Earth Sangha is Re-Opening the Wild Plant Nursery for Volunteers

Earth Sangha is reopening the Wild Plant Nursery for plant-shopping appointments and volunteers! (Our contactless “curbside” pickup service will continue to be available.) Volunteer opportunities will begin on July 19, and plant-shopping appointments on August 2.

The safety of volunteers, customers, and staff is the priority. Volunteers MUST pre-register for nursery workdays (workdays will be limited to 10 volunteers), and customers MUST book a plant-sale appointment to ensure everyone can practice social-distancing. They are still closed to walk-ins.

How to Sign-Up to Volunteer

1. Visit the volunteer page at www.earthsangha.org/volunteer

2. Click on the “Sign-up Genius” link to view the calendar and open volunteer slots.

3. Sign-up for the day and volunteer slot you’re interested in. (Please only sign-up for days you know you can attend.)

How to Make an In-Person Plant Sale Appointment

1. Visit the Book Online Page at www.earthsangha.org/book-online

2. Click the green “Request to Book” button

3. Click on the day and time slot you’d like to book and then click the grey “Next” button. The calendar gives the option to view by week or by month. (30 min appointments are available from 9am to Noon on Sundays, Mondays, and Thursdays.)

4. Enter your name, email and phone number

5. Click the grey “Request to Book” button

6. You will receive an email when your appointment is confirmed.

This is their first time offering booking online, so please email Katherine at kisaacson@earthsangha.org if you have any questions about booking an appointment.

How to order for curbside pick-up

1. Check out inventory at www.earthsangha.org/wpnlist

2. Email Earth Sangha at orders@earthsangha.org with species and quantities you’d like to purchase. Let them know if you’re a member to receive the member discount! If you need help choosing plants for your site, they’re happy to help! Feel free to send photos of areas you have in mind.

3. They’ll place your order in an assigned bay outside the nursery fence, notify you that it’s ready to go, and you can pick up at your leisure.

4. They’ll email you an invoice you can pay online. Feel free to pick up first, so you can see what you’re getting.

All visitors must abide by the following rules

* All volunteers and customers must be pre-confirmed either through the online volunteer sign-up or online appointment systems.

* No more than 10 people can volunteer for an event at one time.

* Volunteers/customers should not visit the Wild Plant Nursery if they have any COVID symptoms, or have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 in the last 14 days.

* Volunteers/customers must wear a face mask while at the Wild Plant Nursery.

* Volunteers/customers must practice social-distancing while at the Wild Plant Nursery.

* Volunteers are encouraged to bring their own work gloves and water bottles.

Soil Your Undies Campaign

The Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District is challenging residents all across Fairfax County to bury a pair of cotton underwear as part of a campaign to promote soil health awareness. How does it work? Just bury a pair of cotton underwear and dig it back up after at least 60 days. It’s the quick and dirty way to test the microbial activity in your soil. The more the underwear is deteriorated, the healthier your soil!

Although you can use the Soil Your Undies Challenge to check your soil health at any time, the 2020 NVSWCD Soil Your Undies Challenge runs from July to September 2020.

JOIN THE CHALLENGE!
Step 1: Look for a place where you want to study the health of the soil. Make sure you are only studying sites on your property or with the permission of the landowner.
Step 2: Bury a pair of white cotton undies (or any white cotton clothing item) 3 inches under the soil’s surface. Be sure to take a “before” photo.
Step 3: Don’t forget to mark your study site with a flag or other easily-identifiable marker!
Step 4: Wait at least 60 days (this is the hard part…)
Step 5: Locate your marked study site and dig up your cotton undies. Be sure to take an “after” photo.
Step 6: How healthy is your soil? Healthier soils have a lot of microbial activity, and the healthy fungi and bacteria in the soil will break down your cotton undies. The more degraded your undies are, the more microbial activity you have in your soil, and the healthier your soil is.
Step 7: Share the results of your citizen science project! Email your photos and any notes you may have to conservationdistrict@fairfaxcounty.gov, and share your results with us on Facebook @nvswcd and on Instagram @NorthernVirginiaSWCD. We’ll be sharing our results with you, too!

Learn more about the challenge and soil health here.

Scott’s Run Nature Preserve Service Opportunities

7400 Georgetown Pike (use 7500 for GPS location)
Great Falls, VA

Cleanup Days

Scott’s Run Nature Preserve is an ecologically and globally unique preserve and home to remarkable plants and wildlife. Join their Stewardship team and partake in their upcoming volunteer cleanups. Volunteers under 14 years old must volunteer with a parent/guardian. Limited spots per event

Sign up here

Natural Resource Projects

The park is in need of volunteer support to complete several resource management projects. All projects are outdoors and vary by season. Duties may include walking on hilly trails, lifting, planting, weeding/pulling invasives, using work tools, building/assembling, and labeling/reporting. Project details and meeting location will be sent prior to the work day. All volunteers must dress appropriately and follow park etiquette.

Sign up here

At-Home Citizen Science Projects

Photo (c) by Barbara J. Saffir

Virginia may be in Phase 3 of re-opening but many volunteers will continue to stay home, especially those in high risk groups. For those who are looking for home-based opportunities, Virginia Master Naturalists has compiled a list of ideas for citizen science projects.

• CoCoRaHS (Community Collaborative Rain, Hail, & Snow Network) https://www.cocorahs.org
• Nature’s Notebook https://www.usanpn.org/natures_notebook
• Project Budburst http://budburst.org
• Digitizing Virginia’s Herbaria project within Notes from Nature –  https://www.zooniverse.org/projects/md68135/notes-from-nature-southeastern-us-biodiversity  
• Project FeederWatch (season is mid-November through early April) https://feederwatch.org
• Great Backyard Bird Count (mid-February only) https://gbbc.birdcount.org
• NestWatch https://nestwatch.org 
• Hummingbirds at Home (Audubon) – https://www.audubon.org/content/hummingbirds-home
• Monarch Larva Monitoring Project https://monarchjointventure.org/mlmp 
• Firefly Watch https://www.massaudubon.org/get-involved/citizen-science/firefly-watch 
• Bumblebee Watch – https://www.bumblebeewatch.org
• Migratory Dragonfly Partnership http://www.migratorydragonflypartnership.org/index/welcome 
• Lost Ladybug http://www.lostladybug.org 
• FrogWatch http://www.frogwatch.org/ 
• Virginia WildlifeMapping https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/virginia-wildlife-mapping
• City Nature Challenge (limited to participating locations and specific dates) https://citynaturechallenge.org
• World Bee Count – https://beescount.org

Master naturalists, please check with the FMN service catalog or our service chair if you have any questions.

Gardening Opportunities in Fairfax County Parks

Both Hidden Oaks Nature Center and Riverbend Park seek volunteers to “adopt a spot” or “adopt a native plant” gardens in the parks. These independent, outdoor service projects offer plenty of safe physical distancing. Additional gardens will be available later in the summer. See descriptions below for details and contact.

Hidden Oaks Nature Center projects

Riverbend Park projects

Observe Locally – Help Globally :  Participate in the next international Socially Distant BioBlitzes, June 14th, July 5th

Article and photos by Bill Hafker

It’s tough on those of us who thrive on getting with a group of friends to hike, bike, kayak or otherwise just get outside and observe nature, to feel locked out of doing that. However, it is still possible to find ways to stay safe and enjoy the outdoors.  Whether you just go into your backyard, or find a trail or park that’s open, you can still take part in doing the citizen science/monitoring work you love.  If you enjoyed participating in the City Nature Challenge during April, or if you missed it and wished that you could have been part of advancing a group goal in support of the environment while doing socially distanced nature observations, it’s not too late to do so! 

American Carrion Beetle

The first-ever International Socially Distant BioBlitz was held on April 5th.  It connected 346 participants who together made over 12,500 observations documenting more than 3,000 species.  It was such a success that the organizers at Antioch University New England did it again on May 3rd.  I participated on that day by spending hours documenting everything I could find on a trail near my home.  I had a great time being one of 417 participants from 52 countries, contributing 241 observations and 134 species to their new record numbers of over 22,000 observations and 6,137 species.  I’m planning to try to participate in the upcoming BioBlitzes by walking the same trail each time to see how the species present change, and hoping to find things that I didn’t see the times before.  What was especially cool this time was that I received a comment from someone in the iNat community who thinks I may have posted an invasive beetle not previously documented in the east.  My pictures weren’t good enough for him to be sure of the species, so I’m hoping to find it again on a subsequent date so that I can send him the specimen that he requested.

Trombidium

Based on their success, the organizers will be holding these Socially Distant BioBlitzes on a tri-weekly basis until stay-at-home orders are lifted across the globe.  Hopefully you can join the next ones, and encourage others to participate as well.  Info can be found at https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/socially-distant-bioblitz-5-24-2020.   Everyone is encouraged to also check out the Socially Distant BioBlitz series, an umbrella project that keeps track of cumulative totals and compares individual bioblitzes at    https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/socially-distant-bioblitz-series.

Per current VMN policy guidelines, participation in these bioblitzs can not be counted as service hours because they are not considered to be sufficiently focused on work with local partners or state sponsored agencies supporting beneficial management of natural resources and natural areas within our own community.

Nightjar Surveys

By Laura Duval, Research Biologist & Program Coordinator, The Nightjar Survey Network ​

The U.S. Nightjar Survey Network (NSN) is a citizen science-driven research group that has worked to collect long-term occupancy data for this unusual group of birds over the past 12 years.

North American nightjars, or goatsuckers, include nine nocturnal (most active at night) and crepuscular (most active at dawn and dusk) species. Nightjars arrive in North America during late March after migrating from their wintering grounds, which can be as distant as South America. They typically breed and forage in deciduous and pine forests near shrubby or agriculture fields and bodies of water.  Depending on the species, nightjars typically lay 1-3 eggs in leaf litter found on the forest floor or in open pebbled and sandy tracts. The downy-feathered, semi-precocial nestlings (see photo) are mostly dependent on the adults for food, but are mobile near the nest within days of hatching. Nightjar young become independent after their parents feed them for up to a month in their natal territory. Nightjars begin their movements back to their wintering grounds as early as July, though some populations remain in southern states such as Texas, Florida and Arizona throughout the winter. 

Nightjars are included in a group of birds labeled “aerial insectivores” due to their foraging habits. Recent research has indicated that aerial insectivores are in the most drastic decline of all bird taxa. Factors affecting these birds include habitat degradation, human disturbance, agriculture practices (i.e., exposure to pesticides), and climate change. We know little about the specifics of their ecology because their nocturnal tendencies have made them challenging to study and simply hard to detect by millions of citizen scientists that submit observations in volunteer data portals such as eBird. Long-running programs such as the Breeding Bird Survey adhere to a diurnal survey period reducing the overall number of nightjars detected for that program. 

The Center for Conservation Biology at the College of William and Mary in Virginia established the network in 2007 in an attempt to fill gaps in knowledge for these species. Since its initiation over 3,000 surveys have been conducted nationwide. The project is designed to be effective over many years of surveying and over broad landscapes. With the support of the Virginia Master Naturalists we are hopeful that we can tap into a core group of local participants that would be willing to donate a few hours of their time once a year to this cause. A passion for scientific contribution, a willingness to work on a gorgeous moonlit night, and a vehicle is all it takes to become a surveyor. The structure of the survey network also encourages participants to conduct routes (even those without birds) for several years to lend insight into trends over time. 

2020 Survey Dates
Window 1: FL, TX, and low elevation AZ and NM: 1 April to 14 April
Window 2: Any location in the country: 30 April to 14 May
Window 3: Areas north of AZ, FL, NM, and TX, and for high elevation areas in the Northern U.S.: 29 May to 13 June
Window 4: North and western states (WA, OR, ID, MT, WY, Dakotas, MN): 27 July to 11 August

The 2020 season has already began, however, for Virginians there is still time to sign up and conduct surveys by visiting http://www.nightjars.org/. Survey windows 2 and 3 (see figure below) are the best times to detect nightjars in our state. Environmental parameters such as moon phase and face illumination, cloud cover, precipitation and wind affect the activity and subsequent detection of nightjars. Therefore, please adhere to the survey window dates and try to pick an evening where you have favorable weather. 

Instructions for how to create an account, select or create a route, conduct a survey and enter data can be found here: http://www.nightjars.org/participate/survey-instructions/. This year we developed instructional videos for accomplishing these tasks as well that can be viewed at http://www.nightjars.org/learn/

We have created a draft project proposal form for this project that you can use to get the project approved in your VMN chapter.

Feel free to contact us anytime with questions you may have at nightjars@nightjars.org

Sustainable Landscaping Solutions for Faith Communities, June 14

When: June 14, 2:00-4:30 pm

Where: Either via videoconference or St. Peter’s in the Woods, Fairfax Station, VA

Join Plant NoVa Natives as they discuss how and why faith communities are using their places of worship to demonstrate stewardship of the Earth. Learn more.

City Nature Challenge: Fairfax Master Naturalists educate and organize

By Ana Ka’ahanui, FMN and Director Experiential Programs at Capital Nature

Join us for the #citynaturechallenge, a friendly global effort to safely explore biodiversity April 24-27, 2020! Even with our movement limited to minimize the spread of COVID-19, there is plenty of nature to observe at our windows, gardens, and in our neighborhoods. Join the DC metro area’s fellow citizen scientists to discover and share the amazing life near you!

Join these projects to have your observations counted. City Nature Challenge (April 24-27)
City Nature Month (April 1-30)

Visit www.iNaturalist.org and join the project City Nature Challenge 2020: Washington DC Metro Area: https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/city-nature-challenge-2020-washington-dc-metro-area

Photo and article by Barbara J. Saffir

To encourage people to participate in iNaturalist’s global “City Nature Challenge” bioblitz in April, I’m hosting two virtual Meetups: One through my own Nature  Photography DC/MD/VA Meetup and one through the  Sierra Club’s Meetup.  My fellow Virginia Master Naturalists and the public are invited to join these two free Meetups: https://www.meetup.com/Nature-Photography-DC-MD-VA/events/267877831/ https://www.meetup.com/sierrapotomac/events/270131226/

From Atlas Obscura: How to Help Scientists Without Leaving Home

Gaze out the window or at your computer, in the name of data

BY JESSICA LEIGH HESTER

Atlas Obscura readers are spending time at home to stay safe and healthy, so the organization is sharing ways you can be awestruck anytime, no matter where you are. 

“THE NATURAL WORLD DOESN’T SLOW down just because humans have to. Outside, buds burst from branches; high, high above them, distant objects traverse the solar system. And while the world keeps going, science does, too. If you have a computer, a phone, and a window, you can help with these citizen science projects.”

Check the article for scores of links to citizen science projects you can do from home. Then, if you are a master naturalist, check the service or continuing education calendars to see which are approved for credit. If you don’t see them, please be kind and add them to help your fellow naturalists get credit for making the world a better place.