Posts

Winter Salt Watch: You Can Help

Road salt (sodium chloride) is everywhere during winter months. It keeps us safe on roads and sidewalks, but it can also pose a threat to fish and wildlife as well as human health. 

Fish and bugs that live in freshwater streams can’t survive in extra salty water. And many of us (more than 118 million Americans) depend on local streams for drinking water. Water treatment plants are not equipped to filter out the extra salt, so it can end up in your tap water and even corrode your pipes. What can you do?

STEP 1: Test the chloride in your stream. Request a FREE test kit using the form on this page and follow the instructions you receive with your kit. (You can also order your own chloride test strips through Amazon.) You’ll want to test your stream:

  • Before a winter storm (to get a baseline reading).
  • After salt has been applied to roads.
  • After the first warm day or rainstorm following a snow or freeze.
  • After the next rain event.

STEP 2: Share your results using the free Water Reporter app. Just follow these simple instructions. With test results in one place, we can identify salt hot spots around the country, and you can see how salt is affecting your community. Check out the Winter Salt Watch map below!

STEP 3: Take action. If you find high levels of chloride, let someone know!

  1. Call your city or county department of environmental protection to report high chloride levels or large salt piles.
  2. Write a Letter to the Editor of your local newspaper or other news outlet to educate your community about this issue. You can start with our sample letter and adapt it for your use. (Download the Word file or PDF.)
  3. Share road salt best practices with community managers and state agencies.

Protect the health of your streams – and your community – with Winter Salt Watch!

Virginia Working Landscapes 2018 Biodiversity Survey Results

The central mission of Virginia Working Landscapes (VWL) is to promote sustainable land use and the conservation of native biodiversity through research, education, and community engagement. First assembled at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute: Front Royal, VA in 2010, VWL was formed at the behest of regional landowners, citizen scientists, and conservation organizations who wanted to better understand how to conserve Northern Virginia’s native wildlife on working (i.e., agricultural/forestry) lands. 

According to The International Union for Conservation of Nature, grasslands are “the most endangered, the most altered, and the least protected biome on the planet.” Today, many plants and animals that depend on grasslands have declined, due primarily to the loss or fragmentation of their native habitat and one-third of North American species considered endangered are found on grasslands. Recognizing the need to consider grassland species when studying native flora and fauna on working landscapes, VWL’s initial research focused on grasslands. Since 2010, they have expanded our focus to other working lands (forests) and to consider the impact that changes in the overall landscape mosaic have on native biodiversity. 

VWL partners with scientists, graduate students, interns, and volunteer citizen scientists to organize and conduct annual biodiversity surveys on public and private lands throughout the region. This work is important because humans receive many tangible and intangible benefits from the natural world — from the spiritual (a walk through nature) to the utilitarian (the value of food production). 

Research prioritizes studies of biodiversity, threatened species, and ecosystem services to answer such questions as: 

  • How will current land-use practices (and projected changes thereto) impact grassland biodiversity? 
  • How are ecosystem services, like pollination, related to species presence or native biodiversity? 
  • Are quail Habitat Management Areas effective at restoring bobwhite populations? How might they be improved? 
  • Does arthropod community composition or nutritional value differ in cool- vs warm-season grass fields? What are the implications of this difference for birds or other insect-eating animals? 
  • What impact does field management timing have on overwintering bird or insect diversity? 
  • How does the establishment or maintenance of native grasses impact plant communities?

To this end, VWL conducts six surveys on breeding birds, bumble bees, grasslands, orchids, mammals, soil, and arthropods.

Each year, VWL and SCBI train a group of citizen scientists to conduct these surveys on private and public lands and recruit private landowners who enable us to collect these data on their property. FMN supports this work and you can claim service hours for your participation (C200: Citizen Science Projects for the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute).

For more information, please contact Outreach Coordinator, Charlotte Lorick, at 540-635-0038, visit www.vaworkinglandscapes.org), or find VWL on Facebook & Instagram. 

This specific report is on the survey results for The Clifton Institute. Reports for other sites are available from VWL.

Start a Thriving Earth Exchange Project

Jump to submission form.

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
learning.
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
for
communities with time-
sensitive
Thriving
Earth
projects.
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.

City Nature Challenge–Save the dates, 26-29 April 2019

Citizen scientists throughout the Washington DC metro area will be participating in the 2019 City Nature Challenge, a competition among 130 cities around the world to find and document the diversity of species. No experience required—just a mobile device and a love for nature. Participants will make observations of wild plants and animals using the free iNaturalist app (for Android or Apple).

Why get involved? By participating, you’ll not only get out and see some great urban nature, you’ll help scientists collect data on the biodiversity of our region (and the planet).

Find out how it works!

See the results from the 2018 City Nature Challenge.

 

 

Volunteers needed for the 2019 Mason Bee Monitoring Project

Kate LeCroy, graduate student at the University of Virginia, is recruiting participants for

Horn face mason bee

her 2019 Mason Bee Monitoring Project.  She is looking for people across all of Virginia to join in monitoring efforts for March – May 2019. Fill out this interest form to be considered for the 2019 Monitoring Project, and feel free to share with friends, fellow Virginia Master Naturalists, and neighbors: https://goo.gl/forms/cg4DTkALU4YpuYd22

Kate produced a video to share the data she has so far from the 2017 monitoring, as well as outline the timeline for getting the rest of the data for our projects. You can listen to and watch the webinar recording here in a video: https://video.vt.edu/media/VMN+CE+WebinarA+Mason+Bee+Project+Update/1_7c7dqr9a

You can contact Kate at masonbeemonitoring@gmail.com.

(Fairfax Master Naturalists,  record your hours as C252: Native Blue Orchard Bee Monitoring Campaign.)

Spotted Skunk Survey

Photo by Emily Thorne, VT.

Eastern spotted skunk (Spilogale putorius) populations are believed to have declined throughout much of their range in the eastern United States since the 1940s. Hypothesized declines have been attributed to habitat loss or change, increased competition with sympatric carnivore species, or diseases.

Lack of information regarding the spatial distribution and habitat associations of the eastern spotted skunk in Virginia dictates the need for increased ecological study regarding this species of concern. To better understand the current distribution of spotted skunks in Virginia, we aim to determine the species’ range boundaries and habitat associations throughout Virginia using baited remote-sensing cameras.

Eastern spotted skunk populations are not currently managed in the Commonwealth though the species has been rare or largely absent over the last few decades from areas where it was once abundant. Outcomes of this project will directly assist in the development of long-term, large scale monitoring as well as effective management and conservation assessments.

Participating volunteers will set up and monitor baited camera traps at sites with appropriate permissions and permits.

Interested VMN volunteers and chapters should contact Emily Thorne, the project leader. This season’s monitoring will begin in the winter (approximately February) and continue at least through April 2019. Camera stations will be established by February and checked at least once per week throughout the project.

A project proposal form that explains volunteer expectations and resources needed, a training webinar, project protocols, and other resources are all available on the Spotted Skunk Survey project page.

Check out science communications workshops at AGU Fall Meeting

Photo: Barbara J. Saffir (c)

We all know that science matters, but sometimes it’s hard to figure out exactly how, and with whom, to share it.

Sharpen your ability to share research with the world. Join the American Geophysical Union science communication sessions to learn how to tell good stories, become a science advocate, and explain science to any audience.

All events are in the Science Communication: A Sharing Science Room (Convention Center, 203 A/B) unless otherwise noted.

For high school teachers and students, registration is free

Highlights of the schedule

Sunday, 10 December

Communicating Science With Any Audience: Workshop at AGU18
Science Storytelling in Multimedia: Workshop at AGU18

Monday, 11 December

Sketch Your Science
How to Sketch (Your) Science
Luncheon: How to Become a Congressional Science Fellow or Mass Media Fellow
Sharing Science Mentoring Meet-up
Blogging and Social Media Forum 101
Blogging and Social Media Forum 201

Tuesday, 12 December

Sketch Your Science
ED21B: The Up-Goer Five Challenge: Tell Us About the Hard Things You Do in Ten Hundred Words I
Everything You’ve Always Wanted to Know about Science-Art-Sustainability Collaborations (but were afraid to ask…)
Rhyme Your Research: Workshop
Sharing Science in Plain English (Panel & Lunch)
ED23B: The Up-Goer Five Challenge: Tell Us About the Hard Things You Do in Ten Hundred Words II
Live Third Pod from the Sun podcast recording with photographer James Balog
Dialogue with Religious Publics (AAAS DOSER event)
Open Mic Night

Wednesday, 13 December

Sketch Your Science
Communicating Your Science: Ask the Experts
Sprint workshop: SciComm via Multimedia
Film Making Crash Course

Thursday, 14 December

Sketch Your Science
Sustainable Futures: Short Films About Science
Tell me a story: Storytelling in SciComm
Voices for Science Panel
Sharing Science Mentoring Meetup
When Is Science Newsworthy?
Film Screening & Panel Q&A — Summiting the Solar System: Pluto & Beyond
(Science) Podcasting 101
AGU Story Collider

Friday, 15 December

Sketch Your Science
Summiting the Solar System: Pluto & Beyond: Film Screening

Service opportunity: Vernal pool monitor

Huntley Meadows Park

3701 Lockheed Blvd., Alexandria, VA 22306

Do you enjoy muddy boots, long off-trail walks, and learning about the life cycles of amphibians? Then this is the volunteer opportunity for you!

Purpose: To monitor vernal pools, including flora and fauna. To record pool data, record and identify species, and determine breeding cycles.

Duties: Complete survey protocol every 2-3 weeks year round. Record environmental data using monitoring equipment and identify and count faunal species including egg masses, in accordance with protocol. Follow safety procedures.

Qualifications: Must have a strong interest in nature and the stewardship of Fairfax County. Ability to work independently, off-trail over uneven terrain for up to 4 miles, in a variety of weather conditions. Willingness to learn faunal identification, including egg masses and tadpoles. Ability and willingness to enter vernal pools to complete survey. Must complete the training program. Weekday availability. Must attend site orientation and on-the-job training as required. Volunteer and Outdoor Safety Training will be provided.

ContactHalley Johnson
703-768-2525
ajoh46@fairfaxcounty.gov

More about this and other Huntley Meadow opportunities here. 

Master Naturalists:  This opportunity falls under a pre-approved service project in the Service Project Catalog on the website.  Record your hours as C106-FCPA Citizen Science Programs. This project covers data collection on wildlife populations, native plants or other natural resources for Fairfax County Park Authority’s nature centers, such as Huntley Meadows Park, and Fairfax County Park Authority’s Resource Management Division.

Write articles for FCPA ResOURces newsletter (yes, for credit)

If you enjoy writing about the natural world, and want to educate and inspire visitors to Fairfax County parks, consider becoming a volunteer journalist. In this capacity, you’ll choose a recreation center or park site and learn as much as you can about it. When you’re ready and the deadlines are within reach, you will write articles for the ResOURces newsletter. (And earn service hours–good deal in the wintertime, especially). Code EO12

Interested? Contact Tammy Schwab

Health and Nature Connection Workshop and Conference

Department of Energy and Environment‘s Biophilia Initiative working groups are reconvening after six months of work! At the culminating meeting: The Nature Health Connection: Biophilic Practices for a Healthy, Livable DC members are invited to share their best ideas. Join Biophilic DC and others as we tune into their presentations and participate in a timely discussion for our city.

Tuesday, 2 October 2018
4:00 pm – 6:30 pm
UDC David A. Clarke School of Law

Find out more and RSVP here. Free.