Your Closest State Park – Mason Neck

All photos by Jerry Nissley

Are you gazing over your horizon for a different new place to volunteer?

FMNs Tom Blackburn, Rob Warren and Jerry Nissley recently met with Jamie Leeuwrik, Chief Ranger – Visitor Experience, at Mason Neck State Park to discuss the areas of need at the park and how FMN volunteers may help.
In a general sense, Jamie mentioned a range of needs and opportunities available now and in the immediate future:
1. Park interpreters (wetlands, birds/eagles, herps, indoor, outdoor)
2. Trail monitoring (rovers, tour guides)
3. Adopt-a-Trail program (cleanup, invasive removal)
4. Shoreline cleanups
5. Special events (from interpreting to costumed entertainer)
6. Kayak/paddle tour guides (join 6 current FMN guides)
7. Visitor Center Assistant
8. Summer Camp Program Leaders

White egret swooping into the grasses of Kane’s Creek

All of the above require some sort of training and registration as a state park volunteer, which is standard procedure at all parks. Some may be tackled as scheduled group/team efforts, some may be individual efforts done as your time permits.

Please contact Jamie directly to get signed up as a State Park volunteer. Mention you are an FMN volunteer and would like get involved with any of the listed opportunities or express your personal interests and see what else they have. Paddle guides are being actively recruited now. [email protected]

Evening paddle tour

FMN has two service codes to cover any and all projects in Virginia State Parks.
S179: Virginia State Park Stewardship Projects – – VDCR, to cover any approved stewardship activity in a State Park. For example, maintenance, cleanups, invasive removal.
E179: Virginia State Park Educational and Outreach Projects – – VDCR, to cover any approved educational activity in a state park. For example, paddle guide, festivals, interpretive programs.

Tidal marsh from the forested Bayview Trail

Mason Neck is very much about the water but it also has 10 hiking trails through multiple ecosystems – freshwater tidal marsh, coastal depression wetlands, and mixed mesic hardwood forests. It is home to several resident eagles and is a seasonal sanctuary for hundreds of migratory waterfowl, including tundra swans. It is a great place to learn more about.

For now, an FMN liaison is on the MNSP Volunteer notification list as there is no current signup calendar service available. However, signing up as a State Park volunteer places you on their list so you get advanced notice of events. Some events are posted on the State Park web site.

MNSP started as a sanctuary for eagles. Several pair nest on the Neck.

Project teaser – We then presented an idea from Sarah Mayhew (FMN President) about a ‘Chapter Project’ to restore and maintain their pollinator gardens. They have two major plots (~20’x30’) and small spaces around the visitors center. More on this project as details develop.
Please contact Jerry Nissley of this peaks your interest – [email protected]

Arlington Regional Master Naturalists Presents Seminar: Too Many Deer? February 22nd

Photo: Whitetail Deer Courtesy of National Park Service

Wednesday, February 22,2023
7:00 p.m.

Free Zoom Seminar

Register here for Zoom details

Click here for presentation flyer.

Are too many deer endangering our local flora and fauna? If so, what can be done about it?

As humans have transformed landscapes, many species have lost their habitats, struggling to survive, while whitetailed deer have thrived. Overwhelming evidence points to high deer populations as a main factor in reducing
biodiversity and limiting forest regeneration. Cornell University Professor Blossey, a leading expert on forest health in
the Eastern United States, will present evidence for this imbalance and discuss potential solutions. “Deer are
charismatic native species that belong in our fields and forests,” Blossey said. “Humans have allowed them to become
ecological bullies, and if we are serious about our responsibilities to protect all native species, we need to embrace the
need to reduce deer impacts through reductions in the local deer herds.” This presentation, sponsored by a network of
Northern Virginia environmental organizations, comes as Arlington County studies the impact of deer.

See more information on the Arlington Regional Master Naturalists web page:  armn.org/deer

 

A Look Behind the Curtains – Project Codes

Cover photo: Jerry Nissley

As experienced FMN volunteers most of us have logged into Better Impact (BI) to record hours of service or CE. Because of this, from time to time the Projects/Hours Committee receives questions via [email protected] asking about how to record hours or how to best identify service codes to use for a given project. Given that there are those occasional questions and that there have been some subtle changes to BI over time, we thought a behind the curtains look into the intricacies of FMN Project Codes may be helpful. So strap in and welcome to the most exciting ride of your life through the wild kingdom of Project Codes. [Exciting ride? Isn’t that a little over the top? Ok that’s probably gratuitous-hype but who’s going to read a boring article on ‘process and policy’? Bleh. Let’s move along.]

At chapter inception, FMN developed and continues to maintain a service/project catalogue in accordance with reporting requirements and responsibilities that all chapters have to state level VMN. The FMN catalogue lists all approved FMN projects and it is required by VMN in order to maintain insurance liabilities in case of incidents while volunteering. By recording hours in a timely fashion, the FMN volunteer provides partial but verifiable evidence to help VMN protect the volunteer in case there is an incident. Accumulated hours, reported annually to VMN, also support our sponsor agencies by providing documentation that benefits their funding profiles. The Project Catalog may also be considered a valuable, readable list of FMN volunteer opportunities organized by areas of interest. It is an informative resource at your fingertips to provide legit ideas to fuel your volunteer cravings. It’s better than ice cream! [Whoa… hold on there partner … better than ice cream? Ok, I give. That is a ridiculous thought. Let’s continue.]

As an organizing construct, FMN has nine project categories and one CE component:
1. Admin
2. Birds
3. Community Outreach
4. Habitat creation and restoration
5. Native plants and invasive removal
6. Parks
7. School Engagements
8. Water and wetlands
9. Wildlife Surveys
CE = All Continuing Education

Project codes are further classified as either Citizen Science, Education/Outreach, or Stewardship. Project codes beginning with C = Citizen Science; codes beginning with E = Education/Outreach; and codes beginning with S = Stewardship. C, E, or S codes are distributed throughout the FMN Categories (except for Admin and CE) depending on the project description and purpose.
The four-part Project Code was developed by the FMN IT team. This format allows codes to be correctly cataloged and supports automated extraction of data for annual reporting requirements:
1. FMN category – | 2. Project Code: | 3. Project Title – – | 4. Project Org

FMN category – Project Code: Project Title – – Project Org

For example:
Parks – C106: FCPA Citizen Science Programs — Fairfax County Park Authority (FCPA)
Project code C106 covers most citizen science projects on park property sponsored by FCPA for which FMN volunteers may contribute hours as identified in the project description .

Community Outreach – E543: Education and Outreach — FMN
Project Code E543 is for educational, community outreach project hours (tabling, teaching, instructing) contributed by FMN volunteers as defined in the project description.

Native plants and invasive removal – S861: Plant NoVA Trees – – Department of Forestry (VDoF)
Project Code S861 identifies stewardship projects organized by the organization Plant NoVA Trees for the physical planting of native plants or removal of invasive plants for which FMN contributes hours. VDoF is a sponsor of Plant NoVA Trees and VMN; and provides our chapter advisor.

Project Org (part 4) is the value entered into the Project Organization field, which is the last required field in the template when recording service hours. [Wait, what? So you never have to guess at what to enter? That’s right.  Just copy that value in as the Project Organization and be done. Let’s move along. The article is getting way too long; we’re losing readers; almost done.]

New projects may be requested by FMN volunteers at any time by submitting a Project Proposal form. The form is available on the VMN web site buried in their vast reference libraries, so it is easier to request a form by emailing a request to [email protected] The Hours Committee will send a blank form and a pre-filled sample form for guidance –  [no questions asked, he says sotto voce]. Once the form is returned, the Projects/Hours Committee will review it to make sure the project does not fall under the purview of an existing project. If the project is deemed unique, it will be evaluated for approval. [At which time questions will be asked? Yes. That’s what we do. But we do it for you. Hey – that could be a Projects/Hours Committee logo or catch phrase; bumper stickers, hats. Stop it! Just end the article already!]

There you have it – a peek into the BI project code structure as tailored by FMN. Of course, the Projects/Hours Committee will continue to be at your service to answer future questions, so fire away.

Conference in Spanish – Learn About Native Plants and Managing the Local Natural Landscape

Photo: Courtesy of Plant NOVA Natives

Wednesday, February 15, 2023
9:00 AM – 1:00 PM

Northern Virginia Community College –
Campus de Annandale
Forum Room – Ernst Community Cultural Center
8333 Little River Turnpike, Annandale, VA 22003

Free parking anywhere in lot B
Meet on the second floor, “CE” building.

Please click here to register.

Topics:

  • Why native plants? (Elisa Meara)
  • Proper tree planting and maintenance (Patricia Greenberg)
  • Control of invasive plants (Patricia Greenberg)
  • Taking care of the soil (Beth Sastre)
  • Spotted Lanternfly (Beth Sastre)
  • Natural pruning (Jose Lara)

In Spanish: For more information can be found at this link.

 

English translation: please click here.

Responding to Misbehavior in Nature

Photo:  FMN Janet Quinn

Article by FMN Laura Handley

With all the time we Master Naturalists spend in nature, most of us have witnessed some sketchy behavior out there. Perhaps you’ve seen a lady digging trillium from the forest floor, or kids pulling the wings off insects, or young lovers carving their initials into the smooth bark of a beech tree. What are we to do in such a situation? Do we cringe and walk on, averting our eyes from the misbehavior? Are we obligated to jump in and put a stop to it?

Thankfully, not the latter. As Master Naturalists, we have no duty to act when we see someone messing with nature. We also have no enforcement authority, so we’d have no more standing than any other passersby to tell someone to stop what they’re doing. And unlike park rangers, we’re not trained to enforce park regulations. Our training includes many best practices for observing nature and moving through natural areas, but it doesn’t cover the rules that apply in any particular area. Rules can differ quite a bit from one park system to another: an activity that’s banned in one place might be perfectly fine elsewhere. (For instance, the Fairfax County Park Authority is adamantly against foraging for edible plants, but Sky Meadows State Park in Fauquier County allows visitors to gather small amounts to be consumed within the park, and some national forests even allow commercial harvesting with the right permit.)

What we are trained to do is understand nature and share our knowledge with others. And most misbehavior toward nature is rooted in a lack of either knowledge or empathy (which often arises from knowledge). It’s safe to assume that if someone makes the effort to visit a natural area, they value nature and wouldn’t want to ruin it; they often just don’t know that what they’re doing is bad, or bad enough to make a difference. And so our best response, when we see someone doing something that looks harmful, is to start a conversation and see if we can advise them better. (Of course, we should always be careful when approaching strangers; some people can get belligerent when questioned. Use your best judgment, and remember that it’s not worth risking your safety to intervene.)

A good way to start the conversation is with a friendly, open-ended question: “What are you doing there?” Give the person a chance to explain what they’re up to. It could be that you caught them at the worst-looking moment of something innocuous, such as trampling vegetation while trying to retrieve a lost ball. It could be that they don’t know they’re doing harm, such as by walking off-trail or collecting wild seeds indiscriminately without a plan to ensure those seeds germinate and thrive. It could even be that they think they’re helping when they’re actually doing harm, such as by killing bugs that pose no threat or cutting down native vines from trees. Or–ideally–it could be that they know exactly what they’re doing and are going about it in a legal and environmentally responsible way, such as foraging the berries of an invasive plant to keep that plant from spreading, or collecting a small sample of a local ecotype of a native plant to add to their garden in place of a nursery-grown strain from out of state. (I hope this last option becomes more common as people become more aware of ecological issues and the many productive interactions we can have with our local ecosystems!)

Once you’ve established a rapport with the person, and once you’ve learned what their goals are, you can help them find a more ecologically sound way to meet those goals. If those kids are feeling bored and destructive, you could steer them away from the poor innocent bugs and toward an invasive plant that needs removal. The trillium-gathering lady might not know that most woodland wildflowers require the soil chemistry and mycorrhizal symbionts of the forest floor; once she learns those plants will almost certainly die if transplanted elsewhere, she’d probably take your suggestion to leave them be and look instead for native plants that would thrive in a garden (especially if you point her toward resources and retailers like Plant NoVA Natives and Earth Sangha). And if the lovers want to memorialize their relationship, instead of scarring an older tree, why not plant a young one that can grow along with their love? In an ideal situation, everyone can leave satisfied; if not, at least the culprit will know better and you’ll have done all you can to share your knowledge and encourage better stewardship.

While you’re talking, I wouldn’t brandish the Master Naturalist credential to convey authority, but it’s not a bad idea to mention the program or the resources on our website, especially if the person seems interested in learning more. Who knows–maybe you’ve found a new applicant for the next Basic Training!

The Virginia Geological Field Conference

Feature photo: An outcrop showing boudinaged felsic leucosomes and quartzofeldspathic domains. The location is along the south bank of the South Anna River a few yards east of Route 673, Rockville, VA.

Article and photos by FMN Stephen Tzikas

Every autumn the Virginia Geological Field Conference (VGFC) provides geologists, university students, and the public an opportunity to participate in a geologic field excursion within the State. In 2022 the event was held November 11-12 and explored the Goochland Terrane, just west of Richmond, VA. Attendance levels usually necessitate the need for two coach buses to transport the participants to the various locations on the agenda. The event is usually hosted by universities, community colleges, and/or State organizations. The field experience is invaluable. The VGFC website provides the details and should be monitored: https://vgfc.blogs.wm.edu/

These conferences and field trips are not just found in Virginia, but they are not available in every state. Fortunately for Virginia Master Naturalists, our neighboring States have very active programs as well:

I highly recommend these State excursions as learning experiences for Fairfax Master

This is one of the many outcrops at Hidden Rock Park in Goochland, VA. These leucogranite dikes display boudinage structure.

Naturalists, even though only the VGFC excursion is applicable as FMN CE training.*  I have been to several of these and they are excellent, especially the ones found in northern states offering glacial geology exploration opportunities.

There were plenty of boudins at visited locations in the 2022 VGFC site itinerary. A boudin is a geological term for structures formed by extension (stretching), forming sausage-shaped boudins.

Photo: Close-up of the center of the outcrop in the photo to the right, above.

*Fairfax Master Naturalists: Enter CE using All continuing Ed ->Other and then make a note of the trip in the description field.

Help Control Invasive Plants with the Friends of Dyke Marsh, February 4th & 18th and March 4th & 18th

Photo: Courtesy of National Park Service, Dyke Marsh Wildlife Preserve 

Saturdays, February 4 and 18 and March 4 and 18, 2023
10:00 AM

Meet at the Haul Road Trail entrance bulletin board.
GPS coordinates: 38.777739, -77.050540

Directions:
South of Alexandria off the GW Memorial Parkway at
the sign for Dyke Marsh Nature Preserve and Belle Haven Marina,
turn east onto the road toward the Potomac River. Take the first
left and park in the Belle Haven Park lot. Walk back to the marina
road and turn east, toward the river. Walk 30 yards. On your right
is a Dyke Marsh sign and the entrance to the Haul Road trail.

Sign up by sending an email to [email protected]

 

Join the Friends of Dyke Marsh at 10 a.m. on these dates and help tackle invasive plants: February 4 and 18 and March 4 and 18.

Meet at the Haul Road Trail entrance bulletin board. Bring water, gloves, hand clippers and a lopper, if you have one. We will supply instructions, examples of targeted plants and trash bags. We will have a few hand clippers and loppers to share. Wear long sleeves and pants and sturdy shoes.

Sign up by sending an email to [email protected] and put “Invasive Plants” in the subject box. Indicate your preferred date(s). We kindly ask that you not bring pets.

Welcome Fairfax Tree Stewards

Cover photo: Public Domain

In January 2023, the FMN board approved a chapter partnership with Fairfax Tree Stewards (FTS). FTS is an educational, non-profit, volunteer organization providing specialized training and certification focusing on trees. It is a program under the auspices of Trees Virginia, registered with the state as Virginia Urban Forest Council and is a private, non-profit organization whose mission is to enhance the quality of life through the Stewardship of our Commonwealth’s urban and community trees. Founded in September 1990 and incorporated in June 1991, the organization works to promote an awareness of our community forests and the value of trees. Approved chapters, such as FTS, use the newly updated Manual to form the basis of training classes, and FTS will supplement book learning with hands on field classes on tree selection, tree planting, tree pruning and tree ID by season.
The first FTS certification class, scheduled for February 2023, is full and includes a few FMNs. FTS is an approved CE organization and service codes for collaborative projects have been created in BI for use by FMN volunteers as projects develop.

Habitat creation and restoration – E405: Educational Projects Fairfax Tree Stewards – – FTS
Educational project code for Fairfax Tree Stewards (FTS).
Educational Projects could be advising a homeowner or association on proper tree selection and planting, education about maintenance, developing resource lists, or FTS tabling events at selected locations in Fairfax County.
When recording these hours in BI, ‘FTS’ should be entered as the Project Organization.

Habitat creation and restoration – S405: Stewardship Projects Fairfax Tree Stewards – – Department of Forestry (VDoF)
Stewardship project code for Fairfax Tree Stewards (FTS).
Stewardship Projects could be helping a homeowner or association with proper physical design, planting, tree pruning, or maintenance, at selected locations in Fairfax County.
When recording these hours in BI, ‘Department of Forestry (VDoF)’ should be entered as the Project Organization.

To participate in FTS projects, one must be a certified Fairfax Tree Steward along with being an FMN member.

Please see FTS website for more information.

FMN and FTS contact is Jeanne Kadet: [email protected]

5th Annual Prince William Native Plant Symposium, February 11th

Photo: Butterfly Bush Pollinators by FMN Ana Ka’ahanui

Saturday, February 11, 2023
9:00 am – 4:00 pm

This is a hybrid event.
Participants can either choose to join in-person, or online.
Location: Verizon Auditorium 
George Mason University
George Mason Circle
Manassas, VA 20109

Cost:
In-person tickets: $30
Online tickets: $15

Click here for more information and registration details.

Whether you are new to native plants and what they can do for your property or you are looking for alternative landscaping ideas, this event is for you! Native plants can:

  • Create a beautiful yard
  • Save time so you can enjoy other activities
  • Create habitat for birds & pollinators
  • Save money on fertilizer & pesticides
  • Improve water quality
  • Curb Erosion

 

 

UPDATE- new training location: The National Park Service (NPS) Needs Volunteers to Help Save the GWM Parkway’s Trees, January 21st

Photo: FMN J. Quinn

Saturday, January 21, 2023
10:00AM

New Location: Fort Hunt Park
8999 Fort Hunt Rd,
Alexandria, VA 22308

 

To Attend the training please register here.

The National Park Service (NPS) needs volunteers to help remove English ivy from many trees along the south GW Memorial Parkway.

Mireya Stirzaker, NPS Natural Resources Specialist, will hold a volunteer training on January 21 at 10 a.m. at NPS’s Collingwood Park/Picnic Area on the east side of the parkway.

What’s Involved

Mireya will help people learn how to remove ivy, designate safe areas in which to work and supervise at least one session.  NPS can provide some tools and supplies.

To attend the training, register at https://forms.office.com/g/WM8XykN9LG.  On January 21, dress warmly in layers, wear sturdy shoes and bring water. You can volunteer once or multiple times.

Ivy’s Harm

Invasive English ivy is a perennial, aggressive plant that covers the ground, crowds out valuable native plants and climbs up trees.

It can smother a tree’s bark and block the sunlight needed for photosynthesis.

Trees weighed down with ivy vines are more susceptible to toppling during rain, snow and ice storms.

Around 20 percent of the parkway’s plants are not native, according to NPS biologists. Most invasive, introduced from other areas accidentally and deliberately have few controls, form monocultures, impair biodiversity and destroy native habitats.

Why Care about the Parkway’s Trees

Trees sequester carbon, reduce other pollution, stem stormwater runoff, reduce cooling costs and provide habitat for birds and other wildlife.

The parkway is losing trees because of, for example, the invasive emerald ash borer.  The Dyke Marsh Wildlife Preserve alone could lose around 1,000 ash trees.

Many oaks are suffering too.  Over-abundant deer eat young saplings which alters forest succession, prevents regeneration of plants and impairs biodiversity.

A Memorial Parkway

In 1928, Congress authorized the construction of the Mount Vernon Memorial Parkway to honor the bicentennial of George Washington’s birth.  Planners created a design that includes forested areas, minimizes signs and lights and prohibits billboards.  It is intentionally a slow-speed parkway and trail of natural, historic and recreational sites in over 7,000 acres of parkland, our national park.

Healthy, native trees are an integral part of that design and consistent with Congress’s intent.