Riverbend Park: A story of abundant opportunities to volunteer

Tom Blackburn

When I graduated from the Master Naturalist training program about five years ago, Riverbend Park was the first place I looked for volunteer opportunities.  Although I volunteer with other parks and organizations, Riverbend has long been my favorite place to work.  Over the years, I have helped with kayak trips, astronomy programs, Bluebell Festivals, Native American Festivals, summer camps, scout merit badges, educational hikes, and trash cleanups.  I even created and led “Moonshine and Mayhem” hikes, with guidance from Park staff, during which I interpreted the history of the park during the Prohibition Era.  But my most rewarding time at the park has been as a School Programs Lead Volunteer (E 110).  

Riverbend hosts numerous classes of second through fourth graders who come to learn about the park’s natural resources, Native Americans, ecology, and the environment.  School Programs Lead Volunteers have a unique opportunity to open students’ eyes and imaginations to the natural world and the cultural history of the area.  Grade school students have a sense of wonder and excitement about the world that inspires me every time I lead a class.  Their enthusiasm as they learn to shoot a bow and arrow, figure out why sand is deposited along a trail, squeal over frogs and snakes, or learn life cycles of animals and plants always leaves me even more energized after the class than when I begin it.  I end each session convinced that I benefited from the class at least as much as the students.   

Working at Riverbend is particularly enjoyable because of the park’s welcoming and appreciative staff.  Rita Peralta, the Natural Resources Manager; Jordan Libera, the Senior Interpreter Program Manager; Valeria Espinoza, the Volunteer Coordinator; Julie Gurnee, the Visitor Center Manager; and the Interpreters are all committed to their tasks and a pleasure to work with.  

Numerous other FMNers have found Riverbend to be a rewarding place to volunteer.  To name just a few, Kris Lansing and Robin Duska lead bird walks (C106); Nancy Yinger, Jean Skolnick, Jerry Peters, Doreen Peters, and Janice Meyer conduct citizen science surveys of wildflowers, salamanders and dragonflies (C106); and Marilyn Kupetz provides care for the park’s animals (S182).  Other FMNs have helped with eliminating invasives and planting native plants at the park.  

It’s easy to begin volunteering at Riverbend.  Valeria Espinoza coordinates volunteers and sends periodic messages about volunteer opportunities.  If you contact her at valeria.espinoza@fairfaxcounty.gov, she will tell you how to get on her list.  And the Park  is accepting applications for School Programs Lead Volunteers through September, at https://volunteer.fairfaxcounty.gov/custom/1380/#/opp_details/179279. 

Come volunteer at Riverbend–you’ll be glad you did!

“Trees to Products” Environmental Education Conference, July 8-11

Best Western
124 Woodland Dr SW, Wise, VA 24293
Monday 8 July-Thursday 11 July 2019

The Trees to Products teachers’ program is designed to provide teachers with factual and credible information about Virginia’s hardwood forests. These concepts are linked to the Virginia Standards of Learning and provide training in Project Learning Tree activities. A variety of hardwood forest management techniques and forest products industries will be examined in detail. The goal is to offer teachers an in-the-field tour of sustainable forest management techniques.

Teachers will tour key forest-industry sites to learn about sustainable forest management. They will also learn about how forests provide wildlife habitat and recreational opportunities, and the importance of forests in view-shed and water-quality efforts.  Participants will see how trees are converted into a variety of everyday products.

The Trees to Products program is designed to correlate with the Virginia Standards of Learning for grades K – 12. It awards 30 hours of professional development credits for participants, along with Project Learning Tree certification. Project Learning Tree is a multidisciplinary environmental education program of the American Forest Foundation for educators of students in grades pre-kindergarten through 12.

Participants pay a $25 registration fee for the four-day conference. The costs of all meals, transportation, and lodging are provided by the sponsors, with the exception of transportation to the conference headquarters at the Best Western in Wise, Va.

“We are pleased to offer this program for teachers again this year,” said Bill Worrell, Extension agent for forestry and natural resources in Southwest Virginia. “This is an excellent opportunity for teachers to get an in-the-field tour of sustainable forest-management techniques, as well as professional development credits, at a very low cost.”

Conference agenda and registration form can be found here. For more information or to register, contact Bill Worrell at (276) 889-8056 or bworrell@vt.edu.

Job opportunity: Community education pilot called Watch the Green Grow

The Fairfax County Park Authority is seeking an individual to manage a new community education and social marketing pilot project called Watch the Green Grow. The successful candidate will work across agency divisions to implement and evaluate the pilot project at stream valley parks across Fairfax County.

Salary: $20.00-$25.00 Hourly non-merit, benefits eligible (medical coverage is available with a portion of the premium covered by the county)

Location: Herrity Building (12055 Government Center Parkway) and various field locations

Schedule: This position is scheduled to work 20 to 30 hours per week with a minimum of 1039 hours per year but not to exceed 1,560 hours per calendar year. There is no guarantee of a minimum number of scheduled hours (daily, weekly, monthly) Weekend and evening work hours should be expected.  Position funding only lasts 1 year July 1, 2019- June 30, 2020.

Job Description

  • Design & deliver messages to various audiences that target park neighbors with wildlife friendly messages including encroachment prevention.
  • Design and develop associated media, resources and trainings to drive implementation of the Watch the Green Grow program.
  • Build collaborations with current and new partners
  • Manage project budget and supplies.
  • Recruit, supervise and train volunteers and rover staff as needed
  • Market and conduct outreach programs to multiple audiences including Meaningful Watershed Education Experiences for schools and presentations to neighborhood associations.
  • Manage crowdsourcing app reports and promote reporting among participants and community partners.
  • Evaluate success of efforts and provide written report at end of pilot study

Qualifications

BA/BS in resource management, education, communication/ marketing or related field or equivalent education and experience combination.

  • Demonstrated success in program development or design.
  • Familiarity with ArcGIS mapping a plus.
  • Strong relationship management and communication skills. Ability to relate to field staff and community program partners, and to develop trusting relationships quickly.
  • Strong management skills and the ability to motivate, excite, and educate both internal and external resources. Ability to inspire others.
  • A strong work ethic coupled with an enthusiastic and passionate approach to one’s work. The successful candidate will be a highly energetic, hands-on individual who can meet deadlines and produce products.
  • Willing to travel in-county, and work with a team and network of field staff, volunteers and community partners.

How to apply: email cover letter and resume to Tammy.schwab@fairfaxcounty.gov

Interfaith learning and engagement: Exploring why nature matters to us

Join this 6-session youth outdoor education program for a special interfaith Meaningful Watershed Educational Experience. Together, the group will explore why nature is important and discuss what we can do to connect with and protect the earth. 

Session 1: June 23 

Whitehall Farm | 1:30 PM – 4:30 PM | Clifton, VA | Introduction to the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, Part I 

Session 2: June 30 

Hard Bargain Farm | 1:30 PM – 5:30 PM | Accokeek, MD | Introduction to the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, Part II 

Session 3: July 7 

Whitehall Farm | 1:30 PM – 3:30 PM | Clifton, VA | Art in Nature 

Session 4: July 14 

Whitehall Farm | 1:30 PM – 3:30 PM | Clifton, VA | Environmental Stewardship and Sustainable Farming 

Sessions 5: July 21 

Theodore Roosevelt Island | 1:30 PM – 4:30 PM | Washington, DC | Invasive Plant Removal 

Session 6: July 28 

Hemlock Overlook Regional Park | 1:30 PM – 4:30 PM | Clifton, VA | Educational Hike 

Space is limited. For more information or to register contact@greenmuslims.org | www.greenmuslims.org 

Sharable flyer

Summer is for visiting native plant gardens

Margaret Fisher

Are you feeling inspired by the plants in the Native Plants for Northern Virginia guide but want to see them in a garden setting before choosing ones for your yard? Northern Virginia has numerous native plant gardens that are open to the public and which can be located using the new map on the Plant NOVA Natives website. They range from public gardens and demonstration gardens maintained by professionals or by Master Gardeners, to landscaping projects at places of business or places of worship, and from formal grounds to a cottage garden look. The summer vacation season is a great time to see the panoply of gardening choices that can include native plants.

If you are travelling up or down the East Coast this summer, public gardens are a great place to stop. Many of the species of plants that are native to Northern Virginia can also be found north or south of here. More and more public gardens are incorporating sections of natives into their designs, and several gardens use native plants exclusively.

Do you know of any native plant gardens or landscaping projects that are missing from our map? Please email the name with a description – and photos if you have them – to plantnovanatives@gmail.com.

There is one location that you might never guess: the Dale City rest stop on northbound I95 has a huge native meadow that was planted and maintained by volunteers. There is also a smaller monarch waystation at the southbound rest stop. Check out our one-and-a-half minute video about the critters that take advantage of those oases.

 

Volunteer at Meadowlark Botanical Gardens

9750 Meadowlark Gardens Court
Vienna, VA 22182
Any morning Monday through Thursday

Calling all gardeners! Meadowlark Botanical Gardens, a NOVA Park, needs volunteers to supports its 95 acres of ornamental display gardens and native plant collections for the enjoyment and education of our community.

If you have a specific interest in native plants or conservation gardening, please specify in your application. We are growing our volunteer base in the Potomac Valley Collection (PVC) and Virginia Native Wetlands (VNC).

To volunteer any morning Monday through Thursday:
-Email Tammy Burke at tburke@nvrpa.org
-Fill out an application online, visit Meadowlark’s web page
-Call 703-352-5900

Free butterfly workshop, June 24th, then census June 29th

National Wildlife Federation
11100 Wildlife Center Drive, Reston, VA 20190
Monday, 24 June 2019
7-9 pm

The sight of butterflies fluttering around on a warm day is one of the most iconic signs of summer. These beautiful insects usually only live for a few weeks as adults, but they make quite an impression while they are in their full glory. There is a large variety of butterfly species in our area and we are going to census them on June 29 during the 19th Annual North American Butterfly Association (NABA) Count sponsored by Audubon Society of Northern Virginia. The NABA count takes place in and around our Occoquan Bay Count Circle. In preparation, Dr. Leslie Ries will be teaching a butterfly workshop focusing on identifying butterflies in Northern Virginia. The classroom portion of the workshop is FREE, but registration is required.

Nationwide casting call for wildlife experts

Have you built your life around animal wildlife?
Have you lived or visited ecosystems to study or take care of wild animals?
Do you want to share your adventures about your encounters with animals?
Do you understand the behaviors of wildlife?
Do you want to be on TV?

A major network is developing a series around people who work in wildlife in order to experience an animal habitat.  In this groundbreaking series, they are looking to chart experiences about being amongst a pack of wild animals:  how they gain trust, find their place in the hierarchy, and what survival is like when they play by wild animal rules.

The casting director is looking for people who live with, or near, or visit wild animals in order to understand how the animals live. The series will be filming all over the country and he is looking for those whose expertise lies with any wildlife.

This would be a great opportunity for the expert to explain to viewers what makes these animals tick and to dismiss any sort of stereotypes. Whether it is biologists, naturalists, guides or caretakers, he wants people who love these animals, have experience in the wildlife field, and know how to communicate with them.

For more information email Joepinzone80@gmail.com.

NVSWCD recognizes Plant NoVA Natives Campaign Partners as 2018 Cooperator of the Year

(Republished from the Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District site)

Established in 2011, the Plant NOVA Natives initiative has been key in increasing awareness of native plants across Northern Virginia and working across non-profit, government, and industry sectors to promote the use of natives in landscapes.  The work of the campaign partners greatly supports the initiatives of the Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District (NVSWCD).  Information is sought between agencies to share common messages and lift each other’s programs.

For example, in spring 2018, the Plant NOVA Natives group purchased advertisements (pay for clicks) on social media platforms that promoted the use of native plants and linked to NVSWCD’s Seedling Sale webpage.  In total, the partners spent roughly $100 to promote the sale.  This drove many new customers to purchase seedlings, rain barrels, or composters during the sale, benefitting NVSWCD environmental education programs.

In addition, campaign partners post blog and Facebook items about the Virginia Conservation Assistance Program and the benefits the program provides for water quality through the addition of native plants as Conservation Landscapes.  Through their efforts, the Native Plants for Northern Virginia guidebook has become the definitive resource for highlighting the most common native plants in our region.  The campaign has renewed the interest in the utility of native plants throughout the landscaping community and many retail establishments have improved native plant visibility since the campaign began.  The campaign’s website is a clearinghouse and wealth of regionally-specific information, resources, and events.

There is no doubt that this campaign has contributed significantly to bringing groups together and elevating the shared interest in the use of native plants across many different landscapes.  The program is truly a partnership, by which the work of several agencies outweighs the work of one.  It is for these reasons and many more, that we recognize the Plant NOVA Natives Campaign partners as our 2018 Cooperator of the Year awardees.

The Cooperator of the Year award is named in honor of Diane Hoffman, an Associate Director with NVSWCD and the former NVSWCD District Administrator, for the legacy of cooperative spirit that she instilled throughout all District programs.

Visit https://www.plantnovanatives.org for more information about partnership, find native plant sales, and to peruse the wonderful resources they provide.

Fairfax Master Naturalist earns Reston’s 2019 55+ Volunteer of the Year Award

Don Coram

On April 18, I received the Reston Association 2019 55+ Volunteer of the Year Award. This surprised me since, although I am a certified Virginia Master Naturalist in the Fairfax Chapter, and my volunteer work was related to insects, my career was in mathematics. So how did I end up getting an award for service related to insects? Here is the story.

The Volunteer Reston Service Awards aim to recognize all of Reston’s volunteers and to distinguish a few volunteers who have gone above and beyond to support Reston Association (RA) and the Reston community. As a volunteer, I have been working to fill voids in Reston’s nature program, specifically related to insects and other arthropods. Insects may seem to be insignificant, but there are increasing alarms in the scientific community about the decline of insect populations and the negative effects to life on earth, including humans. 

One of the global issues is whether seasonal activity of plants, insects and birds are all responding synchronously to climate change. This issue is being addressed by CaterpillarsCount!, a National Science Foundation-funded study with lead universities of University of North Carolina, Georgetown University, and University of Connecticut. Reston’s Walker Nature Center (WNC) is one of the 73 sites in the Eastern United States. Georgetown University approached the WNC seeking volunteers to collect data. WNC in turn contacted the FMN members in Reston to ask for volunteers. I volunteered and became the lead citizen scientist data collector for WNC site. The project required weekly surveys of caterpillars and other arthropods, in accordance with a strict scientific protocol, throughout the season. A colleague from Georgetown and I briefed the results in an FMN-recognized program at the WNC on April 23.  

Another challenge that I accepted was publicizing the bee kill in Reston. I also informed the Reston Association Board of Directors, briefed the Fairfax County Environmental Quality Advisory Committee, notified the Environmental Protection Agency, and contacted the Xerces Society, the national society for invertebrate conservation.  

I have participated in Reston’s Dragonfly Counts for many years and was recently promoted to instructor for the preparatory class and leader for the counting teams. (The class and the counting are FMN continuing education and service activities, E252 and C171, respectively.)  The original instructor on dragonflies in Reston moved away several years ago, so I volunteered to take over this project. Similarly, I led both teams surveying dragonflies in the 2018 Reston BioBlitz, when the leader of one of the teams was unable to participate.  

I have also volunteered in Reston surveys of butterflies and birds (FMN continuing education and service projects, E250,  C171, and C248). In fact, my volunteering began years ago with birds, continued to butterflies, and now includes dragonflies and caterpillars.  

I used the data gathered on butterflies, dragonflies, native bees, and caterpillars to author the invertebrates section of the Reston Annual State of the Environment Report (RASER), yet another FMN service project: C245. In the first edition of RASER, I contributed to several other sections, but observed that these sections were well-covered by the RASER working group, except for invertebrates. Thus for the second edition, I focused on invertebrates as the sole author.  

For each of the above projects, I volunteered time and expertise to photograph the subjects. For example, all of the photographs I used in the identification section of the Reston Dragonfly Class were taken in Reston. I believe that amateur photographs taken locally are easier for students to relate to than professional photographs in field guides covering a wide, unfamiliar area. I also submitted many of these photographs to iNaturalist and BugGuide.  

The activities discussed above illustrate success in meeting the FMN goal “to provide education, outreach and service for the beneficial management of natural resources and natural areas in the Fairfax County area”. I first learned about FMN at the Spring Festival at the WNC in Reston.    

So the answer to the question of how a mathematician became a volunteer entomology awardee is the Fairfax Master Naturalist program.  

I welcome your participation in any of the projects I support.