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Start Where You Are

“Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.” A tenet of volunteering coined by Arthur Ashe. The FMN recipients of the 2022 Elly Doyle Outstanding Volunteer awards most certainly personify each component of that tenet.

The Elly Doyle Park Service Awards were established in 1988 by Fairfax County Park Authority (FCPA) to recognize Ellamae Doyle’s many years of service and accomplishments as a member and chairman of the Park Authority Board. The County’s park system expanded and thrived during her tenure with the addition of significant open space, construction of new recreational facilities and a commitment to preservation of natural and cultural resources in Fairfax County.

The 2022 Outstanding Volunteer awards category included three FMN members – Kris Lansing, David Gorsline, and Beverly Rivera.
Click here to page through a Flickr presentation of all awardees.

For those that do not Flickr, please read on for a summary of accomplishments of the FMN awardees.

Kris identifying a flying object at Riverbend. Photo courtesy of FCPA

FMN Kristine Lansing – nominated by Riverbend Park:

Kris volunteers as one of the park’s roving naturalists/trail monitors.  In this capacity, she routinely engages with park visitors on the trails to educate them about the park’s natural areas and wildlife and to promote other park opportunities such as hikes, classes, and camps.  She removes debris from the trails, reports fallen trees and other issues to park management so that such problems may be addressed rapidly.  She assists in leading the park’s seasonal bird and wildflower walks and helps train new roving naturalist volunteers. Kris is also a Certified Interpretive Guide.

David on the Huntley Meadows boardwalk. Photo courtesy of FCPA.

FMN David Gorsline – nominated by Huntley Meadows Park:
David tackles a unique volunteer role each spring as the Duck Nest Box Coordinator. He trains and supervises a small group of independent volunteers, which meets at Huntley Meadows from February to June to monitor duck-nesting activity in the park.
David’s commitment to the Duck Nest Box program has been a significant contribution to the long-term natural resource management at the park. His efforts ensure institutional knowledge is shared with new volunteers, that nest boxes are well-maintained, and that there is annual data to aid in natural resource management decisions. To read more about the duck nesting box project at Huntley Meadows, in David’s own words, click here.

Beverley all smiles at Lake Accotink Park. Photo curtesy of FCPA.

FMN Beverley Rivera – nominated by Lake Accotink Park:
Beverley worked to transform a large area of the park overrun by invasive plants. For three years she has hosted a public workday almost every Saturday. This year she organized and led 47 public workdays and volunteered 182 hours leading 617 volunteers who themselves contributed 1,407 service hours. Beverley and the volunteer crews have also planted hundreds of native plants to restore natural habitat areas.

Please join our community in congratulating these tireless volunteers for their exemplary service to our county parks. They are model volunteers that prove author Sherry Anderson’s quote – “Volunteers don’t get paid, not because they are worthless but because they are priceless.”

FMN Volunteers Help Riverbend Park Thrive

Photos and article courtesy of Valeria Espinoza, Volunteer Coordinator

Marilyn Kupetz (right, in feature photo)

Marilyn Kupetz and wood turtle Harriet

Marilyn has volunteered at Riverbend for almost two years now. She serves as an Animal Caretaker and Roving Naturalist. Marilyn plays a key role as part of our Animal Care team. From enrichment to health monitoring, Marilyn helps us make sure the animals are happy and healthy. She is a volunteer who has gone above and beyond her role. She has also volunteered at cleanups and other park events. This year, she committed to assisting with park monitoring as a Roving Naturalist when we could only offer outdoor volunteer opportunities. Now she continues to fulfill both roles every week. Her support this year has made a remarkable difference to our park!

Toni Oliveira (center, in feature photo)
Toni is someone who has gone above and beyond to carry our mission to protect and preserve our parks. Toni has volunteered with us for over a year now and has participated in several projects both at Riverbend and Scott’s Run. She has helped with park monitoring, trail maintenance projects, and watershed cleanup events. This year she adopted a spot at Riverbend where she restored a section of the park by removing invasives and seeding native grasses/plants. She has also helped staff with park monitoring at Scott’s Run and has become a key player in our restoration efforts by serving as a Lead Volunteer at our weekend cleanups. Toni’s commitment, positivity, and determination have made a huge difference at both parks!

Tom Blackburn

Tom Blackburn
Tom has volunteered at Riverbend for over 5 years! He has supported our interpretive programs, festivals, and park cleanups. This year Tom supported our trail monitoring efforts as a Roving Naturalist and once programs opened up again this fall, he assisted and lead several outdoor, socially-distanced programs. Tom has led several programs such as our Native Americans of Virginia fieldtrip, nature/ecology fieldtrips, and our Halloween Mystery at the Cabin program (a new program this year). Tom made this event very special for trick or treaters by portraying the character of a bootlegger’s ghost! During the shutdown, Tom served as a guest speaker at the Wildlife Explorers camp. He provided insight and knowledge on birds to our campers who truly enjoyed their experience.

Nancy Yinger

Nancy Yinger

Nancy has participated in the wildflower survey for over a year now. Last year, she also partook in the Caterpillars Count! Arthropod Survey. This year, she has continued surveying the park’s wildflowers while supporting our trail monitoring efforts. She has also “adopted” a pollinator garden by the Visitor Center. With her assistance, we plan to re-design this garden to better support Riverbend’s pollinators and educate visitors about native plants & flowers that support them. We are very lucky to have Nancy as part of our volunteer community.

Kris Lansing

Kris Lansing

Kris continued to monitor trails and survey the birds of Riverbend despite the cancelation of the birding walks during the pandemic. Thanks to her commitment we were able to stay up to date with trail conditions and continued to receive a snapshot of bird sightings this year. 

Robin Duska

Due to her regular volunteerism at Riverbend, Robin has been instrumental in bird surveying efforts.

Scott Schroth (left, in feature photo)
Scott began volunteering at our parks in the summer of 2018. He has done so much since! From trail projects with boy scouts to invasive removal projects and supporting our festivals, Scott has become one of our most dedicated volunteers. This year, he supported us with the biggest challenge we faced due to the pandemic. An increased amount of trash and litter at Scott’s Run Nature Preserve resulting from increased visitor turnout along with a decrease in staffing. Scott serves as a Lead Volunteer for our cleanups, along with Toni Oliveira.  Thanks to their support, we were able to run cleanup events every weekend to keep up with the growing amount of trash. 

If you, too, are interested in volunteering at Riverbend, here are the folks to find:

Trail Monitoring/Roving & General Volunteer Questions: Julie Gurnee Julie.Gurnee@fairfaxcounty.gov  

Natural Resource Projects & Surveys and Scott’s Run: Rita Peralta Rita.Peralta@fairfaxcounty.gov   

Animal Care Volunteer Program & Nature Education Volunteer Program: Jordan Libera Jordan.Libera@fairfaxcounty.gov 

Let’s Hit the Trails

Scott Schroth

Hitting the trails is the first of many volunteer activities Scott Schroth got involved with when becoming a Virginia Master Naturalist. Scott, a recently certified Virginia Master Naturalist (2019 – Fairfax) hit the trails feet first with shovel and saw in hand. I emphasize ‘feet first’ because one of his primary engagements is with the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club (PATC), an organization that maintains 240 miles of the Appalachian Trail (AT) and hundreds of miles of other trails throughout Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia, Virginia and DC. Scott is active in trail maintenance and trail patrol at locations such as Massanutten, Sky Meadows State Park, and Shenandoah National Park. Trail Maintenance is restoration for the purpose of hiker safety that includes trail blazing/marking, clipping, and the construction of rolling grade dips. During Trail Patrol, Scott is there to help hikers and backpackers enjoy the AT experience in a responsible manner by providing trail information and general assistance as needed. The patrol also provides a valuable ‘eyes on the ground’ service by reporting trail conditions to Trail Restoration crews.

In addition, Scott is very active at Fairfax County’s Riverbend Park and Scott’s Run Nature Preserve. Both parks are managed by Riverbend staff and there are copious volunteer opportunities at each. Scott credits the friendly and highly qualified Riverbend park staff with making it easy to get involved with the diverse set of opportunities at each park. Scott particularly enjoys citizen science opportunities such as wildflower surveys, native grass seed collection, and the Adopt-a-Spot program. His recent recognition as Riverbend’s volunteer of the month (August 2020) attests to his high energy focus at Scott’s Run. He participated in several invasive removal and habitat restoration projects and led watershed cleanup activities over the summer.

It is wonderful to hear the enthusiasm in Scott’s voice as he talks about the many service activities he is involved with and the resources available via the VMN organization. It’s even more wonderful to sense the enjoyment he receives by volunteering and to see the results of his work in areas of need within our local and national parks. Thank you, Scott, for the immediate impact you have had and thank you to all the VMN volunteers that care about and contribute to sustaining our natural resources.

To get involved as a volunteer at River Bend and/or Scott’s Run please contact volunteer coordinator Valeria Espinoza at valeria.espinoza@fairfaxcounty.gov  

To get involved as a PATC volunteer, visit www.patc.net and contact a representative listed for your location and area of interest.

Service Opportunities at Riverbend Park and Scott’s Run Nature Preserve

Photo by Valeria Espinoza

Riverbend Park invites the naturalist community to volunteer at the park and at the nature preserve as staff continue to adapt during the pandemic, while keeping our community safe. Summer volunteers have played an important role in keeping the parks clean, restoring native habitats, and supporting the staff during a time of increased visitor turnout.

Additional volunteers this fall would be a blessing. Here are opportunities to work with the exceptionally nice Riverbend staff.

Option 1. International Coastal Fall Cleanup Day: November 7, 2020

Join Clean Virgina Waterways and the Ocean Conservancy on an International Coastal Cleanup Event to keep our waters clean! Collect trash from streams and trails. Compile and report results on trash collected to contribute to a global snapshot of littered items. Help keep millions of pounds of trash out of our oceans! 

Register below for two different shifts and locations:

Riverbend Park 10:00AM-12:00PM 

Scott’s Run Nature Preserve 9:00-11:30 AM 

Option 2. Natural Resource Projects @ Scott’s Run: Thursday mornings. 

Sign up here.  

Volunteers training and working at Riverbend. Photo: Ana Ka’Ahanui

Option 3. Animal Care Volunteer Program (ACVP): Weekday and weekend openings

Whether you are looking for hands-on experience working with animals or simply love spending time with them, join us for ACVP this Fall! We are recruiting volunteers to help care for our display animals. Duties include feeding, watering, cleaning tanks/enclosures, exersicing and monitoring the animals. Learn about the natural history of native turtles and snakes while helping to care for these rescued/rehomed animals. This is an indoor/outdoor volunteer opportunity. Masks are required. Shifts are set to allow only 1-2 people in a building at a time. A weekly or bi-weekly volunteer commitment is preferred.

Apply here. 

Option 4. Natural Resource Projects @ Riverbend: Every Thursday at 1pm.

Riverbend Park needs your help for an invasive removal project. Help restore and preserve Riverbend’s natural resources. Enjoy a day outdoors and do some good! Sign up here. 

Option 5. Nature Education Volunteer Program

Join the programing team this Fall! Volunteers will assist with outdoor programs such as Field Trips for All, scout programs, and weekend nature programs. A minimum commitment of 2 programs/month is required. Apply here. 

Bluebells at the Bend Festival, April 11th–CANCELED!

Riverbend Park
8700 Potomac Hills St., Great Falls VA
Saturday, 11 April 2020
10am – 3pm

Celebrate the Virginia Bluebells that carpet the early spring forest at Riverbend Park!

Pre-sale tickets are $7 online until April 10th, regular tickets are $9 at the gate.

Enjoy
• Wildflower Walks
• Live Music
• Face Painting
• Live Animals
• Moon bounce
• Obstacle Course
• Wagon Rides
• Puppet Show
• Eagle Scope
• Crafts, games, and more!

Bonus: Friends of Riverbend Park will be selling bluebells from a native plant nursery. Pots will be $10/plant. Proceeds benefit FORB and help us assist Riverbend Park.

Event is rain or shine. For questions call 703-759-9018.

Spring Orientation, Spring & Summer Internships, and Volunteer Opportunities at Riverbend Park

Spring is around the corner! Check out the many opportunities available at Riverbend Park. Park staff and volunteer coordinator Valeria Espinosa hope you can join them for any of these projects and events!

Spring & Summer Natural Resource Internships (18+)  

Interested in working for the Resource Management Division? Apply to the NEW internship program and get hands-on experience working alongside Natural Resources Manager, Rita Peralta. Applications accepted now until filled. 

Sign up here: https://volunteer.fairfaxcounty.gov/custom/1380/#/opp_details/184394

Contact: rita.peralta@fairfaxcounty.gov 

Spring Volunteer Orientation: Preserving Our Parks! 

Saturday 3/14 | 9:00 AM | 8814 Jeffery Road, Great Falls, VA 22066 

Riverbend has many exciting projects in store and several positions available. Come learn about theprograms and get started on a field project or training right away! 

SIGN UP: https://volunteer.fairfaxcounty.gov/custom/1380/#/opp_details/185556  

Invasive Removal Team! 

Join the Invasive Removal team and help lead the effort to reduce the spread of invasive plants at Riverbend Park. Volunteers can join monthly removal events, Adopt-a-Spot, and/or assist with field surveying and monitoring. Scheduling is flexible! If you are interested contact Valeria and sign up for orientation on 3/14

GET INVOLVED! valeria.espinoza@fairfaxcounty.gov  

Invasive Removal Days: https://volunteer.fairfaxcounty.gov/custom/1380/#/opp_details/184647  

Teaching Docent! (18+) 

Interested in Northern Virginia’s natural resources and heritage? Become a Teaching Docent and share your passion for the outdoors through Riverbend’s school programs involving history, nature, and science. Don’t worry, they will train you! 

SIGN UP: https://volunteer.fairfaxcounty.gov/custom/1380/#/opp_details/179279 

Resource Naturalist!

If you are interested in monthly/bi-monthly volunteering at Riverbend Park and/or Scott’s Run Nature Preserve, join our Resource Management Team! Become a Resource Naturalist and get involved in Wildlife surveys, Wildflower Surveys, Field Surveys, Trail Restoration, Invasive Control, Planting projects, and more! 

SIGN UP: https://volunteer.fairfaxcounty.gov/custom/1380/#/opp_details/179280  

Trail Work Days! 

SIGN UP: https://volunteer.fairfaxcounty.gov/custom/1380/#/opp_details/185491 

ESLI Volunteer Coordinator (18+) 

Looking for organization leadership experience? The Environmental Student Leadership Initiative (ESLI) is seeking a lead coordinator to work with high school student leaders on managing this environmental education organization. 

APPLY HERE: https://volunteer.fairfaxcounty.gov/custom/1380/#/opp_details/185533

Riverbend Gardener! 

Support our gardens at Riverbend Park! Volunteer 2-3 times a month and help our native gardens thrive.  

SIGN UP: https://volunteer.fairfaxcounty.gov/custom/1380/#/opp_details/184766 

Bluebell Festival! April 11th 

SIGN UP: https://volunteer.fairfaxcounty.gov/custom/1380/#/opp_details/180932 

For more opportunities CLICK HERE!  

Questions? Email Valeria at valeria.espinoza@fairfaxcounty.gov

Upcoming Planting/Seeding Projects at Riverbend Park

Riverbend has planting/seeding projects in the works before winter (and the holidays). These are great for master naturalists or anyone interested in restoring of our parks. Please sign up using the link below:

Sign up here: https://volunteer.fairfaxcounty.gov/custom/1380/#/opp_details/184069

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Not available on these workdays? Schedule a volunteer workday at Riverbend Park!

Email Valeria to schedule a day/time that works for you! We are available most weekdays 10am-3pm. Weekends vary.

Come to orientation for new volunteers at Riverbend and Scott’s Run, Nov 2

Photo: Ana Ka’Ahanui

Saturday, November 2
9:30 AM -12.30 PM
8814 Jeffery Road, Great Falls, VA 22066

Want to become a volunteer at Riverbend Park or Scott’s Run? Attend the Fall Volunteer Orientation to learn about  opportunities, projects, and events. Positions for Animal Care Volunteers and Program Volunteers are currently open! If you want to get involved in park restoration/other projects, you are more than welcome to join us!

This session will run in two parts:

  1. Orientation for ALL new volunteers (9:30-10:30 AM)
  2. Orientation for specialties such as Animal Care, School Program Leads, and other projects.

 

Animal Care

Volunteer Claire Phan feeding a box turtle a fresh earth worm!

If you love animals this is the opportunity for you! Learn about local wildlife & become a caretaker to our rescued reptiles & amphibians.

Apply by 10/31 to valeria.espinoza@fairfaxcounty.gov 

Click here to register for Animal Care orientation and training.

 

 

School Program Leads

Volunteer Tom Blackburn showing students a soil sample

Love nature, science, and history? Become a program leader at Riverbend and help educate elementary students about Native American history, soils, wildlife, watershed science, biology & more!

Apply by 10/31 to valeria.espinoza@fairfaxcounty.gov 

Click here to register for becoming a School Program Lead Volunteer.

 

 

 

Resource Naturalists: Fall Planting Projects (14+ or w/ adult)

Chris Lansing educating volunteers on Mile a Minute clean up

Want to get involved in resource management, restoration, and conservation? Become a Resource Naturalist! We have a few planting projects to complete before winter.

Click here to register.

Email valeria.espinoza@fairfaxcounty.gov with questions and to RSVP fo orientation on Nov 2

 

 

Scott’s Run Cleanup Group! (14+ or w/ adult)

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Join the SRNP Cleanup Group! Open for students, families, and anyone interested in keeping the park and Potomac river free from litter.

Click here to sign up for fall cleanup days

Want to schedule your own group cleanup? Email Valeria Espinosa!

 

 

Scout Programs Assistant Volunteer! (18+)

Interested in supporting our girl scout and boy scout programs? Join our interpretive team and learn about outdoor/nature education! 

Click here to sign up

 

 

Final Birding Walks!

Friday 10/4 and 10/18 from 8-10 AM @Nature Center

Don’t miss the final birding walks with Kris Lansing and Robin Duska. To sign up email Valeria Espinosa or call 703-759-9018

 

Ladies and gentlemen, meet Harriet

Marilyn Kupetz

So the bare facts are these: Harriet is a wood turtle (Glyptemys insculpta) who lives in a terrarium at Riverbend Park. Roughly 10 inches long beak to tail, she has the brown eyes of a female and “a rough carapace and pyramid-like raised scutes” (Abugattas, 2017, p. 42). She’s of a certain age, but what that is exactly is unknown given that rescued reptiles don’t come with chips.

Unlike her box turtle peers—Romeo, Tortuga, Pumpkin, and Tojo—Harriet has all of her limbs. She certainly has all of her faculties. Each Thursday morning, when I come to take care of her, she peers up at me from her swimming basin, registers that I’m the behemoth who brings her strawberries, and crawls onto her landing stone to be lifted out, fed, and taken for a walk. After 6 months of this routine, we’re pals. I am lucky to have the privilege of learning about turtles from Harriet.

Harriet sunning in front of the Riverbend Visitor Center. Photo: Marilyn Kupetz

Although she knows what she wants, Harriet ambles to get it. While gazing at the back of this creature thus frequently at rest, I realized that turtle shells exhibit the Voronoi tessellations that, for example, Pixar uses to design scales for their digitally animated reptiles. 

Voronoi growth diagram

Animation by Balu Erti, CC BY-SA 4.0

Imagine two bubbles, or drops or water, or globs of tadpole eggs. When these masses are separate, they are more or less spherical, right? But when they come in contact with one another, their edges form planes and the geometrical shapes typical of the scales or bony plates covering dinosaurs and dragons. And turtles.

Biologists use Voronoi patterns to model cells. The tessellations help scientists understand what happens when cells multiply rapidly, making it possible to visualize cellular behavior so that, for example, doctors can treat illnesses.

Wikipedia reports that ecologists also use Voronoi patterns “to study the growth patterns of forests and forest canopies” and to develop “predictive models for forest fires.” An interesting conceptual shift from micro (cells) to macro (woodland systems).

Who knew that an elderly wood turtle could be such a good gateway to information about the natural world for curious citizen scientists?

Harriet doesn’t just stimulate learning, however. She and her kin offer volunteers a rare type of emotional connection: They show us that they appreciate the attention we give them. How do we know? By observing their uplifted heads as they sun, their ever enthusiastic consumption of fresh fruit and worms, and, yes, their gift of uninhibited deposits as they bathe.

They also enable us to work with other volunteers who, like philosopher Peter Singer, have come “to be persuaded that animals should be treated as independent sentient beings, not as means to human ends.” The Riverbend creatures cannot, alas, return to the wild—they were rescued from danger or abuse and are now dependent on human kindness. But those of us who care for them care about them.

Every 6 months, Riverbend’s Senior Interpreter Rita Peralta and Volunteer Coordinator Valeria Espinosa invite additional volunteers to help attend to not only Harriet and the box turtles, but also the snakes, frogs, and fish living in the Riverbend Visitor and Nature Centers. The always-welcoming Riverbend staff offer training sessions, flexible scheduling, and, best, the chance to nurture, learn from, and teach visitors about the gentle beings inhabiting the wild places that still remain to us in Fairfax County.

Questions: Ask Jordan Libera Jordan.Libera@fairfaxcounty.gov  or Rita Peralta rita.peralta@fairfaxcounty.gov.

Questions from the perspective of a volunteer? Feel free to ask me anything.

FMN volunteers get credit for volunteering under Service Code: S182: FCPA Nature Center Animal Care

Reference
Abugattas, A. (2017). The reptiles and amphibians of the Washington, DC metropolitan area. Self-published. Contact author.

Volunteer at Riverbend’s Native American Festival, Sept 7

Join Riverbend at this year’s Virginia Native American Festival held at Riverbend Park in Great Falls, VA, on Saturday, September 7, 10-4. Admission is $8 online, $10 at the gate. Volunteers receive free admission to the festival.

To volunteer, register here, by September 1.

You can sign-up for a shift directly. Valerie Espinosa will contact you about station assignments soon, but feel free to let her know if you have any questions or are volunteering with a group. Riverbend is  providing a shuttle from Colvin Run Mill again this year.

About the Native American Festival 

Celebrate the culture & history of the first people of Virginia. The festival includes eight American Indian tribes from Virginia, including the Rappahannock dancers and drummers. Enjoy hands-on activities and live demonstrations that include American Indian storytelling, shooting bow and arrows, throwing spears and making stone tools. Help build a dugout canoe, and visit a marketplace of American Indian crafts, pottery and jewelry. $8 online, $10 at the gate.

If you have any questions, feel free to contact Valeria at valeria.espinoza@fairfaxcounty.gov or call 703-759-9018.