites are available from VWL.

Start a Thriving Earth Exchange Project

Jump to submission form.

Thriving Earth Exchange projects start with community priorities. Communities of any size from around the world are encouraged to submit a local issue and/or project idea related to natural hazards, natural resources, or climate change. Any community can start a Thriving Earth project. All we ask is that you commit to the time and energy needed to work hand-in-hand with a volunteer scientist. (Read more about what it means to be a Thriving Earth Exchange community leader.)

The submission process is meant to be simple, allowing you to provide baseline information about local challenges.

Thriving Earth Exchange projects can be completed as part of a cohort, individually, or via a dialogue. How it works video.

Thriving Earth Exchange Project Types

Type Description Benefits
Cohort A cohort is a group of projects that communicate
with and support one another. They are often launched at regional or theme-based Project Launch
Workshops. Communities in the cohort move through the Thriving Earth milestones at the same pace.
Communities benefit from
peer support,
sharing and
learning.
Individual Your project team will be supported “1-on-1” with a
Thriving Earth project liaison, and you will move
through the milestones at your own pace. Thriving
Earth is only able to accommodate a limited number
of individual projects.
This is ideal
for
communities with time-
sensitive
Thriving
Earth
projects.
Dialogue This is ideal for communities who wish to explore  how community context intersects with Earth and space science. A team of 3-5 community leaders will engage with 3-5 scientists using an online platform. An example of this is the Resilience Dialogues, a program Thriving Earth is a partner in. A dialogue
may serve as a precursor to individual or cohort Thriving Earth participation.

Once You Submit an Idea:

We will reply within one week with information about next steps.

Join Plant NOVA Natives for its Grand Partnership meeting, February 26

Plant NOVA Natives’ third annual “Grand Partnership” meeting will take place on Tuesday, February 26, 9:30 am to 1 pm, at 3040 Williams Drive, Suite 200, Fairfax. All are welcome!

Does your organization (public, private, or non-profit; large or small) have a concern for the local environment? Please send a representative(s) as we collaborate on plans for our collective action movement in 2019. 

The agenda will be finalized later, but we plan to discuss outreach to homeowner’s associations, landscapers, and government land managers. We will leave plenty of time at the end for networking.

RSVP to Margaret Fisher plantnovanatives@gmail.com

We also welcome all to our Steering Committee meetings. The next one is scheduled for Tuesday, January 22, 10 am to noon (same location).

Lead 2019 City Nature Challenge for FMN

Excited about Citizen Science and using iNaturalist to record your observations? 

You can lead FMN’s participation in the 2019 City Nature Challenge!       

What’s involved?  You decide.  Here are some suggestions.  

  • Join the monthly City Nature Challenge coordination phone calls:
WhenWed Jan 23, 2019 2pm – 3pm Eastern Time – New York
Where605-472-5436, access code 908439#
  • Set up opportunities for FMN to participate
    • Chapter hike on using iNaturalist to take good pics for ID (The Nature Conservancy will lead)
    • Public info programs on City Nature Challenge & using iNaturalist (Fairfax libraries will sponsor)
    • Observation events on City Nature Challenge weekend (Fairfax County parks will sponsor)
    • Identification parties post CNC weekend (Fairfax libraries will sponsor)
    • Join with ARMN-sponsored events   
  • Earn service hours working from home
  • Recruit FMNs to help as needed

Sound like fun?  Contact Marilyn Schroeder: masnaturalist@yahoo.com

Earth Sangha offering paid internships for 2019

Earth Sangha is looking to fill five paid, part-time, DC-area internships: 

2 growing-season internships at our nursery
2 summer internships at the Marie Butler Leven Preserve

1 office internship near George Mason University’s main campus

All internships will pay $15 per hour.
For details contact Matt Bright at mbright@earthsangha.org. 

Central Loudoun Christmas Bird Count, December 28th

Photo by Barbara J. Saffir (c)

Friday, 28 December 2018

Loudoun County, VA

Join Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy as they participate in National Audubon Society’s annual Christmas Bird Count. Begun in 1899, these surveys are held all over North America, with the results used to better understand bird populations and dynamics. This count circle has a 15-mile diameter and covers 177 square miles of Loudoun’s countryside: north to Waterford, south to Aldie, east to Ashburn, and west to Purcellville. Everyone is welcome; amateurs are teamed with experienced birders. If you are interested in participating for just a couple hours or the entire day,  sign up here or contact Joe Coleman.

Upcoming stream monitoring sessions

Photo by Barbara J. Saffir (c)

Bull Run Stream Monitoring Session
When: Saturday, 8 December, 10 am-12:30pm
Where: Manassas
Join a stream monitor at this outdoor learning site along Bull Run Trail. Registration is limited. RSVP to Jess Cushman at cushman.jess@gmail.com.

Pohick Creek Stream Monitoring Workshop
When: Sunday, 16 December, 10 am-12:30pm
Where: Wadebrook Terrace, Springfield
Join Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District (NVSWCD) as we discover aquatic life in Pohick Creek! This official NVSWCD stream monitoring workshop covers watershed health, what macroinvertebrates tell us about stream quality, and what you can do to prevent pollution in your local stream. Registration is limited. RSVP to Ashley Palmer at Ashley.Palmer@fairfaxcounty.gov.

Earth Sangha seed cleaning, Dec. 9 & 16th

Photo by Barbara J. Saffir (c)

1400 South Edgewood St, Arlington, VA 22204

In the Community Room, which is located through the basement door at the corner of the building, near the brown sign with the address

Saturdays, 9 December and 16 December 2018

10 am – 1 pm

Join Earth Sangha for their first seed cleaning events of the season at the community room at Arlington Village. Help clean seeds from a variety of native species. Please call Rodney Olsen at (703) 216-4855 if you have difficultly finding the community room.

City Nature Challenge–Save the dates, 26-29 April 2019

Citizen scientists throughout the Washington DC metro area will be participating in the 2019 City Nature Challenge, a competition among 130 cities around the world to find and document the diversity of species. No experience required—just a mobile device and a love for nature. Participants will make observations of wild plants and animals using the free iNaturalist app (for Android or Apple).

Why get involved? By participating, you’ll not only get out and see some great urban nature, you’ll help scientists collect data on the biodiversity of our region (and the planet).

Find out how it works!

See the results from the 2018 City Nature Challenge.