Thriving Earth Exchange looking for a contractor

Interested in starting, building and implementing community science projects? Want to help scientists make an impact in their communities?

Thriving Earth Exchange is currently looking for a contractor to work with their team.

Read more here

Nominate an all-star for VMN volunteer of the year by 1 August

The Virginia Master Naturalist program’s state office is now accepting nominations for six statewide awards: Volunteer of the Year, Project of the Year (with four subcategories), and Advisor of the Year. These awards will be judged by the VMN statewide office team and one or more VMN Steering Committee members.  The team will announce and distribute the awards at the annual conference, Friday evening, September 7.

To submit a nomination, please send the information requested for that particular award to Michelle Prysby,  Nominations are due by August 1 at 5 pm.

You can find this year’s award nomination information below or on the VMN website.

Volunteer of the Year

This award recognizes a volunteer who has made outstanding contributions to natural resource education, citizen science, stewardship, and/or chapter administration.  Criteria include the impacts the volunteer has made on natural resource conservation and education, demonstrated leadership by the volunteer, and impacts the volunteer has made on the local chapter and its volunteers.  There is no minimum requirement for amount of hours or length of service for a volunteer to receive this award.  Our focus is on the past one to two years of service.

In your nominations, please include the following:

  • Name, email address, and VMN chapter affiliation of nominator
  • Name, email address, and VMN chapter affiliation of the nominee
  • Description of why the nominee should receive the award, limited to 400 words.  You may choose to include a description of the individual’s service, specific examples of positive impacts made, aspects that make the individual stand out from other volunteers, and quotes from other volunteers or local partners.  Please place your primary focus on the last 1-2 years of the volunteer’s service.

Project of the Year

Subcategories: Education/Outreach, Citizen Science, Stewardship, Administrative

This award recognizes a project that has made significant and noteworthy positive impacts for natural resource education, citizen science, stewardship, and/or chapter administration within the last 1-2 years. Focus is on projects for which the VMN chapter played a significant, unique role in creation, implementation, and leadership.  VMN gives awards in each of four subcategories:

  1. Education/Outreach – Volunteer service in which VMN volunteers educate the public, such as interpretive programs at parks
  2. Citizen Science – Service projects involving data collection, monitoring, biological inventories, etc.
  3. Stewardship – Service projects to improve habitat or improve the ability of the public to access natural resources through trails, etc.
  4. Administrative – Projects to improve the functioning of a VMN chapter, such as re-vamping of the basic training course, mentorship programs, efforts to streamline chapter processes, etc.

In your nominations, please include the following:

  • Name, email address, and VMN chapter affiliation of the nominator
  • Name, email address, and VMN chapter affiliation for the primary VMN volunteer contact for the project
  • The primary award subcategory for which you are nominating the project: Education/Outreach, Citizen Science, Stewardship, or Administrative.  The project may include aspects of multiple subcategories and you may describe these aspects in your nomination statement, but you should indicate the primary subcategory under which you want to nominate the project.
  • Description of why the project should receive the award, limited to 400 words.  Please include a description of the project goals, activities completed, and impacts and outcomes for natural resources in your community and/or for your chapter.  Include the roles and contributions of VMN volunteers to the project.  Identify any significant partners for the project.

Chapter Advisor of the Year

This award recognizes a chapter advisor who has made significant and noteworthy contributions to a VMN chapter within the past 1-2 years. In your nominations, please include the following:

  • Name, email address, and VMN chapter affiliation of the nominator
  • Name, email address, and VMN chapter affiliation of the chapter advisor
  • Description of why the chapter advisor should receive the award, limited to 400 words.  Please include specific examples of how the chapter advisor has helped the chapter run effectively, make positive impacts in the community, or otherwise achieve its goals.


Check out new tools, partners, and opportunities for meaningful work

During the AAAS Community-Driven Citizen Science for Health and the Environment symposium on 14 June, the speakers roamed across themes addressing how to engage in citizen science, the importance of understanding the reasons and potential outcomes of the work (so that the outcomes are really, really valuable), and which tools are available to make the work easier to do and easier to share.

The potential for meaningful work and friendships is quite high.

Would you consider trying out these resources for yourself and your projects? and then reviewing them for Curated Resources? (Did we mention that service hour credit is available for FMN members?)

Water Reporter, platform and social network for monitoring water quality

Thriving Earth Exchange, community-centered consortium sponsored by AGU100 Advancing Earth and Space Science and source of projects for service hours, New Gen Citizen Science Platform so that we can diversify how we work and with whom

Biodiversity Information Serving Our Nation (BISON), platform from US Geological Survey, allows you to download species occurrence and maps

ISeeChange, community climate and weather journal

Community Science Connect, community science consortium

ESRI ArcGIS, cloud-based mapping platform

Air Sensor Toolbox for Citizen Scientists, from EPA

Want to review a resource? We’d love to hear from you. Instructions for submission await your click and commitment.

Become part of Nature’s Notebook, a platform from the National Phenology Network

Are you looking for a meaningful project? Does becoming a citizen scientist intrigue you? Want to learn a 21st-century tool that connects naturalists?

Nature’s Notebook is the National Phenology Network’s (USA NPN) online program and platform through which amateur and professional naturalists regularly record observations of plants and animals to generate long-term data sets used for scientific discovery and decision-making. As a citizen scientist, you can become a part of the community of observers by downloading the app (IOS or Android) and signing up for a campaign, such as Flowers for Bats, Shady Invaders, and others relevant to naturalist work in Virginia.

You can also start your own project and become certified!

If you just want to get your feet wet, or find materials for your classroom, NPN offers free, sharable resources.

Take a systems view and broaden your understanding of the network effect

As naturalists, we know that phenology (the study of periodic plant and animal lifecycle events and how they are influenced by seasonal variations in climate and habitat factors) is nature’s calendar—when dogwood trees bloom, when an eagle builds its nest, and when leaves turn color in the fall.

Phenologists take a systems view of the natural world. According to the National Phenology Network (USA NPN): “Many birds time their nesting so that eggs hatch when insects are available to feed nestlings. Likewise, insect emergence is often synchronized with leaf out in host plants. For people, earlier flowering means earlier allergies. Farmers and gardeners need to know the schedule of plant and insect development to decide when to apply fertilizers and pesticides and when to plant to avoid frosts. Phenology influences the abundance and distribution of organisms, ecosystem services, food webs, and global cycles of water and carbon. In turn, phenology may be altered by changes in temperature and precipitation.”

Learn more

Join a community hike at Fountainhead, 15 July

On 15 July 2018, Northern Virginia Conservation Trust will be teaming up with their partner, NOVA Parks, to offer an interpretive, community hike at Fountainhead Regional Park hosted by NOVA Park’s Roving Naturalist, David Garcia. There are a limited number of spots, so first come, first served!

For more information and to RSVP, please email Emily Bowman at or call 703-354-5093.

Join NVCT’s Alexandria Kayak/Canoe Cleanup on June 30th

Previous date was rained out!  Please join the Northern Virginia Conservation Trust (NVCT) for its annual Kayak/Canoe Cleanup of the tidal estuary of Cameron Run at Hunting Creek in Alexandria. NVCT will have a limited number of boats available for volunteer use, but if you have your own, please bring it to support the cause! Coffee and snacks will be offered starting at 9.15 am.  Gloves, trash bags, bug spray, and a water jug for refilling reusable bottles will be provided.  Please bring sunscreen, hat and water shoes and a reusable mug if you’d like coffee.

This is a beautiful landscape and precious wildlife habitat, so it is a great opportunity to help nearby nature while enjoying a morning on the water.

Hunting Creek, Old Town Alexandria

RSVP to Emily Bowman at or (703) 354-5093 for more details, including specific location, and to reserve a boat

Saturday, 30 June 2018

9.30 am – 1.00 pm


Volunteers Needed for the Great American Campout

Mason Neck State Park will be hosting 15 to 20 children from the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Washington the weekend of 22-23 June. The campout gives children a wonderful  opportunity to spend time outdoors fishing, canoeing, hiking and learning about nature.

The Park needs people to help set up tents on Friday evening, June 22 and to help cook meals on Saturday, June 23.  Can you help?  If you can, please contact the Park at 703-339-2385.  You’ll be glad you did!

You and Your Land: A Guide for the Potomac Watershed

The Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District has published an online book for those of us who live within the Virginia portion of the Potomac River watershed. The discussion on soils and plants and the references cited are all specifically related to this geographic area. This publication offers practical information to aid homeowners in the economical care and maintenance of their property. It provides a simple step-by-step approach to solving common problems found in most yards, gardens or common areas. Topics include:

  • Climate and local conditions: Find out how our home landscapes are directly influenced by local climate and geology.
  • Soils and drainage: Many landscape problems are soil or drainage-related. Learn about common problems related to runoff, wet areas and erosion.
  • Landscaping and gardening: Learn how to choose and install plants, prune, compost and more!
  • Controlling pests: Environmentally sensitive management of landscape and garden pests.

And much more!  Find the book here.

Caterpillars Count! Join new citizen science project

Caterpillars Count! is a citizen science project sponsored by the National Science Foundation for measuring the seasonal variation and abundance of arthropods like caterpillars, beetles, and spiders found on the foliage of trees and shrubs. Arthropods are an important food source for birds and other wildlife.

Climate change is affecting the timing of spring leaf out, insect activity, and bird migration and breeding. But are the plants, insects and birds all responding to the same degree? If either insects or birds are not keeping up with the shifts of the other organisms that they depend on, then further climate change may have negative consequences for their populations.

Caterpillars Count is part of a multi-university study of phenological mismatch across three trophic levels in eastern North America. The lead universities are University of North Carolina, Georgetown University, and University of Connecticut, with co-investigators from University of Florida, Institute for Bird Populations, Penn State, Evergreen State College, and Ontario Forest Research Institute.

Participants will monitor a site at the Walker Nature Center in Reston for Georgetown University. We will examine 50 leaves on each of 10 trees weeklyor bi-weekly thoughout the spring and summer.  We will count and classify the arthropods we observe. Each monitoring session will take about one hour. There will be approximately 16 monitoring sessions. Volunteeers are not required to participate in every session and the timing is up to the volunteers who are participating. Volunteers must sign-up in advance for training and schedule coordination.

This project is eligible for credit for master naturalists under code C-254.

Learn more

Identify shorebirds with Audubon instructor Marc Ribaudo, 16 August

Join instructor Marc Ribaudo for an evening class and accompanying field trip that will cover identifying shorebirds.  The class is recommended for anyone who would like to tackle shorebird identification on their own.

The group will spend an evening in the classroom covering identification tips for shorebirds that can typically be seen in our region. Emphasis will be on shorebirds that pose the biggest identification challenges, such as peeps.

On the Saturday following the class, the group will visit Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge in Delaware to put into practice what they’ve learned in class. Bombay Hook is one of the top shorebird spots in the northeast and provides ample opportunities to view many species of shorebird in close proximity to each other. The group may also visit Port Mahon or Taylor’sDitch, depending on tide and what is being seen at the time.

Fairfax High School, Fairfax, Virginia; Bombay Hook NWR, Smyrna, DE
Thursday, 16 August 2018; Saturday, 18 August 2018
$50/member; $60/non-member

Learn more and sign up