Start a Thriving Earth Exchange Project

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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
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
communities with time-
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.

The World and Me Family Programs at the Q’rius Room

Toakase’s Tapa: Saturday, January 12, 10:30 a.m.-12:00 noon

Q?rius, The Coralyn W. Whitney Science Education Center, Ground Floor, Natural History Museum

Learn more about your place in the world through explorations of nature and culture. Every second Saturday of the month, museum educators lead a program that combines a book reading, activities, and a chance to look more closely at the museum’s collections. These programs are designed for pre-K to 3rd grade.

What happens during a “World & Me” program?

10:30-10:45 a.m.: Free exploration of hands-on stations

10:45-11:00 a.m.: Book reading

11:00 a.m.-12:00 noon: Hands-on activity

This month, we’ll explore traditional textiles of Pacific Island cultures, specifically barkcloth. After a book reading of “Toakase’s Tapa,” families will participate in an artist-led demonstration on the process of making paper from raw materials, like mulberry tree bark. Participants will take home handmade paper that they’ve decorated.

Register for this free program

Looking for some serious family fun? Bring your competitive spirit to the museum for an evening of Arctic- and climate-themed games and activities for the whole family!

Family Game Night: Arctic Edition Saturday, January 12, 5:00-8:00 p.m.

Q?rius, The Coralyn W. Whitney Science Education Center, Ground Floor

  • Play different types of Arctic-themed games for ages 10 and up
  • Explore Arctic objects and specimens with anthropologists and other scientists
  • Discover the Arctic ecosystem and the animals that live there through games, puzzles, and hands-on activities designed for kids under 10

Register for this free program

New Years Day Hikes at Mason Neck State Park

Meet at the Woodmarsh Trail parking lot, which is on the left side of High Point Road about a quarter mile BEFORE the Mason Neck State Park Contact Station
1 January 2019
2 pm

Join the Friends of Mason Neck State Park for a walk to the see the Tundra Swans! This hike is open to everyone.

Each year, the Mason Neck area is host to one of Northern Virginia’s largest concentrations of Tundra Swans. Depending on the day, you may see as many as 400 swans and hear their haunting calls. You may also see other waterfowl, including Northern Pintails, Mergansers, Shovelers, Coots, Black Ducks and Mallards — and who knows what else? Bring your binoculars if you have them. If not, the group will have binoculars and telescopes for people to share. The tide will be high when they get there, which will maximize the likelihood that the birds will be close.

It is about a 1-mile walk on level ground to the bird blind at the marsh. Please wear sturdy shoes because it may be a little muddy.

There is no charge for the hike, no registration, and no need to pay the State Park entrance fee. NOTE: Due to the partial Federal Government shutdown, the rest rooms at the Woodmarsh Trail are closed. You can use the restrooms at Mason Neck State Park picnic area or Visitor Center before or after the hike. Admission to the Park is free on New Years Day.

Please note: if it is unusually cold and the marsh is frozen, the hike will be postponed and the group will announce the postponement on their website.

The Park is also offering First Day Hikes.  There’s an easy-paced 3.5 mile hike at 10 AM; a fast-paced 5.5 mile hike at 11 AM; and a leisurely 1-mile hike at 3 PM.  You can get more details on the hikes at Mason Neck State Park First Day Hikes.  And you can learn about the Virginia Department of Recreation’s Photo Contest and New Year Challenge at First Day Contests.

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

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

A Preview of Upcoming Virginia Tree Events

SAVE THE DATES – February to April, 2019

Tree Farm Dinner

February 21 – King & Queen County, VA

“One-stop shop” for woodland owners wanting to better manage their land and citizen scientists desiring to expand their applied knowledge base! 

Details and registration  

Landowner’s Woods & Wildlife Conference(s)

February 23 – Culpeper, VA (15th annual)

February 23 – Roanoke, VA (new)

This popular event is different every year with diverse topics and speakers throughout the day for you to choose from.  Geared toward woodland owners, and great for citizen scientists desiring to expand their applied knowledge base! 

Details and registration

On-line Woodland Options for Landowners

March 4 – May 24 – from anywhere you can “connect”

Self-paced, with “coach/mentor” interactions.

More information and registration

Free Seminar:  A Primer on Pruning

March 27 – Fredericksburg, VA

Hosted by the Master Gardener Association of the Central Rappahannock Area

Central Rappahannock Regional Library, Main Branch (1201 Caroline Street,  Fredericksburg, 22401). Free and open to public. 

More information:

Virginia Forestry Summit

April 30 – May 3  – Norfolk, VA

For Forestry professionals and Forest landowners organized by VFASAF (Virginia Division) and ACF(Virginia Division)

Details and registration forthcoming  

Science for Homeschoolers at Huntley Meadows Park

Looking for a fun, hands-on way to supplement your home school science unit? Come to Huntley Meadows Park and join the Science for Homeschoolers series program! These series focus on age-appropriate science units, and all have an outdoor element. Have your child get dirty exploring ecosystems, habitats, soils, biodiversity, and so much more! The Science for Homeschoolers series will take place at Huntley Meadows Park. There are four series programs for four different age ranges.

New in January 2019, Huntley is offering a Science for Homeschoolers for four to six year olds. This hands-on class will introduce early learners to STEAM education (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math) with Naturalist-guided support. These active nature experiments will include use of binoculars, magnifying glasses and field microscopes to deepen their investigations. This session meets for six classes beginning Friday January 11, from 10 a.m. until noon. The fee is $108.

Starting on Monday, January 7, 1:30 p.m. until 3:30 p.m. bring your six to nine year old to explore seasonal patterns, plants, animals, and observe nature in action! This series meets for six classes. The fee is $108.

For your 9-12 year old, join the series beginning Wednesday, January 9, 1 to 3 p.m., and investigate earth cycles, ecosystems, and cell processes! This series meets for six classes. The fee is $108.

Older scientists (13-17 years) can jump into hands-on field work studying natural sciences! This group will study aquatic ecosystems, soil, biodiversity, and wetlands. This class meets 1 to 3 pm, starting on Friday, January 11. This series meets for six classes and has a fee of $108.

Register for Science for Homeschoolers

Huntley Meadows Park is located at 3701 Lockheed Blvd in Alexandria, Va. For more information, call the park at 703-768-2525 or visit online at Huntley Meadows Park.

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:

EmpowerU! Advocating Invasive Species Management Training

Learn how to work with decision makers, influence management decisions, and stop the spread of invasive species!


Have you been working on invasive species issues but feel compelled to do more? Taking part in the EmpowerU Advocacy Training Program will move your invasive species work to the next level! 

The program includes a series of online, self-paced modules, followed by an in-person workshop. Both parts are mandatory. Topics such as who makes decisions about invasive species, persuasion, framing, and finding reliable information about invasives are introduced and then incorporated into your personalized engagement plan via assignments within the online learning modules. At the in-person workshop, you’ll practice the skills you learned and get feedback on your engagement plan.


This program is open to natural resource volunteers and forest landowners with an interest in developing skills to engage decision-makers in invasive species management.


Participants should allow about two hours a week for four weeks to complete the online course before attending the in-person workshop. During registration, you’ll select which in-person workshop you plan to attend, and the online course will be open to you one month prior to that workshop. Both the online and in-person components are required.

In-person workshop dates and locations:

  • Friday, February 15, Farmville, 10:00 am – 4:00 pm
  • Saturday, February 16, Blacksburg, 10:00 am – 4:00 pm
  • Friday, March 8, Providence Forge, 10:00 am – 4:00 pm
  • Saturday, March 9, Madison, 10:00 am – 4:00 pm


The course fee is $25 and includes lunch. 

Wait, I Thought Virginia Master Naturalist Volunteers Couldn’t Engage in Advocacy?

Not all engagement with decision-makers is political advocacy!  For example, you and other members of your chapter might adopt a local park and engage in discussions with the park manager in order to advocate for more management of invasive plants in the park.  This sort of engagement is not political advocacy and could legitimately be part of a VMN project.  This training is not focused specifically on lobbying elected officials or getting legislation passed, but rather on effectively engaging the right decision-maker for the change you hope to make. Plus, you might want to use the skills you learn outside of your VMN service!

Registration Info

Before you register, please visit and read all the information so that you can understand the expectations and requirements of the program. If you decide it’s for you, you’ll find the registration information there.


Registration at least one month prior to the in-person workshop is preferred so that you have the full amount of time to complete the online modules.  Registration will close two weeks prior to the in-person workshop.

SPACE IS LIMITED. We will maintain a waitlist as well.

QUESTIONS: please email

How Plants Move: A Talk by Charles Smith

Thursday, January 10, 2019

7:30 – 9:00 pm

Green Spring Gardens

4603 Green Spring Road

Alexandria, VA 22312

VNPS programs are free and open to the public.

No reservations are necessary for lectures

Please join us for a talk by Charles Smith, to kick off our lecture series again this year.  Charles explores the ways plants disperse across land and water and discusses reproductive strategies, niche exploitation, plant community composition and what the future may look like considering the fragmented condition of our landscape and climate change.

Charles is a native of Arlington, VA, and a naturalist and ecologist with 25 years of experience working primarily in natural resource management, including the Fairfax County Park Authority and five years with Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority.   He is currently branch chief of Fairfax County Stormwater Planning Division, focusing on stream and natural area restoration.  Charles is a US Army veteran; board member of Virginia Native Plant Society, Prince William Wildflower Society and Prince William Conservation Alliance; and member of Friends of the Potomac River Refuges.  He is a popular VNPS speaker and has served as an instructor for three chapters of the Virginia Master Naturalists.

Nearby Nature Showcase, January 25th

Reston Art Gallery & Studios
Lake Anne Village Center
11400 Washington Plaza W # B, Reston, VA 20190
Friday, 25 January 2019
7pm (awards and recognitions at 7:30 pm)

The Northern Virginia Conservation Trust is hosting their first-ever art gallery showcase of winners from the 2018 photo contest. After the art show, a social gathering will take place at the neighboring Lake Anne Brew House. Join them in celebrating the beauty of Northern Virginia and mingle with other photographers, our contest judges and NVCT staff! RSVP to Emily at or call 703-354-5093.

If you’d like to see their winning photos from this year, visit their website. To view the full gallery of photo submissions, click here.