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Volunteer for the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute’s Conservation Discovery Day, Oct 5

Be part of the most sci-taclaur and exclusive event at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI) in Front Royal Va., the Conservation Discovery Day.

We are always looking for enthusiastic volunteers to help with our event. If you enjoy meeting new people while promoting the interests of wildlife, try volunteering. It is rewarding, fun, and something different to do!

Besides having a packed series of special lectures, there will be hands-on activities, science demonstrations, tours of the vet hospital, discussions with animal keepers and conservation ecologists.

So this is where you come in. Special event volunteers play a pivotal role in making the event run smoothly, and our guests have an enjoyable experience. If it weren’t for the help, we receive from community volunteers like you; we could not offer such a fantastic event. Would you like to be part of our team delivering a tremendous visitor experience by lending a hand to our scientists, veterinarians, animal keepers, and researchers run their exhibits, facilitate hands-on themed games and activities, and help engage visitors by providing exceptional customer service and raise awareness of our vital conservation work? We’d love you to bring your skills to the Conservation Discovery Day.

This year’s event is on Saturday, October 5, 2019, from 9:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. with two shifts: 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. or 12:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. you may sign up for one or both shifts. Lunch will be provided. *A vegetarian option will be available, but we will not be able to accommodate other dietary restrictions

 

If you are interested in making a difference in one day, consider volunteering at this year’s Conservation Discovery Day.

For more information: SCBIeducation@si.edu

Let’s talk turtles

Jerry Nissley

Although I developed “Turtle Talk” as my final project for the Spring 2019 FMN training class, I have been presenting talks with live turtles to elementary students for 6 years at Engleside Christian School, in Alexandria; Evangel Christian School, in Dale City; and Calvary Road School, in Alexandria. I believe that it is important to work with children so that they appreciate and care about the environment as they are growing up and when they become adults. Immediate and follow-on feedback on the presentations has been positive in this respect. Several students have reported, through their teacher to me, that their interest in nature increased as a result, and they began visiting parks and nature centers. 

Logan Switzer helped staff the Turtle Talk station at the 2019 Ellanor C. Lawrence Park Earth Day event

Our FMN class assignment to develop an interpretive talk gave me the perfect opportunity to develop a more polished presentation. I gave the new talk twice this spring, first at Eleanor C. Lawrence Park in Chantilly, at their Earth Day event, as a “Turtle Talk” station. I also spoke at Calvary Road Christian school to about 30 students in their 3rd- and 5th-grade classes for 2 hours.

For my presentation. I built a portable display board that showcases:

  • Woodland turtle fun-facts (e.g., Turtles are omnivores, live 90+ years, have a completely enclosed shell, endure a brumation period of 6 months in Virginia)
  • A description of their habitat and their conservation status to help visitors understand how vulnerable box turtles are
  • Photos of two of the male and female turtles that I care for
  • Additional technical and pictorial resources for tailoring the presentation to different audiences

Box turtles

My presentation features three live box turtles that I rescued in the Northern Virginia area as road saves. The turtles live in a year-round outdoor enclosure at my house. I feed them a variety of food: worms, slugs, grubs, cherries, berries, and mushrooms, with a vitamin supplement called Rep-Cal. With the teacher’s permission, the children are allowed supervised handling and feeding during a class presentation. Box turtles are currently listed as “vulnerable” on the International Union for Conservation of Nature species list due in large part to loss of habitat, roads, and slow breeding cycles. My goal is to create awareness of the importance of box turtles and their plight to encourage protection efforts.

Turtle Talk display

Additionally, I’ve designed and printed a tri-fold brochure to hand out as a public take-away. I also compiled various reference materials that I use to tailor a talk for a particular audience. For example, I displayed environmental information and talked about how we can help box turtles in our neighborhoods at the Earth Day event, but I would emphasize fun-facts at an elementary school demonstration. 

During the 2-hour Earth Day event at Ellanor C. Lawrence park, 38 people visited the Turtle Talk station, many of whom took brochures. Linda Fuller, an FMN colleague, organized the event.

The school presentations come under E254: Nature Presentations to Private Schools. I offered a “Turtle Talk” station in  at Huntley Meadows Wetland Appreciation Day on 5 May 2019, under the auspices of the FMN Service Project, E110: FCPA Nature Programs. Under E110, Volunteers plan, set up, lead, or assist with FCPA nature programs. Under both E254 and E110, volunteers may give interpretative talks on local wildlife and plants, lead trail walks, assist with live animal demonstrations, lead educational lessons in schools or with scouts, or assist with outreach activities. Our job as volunteers is to interact with participants, awakening their curiosity and helping them develop connections to nature and the outdoors. 

If any other FMN members are interested in creating live-animal presentations or general school presentations, I would be happy to consult, share what I’ve learned, and discuss the contacts I’ve developed. Working with children is meaningful and, I hope, it may lead to a new generation of committed naturalists and environmentally savvy adults.

Green Breakfast, May 11th

Photo (c) by Barbara J. Saffir

Brion’s Grille
10621 Braddock Rd., Fairfax VA
Saturday, 11 May 2019
8:30 am

Thinking about the “wild” spaces in and around a busy metropolitan area can be difficult, but we are fortunate to have several wildlife refuges at our fingertips. How did these areas become protected and what’s next for the system? Patuxent Wildlife Refuge Manager Brad Knudsen will present “The Evolution of the National Wildlife Refuge System.” He will present information on the important wildlife resources the NWRS conserves, how the NWRS as grown in its 116 years, how legislation and public involvement have impacted the direction the NWRS has gone, and a glimpse at what the future holds.

Breakfast begins at 8:30am, $10 at the door, cash preferred. No prior registration required. Breakfast includes an all-you-can eat hot buffet with fresh fruit and coffee, tea, orange juice or water. If you have any questions, please contact the Northern Virginia Soil and Water at conservationdistrict@fairfaxcounty.gov.

Join Potomac River Watershed Cleanup, Saturday, April 13

The Alice Ferguson Foundation is sponsoring the Potomac Watershed Cleanup on Saturday, April 13.

Join the 31st Annual Potomac River Watershed Cleanup. The official date is Saturday, April 13, however, there will be cleanups throughout the entire month of April.

The Annual Potomac River Watershed Cleanup is the largest regional event of its kind, and the Cleanup aims to engage citizens and community leaders and to generates momentum for change.

The Friends of Accotink Creek website has information about Accotink Creek watershed cleanups on weekends, April 5 through May 11.

This project is eligible for FMN service credit.

Review of The Ends of the World: Volcanic Apocalypses, Lethal Oceans, and Our Quest to Understand Earth’s Past Mass Extinctions, by Peter Brannen

Reviewed by Tami Sheiffer

Studying mass extinction events from tens or hundreds of millions of years ago shows us that life on Earth is both precarious and resilient. In The Ends of the World, science writer Peter Brannen vividly describes the five past mass extinction events: End-Ordovician, Late Devonian, End-Permian, End-Triassic, and End-Cretaceous, and the lessons we can learn from them. This book offers something of interest to anyone interested in natural history, paleontology, geology, climatology, ecology, or evolution.

Brannen paints vivid pictures of life and destruction eons ago, interwoven with his personal tales of travel around the country talking with scientists and visiting paleontological sites. You can preview Brannen’s writing in one of his science articles, like this one titled “A Climate Catastrophe Paved the Way for the Dinosaurs’ Reign,” published in The Atlantic. Occasionally, Brannen’s storytelling risks anthropomorphism, as when he describes the first fish to walk on land in the Devonian as “bold explorers” and “brave pioneers.” However, Brannen’s engaging writing makes this book enjoyable reading for a broad audience.

By studying the causes of past mass extinctions, we find that most were caused by climate change. The Earth’s climate has changed naturally in the past, but drastic changes were violent and caused massive destruction. Life is ultimately resilient, and, eventually, surviving species evolved to repopulate a new Earth, but life after the extinction looked very different from life before. In the most deadly mass extinction, the End-Permian event, nearly all life was wiped out. This extinction event was caused in part by volcanic activity in the Siberian Traps burning underground coal basins and releasing vast amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. 

Our present day fossil fuel activity has a similar effect of releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, but at an even faster rate than in the end-Permian extinction. The overarching theme of the book is that  past mass extinctions can teach us lessons for the present, as we find ourselves in the midst of a sixth mass extinction. This time, human activity is the cause of the extinction–beginning tens of thousands of years ago with the loss of megafauna like marsupial lions, giant kangaroos, woolly mammoths, mastodons, and giant ground sloths due to hunting, and continuing today due to habitat loss and human-induced climate change. This book is ultimately a cautionary tale: learn from the past so we can avoid a catastrophe on the same scale today. 

On March 20, 2019, Peter Brannen will be speaking at an event at the Library of Congress called “Climate Change, Nature, and the Writer’s Eye”, along with distinguished authors Annie Proulx and Amitav Ghosh. The authors will discuss environmental change and a writer’s responsibility to the issue. This event is approved for FMN continuing education credit. The event is free but registration is required. 

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

Turning the tide on plastic waste

The Ocean Plastic Innovation Challenge, a key component of National Geographic and Sky Ocean Ventures’ partnership to reduce plastic waste, asks problem solvers from around the globe to develop novel solutions to tackle the world’s plastic waste crisis.

More than 9 million tons of plastic waste end up in our oceans each year, and without interventions, this number is expected to almost double to 17 million tons per year by 2025. The Ocean Plastic Innovation Challenge will focus on three strategic ways to address this growing crisis: designing alternatives to single-use plastic, identifying opportunities for industries to address plastic waste throughout supply chains, and effectively communicating the need for action through data visualization.

Teams will compete for aggregate prize purses of up to $500,000, and qualified participating teams may have the opportunity to receive a minimum of $1 million in aggregate investment from Sky Ocean Ventures.

Find out more and apply

Send us your success stories

Have you been working on a service project that has a goal?

Have you accomplished the goal or made progress toward achieving it?

Have you been working in concert with others?

Can you recount the accomplishments of your team?

Can you include measures?

Nope, you don’t need to have solved world hunger or addressed climate change all by yourself. Some successes are simply incremental steps toward outcomes that benefit the environment in Fairfax County and northern Virginia.

Every year, FMN reports stories of success to Virginia Master Naturalists. We’d like to share yours.

Whenever you are ready, please compose up to 500 words that relay (in whichever order best suits your story):

  • The name of your project and the service code
  • Its purpose, goals, and current objectives
  • Who’s working on the project–they don’t all have to be FMNers
  • What have you accomplished to date?
  • How do you measure those accomplishments beyond hours spent (e.g., if you planted a pollinator garden, what did it attract over what period of time that’s different from what used to visit that area? In addition to creatures that fly or crawl, did you attract human visitors? helpers? funding to continue? How many? How much?)
  • How much help do you need from chapter members?
  • What might we learn?
  • Why is this activity worth the investment of time?
  • How does it bring you pleasure? Would we have fun, too?

Please send the story and 2-3 photos with captions to vmnfairfax@gmail.com. A member of the FMN Communications team will be in touch within a few days, and your story will be posted to this site.

Yes, the time you spend on the story counts toward your service hours.

Questions? Again, vmnfairfax@gmail.com

Annual Aldo Leopold Read-a-thon, January 20th

RESCHEDULED FOR JANUARY 20TH DUE TO SNOW

Villages of Piedmont Clubhouse
16080 Market Ridge Blvd., Haymarket, VA
Sunday, 13 January 2019
4 – 6 pm

Join the Northern Virginia Conservation Trust to celebrate Aldo Leopold’s 132nd birthday! Their annual read-a-thon will feature guest speakers to read spoken excerpts from Leopold’s books. The event is free and will honor the legendary conservationist and his work. Feel free to join them in the audience to listen. Please get in touch with them if you’d like to be a guest speaker. They will also have open slots available day-of for volunteer readers from the crowd. RSVP to Emily at ebowman@nvct.org or call 703-354-5093.

Join Clifton Institute Christmas bird count, 16 December

Photo by Barbara J. Saffir (c)

Clifton Institute invites you to the Plains Christmas Bird Count, to be held on Sunday, December 16th. Bird watchers of all skill levels are welcome!

The count will cover a 7.5 mile radius circle in northern Fauquier County and western Prince William county. We have a great variety of habitats in the count circle and always turn up a good diversity of species. Last year, we found 92 species, including Short-eared Owl and Cackling Goose.

Start times vary by sector leaders. Most meet around 7 am at various locations within the circle, ranging from Haymarket to Warrenton.  We will have food and hot drinks at compilation, which will be held at the Clifton Institute, north of Warrenton, just after sundown. Please contact Bert Harris directly (bharris@cliftoninstitute.org) if you’d like to join!

Native plants for beginners symposium: Save the date

Photo by Barbara J. Saffir (c)

  • Create a beautiful yard
  • Save time so you can enjoy other activities
  • Create habitat for birds & pollinators
  • Save money on fertilizer
  • Improve water quality
  • Reduce erosion
  • Stop mowing, Start growing!

Learn more at the Prince William Native Plant Symposium on Saturday, February 23, 2019 at the McCoart County Administrative Building

1 County Complex Ct., Woodbridge, VA 22192.

9 a.m. to 2 p.m.  

The $15 fee covers coffee and donuts, lunch, and materials.  

Registration begins December 1, 2018.

Let us help you to stop mowing and get going on your dream landscape!  

Call 703-792-7070 for more details and share the flyer.