2019 Virginia Environmental Education Conference February 7-9, 2019

Virginia Association of Environmental Education (VAEE) has extended the earlybird registration for the 2019 Virginia Environmental Education Annual Conference, at Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens in Richmond, VA

Enjoy a gathering full of professional development, networking opportunities, learning, and field experiences that will expand your knowledge of Environmental Education efforts and resources in the Commonwealth and help you in your VMN endeavors. 

This year’s conference will feature many exciting presentations, keynote speakers, and field trips, including the annual member meeting for the Virginia Association for Environmental Education. 

Other events include various networking opportunities and the annual VAEE Social and Silent Auction.

Information about this year’s conference and registration can be found on the conference webpage

Early-bird registration is extended until January 11, 2019. Registration ends February 4, 2019.

For general registration questions, contact: Bruce Young at

Look what you’ve done!

by Michael Reinemer

As I sign off as president, passing the baton to Joe Gorney, I want to thank each Virginia Master Naturalist in the chapter for what you do. The numbers of volunteer hours are astounding.

It’s hard to overstate how desperately your hours and your expertise are needed. Fairfax County and the whole region suffer from habitat loss, climate change, pollution, fragmentation, overuse – among many other assaults.

Meanwhile, we humans are increasingly disconnected from nature, suffering from the “landscape amnesia” Pete Mecca describes to FMN classes. Or shifting baseline syndrome: It’s impossible to notice the many gradual declines in the natural world – unless you understand the natural world, and you care about it and you actively monitor it. Which is one of the things you do as master naturalists. The statewide mason bee monitoring project is a great example.

You may have read “The Insect Apocalypse Is Here,” the cover story by Brooke Jarvis in the New York Times Magazine, Nov. 27, 2018.  The now global, scientific alarm about loss of insect diversity and abundance was triggered in part by small bug club in Germany. That club of 63 amateur naturalists, which included a few with science backgrounds, documented an astounding 80 percent drop in insect numbers in their research plot over a 30-year period. They had been consistently monitoring and recording changes in insect numbers or biomass in addition to species.

What’s the big deal? As E.O. Wilson put it, “If all mankind were to disappear, the world would regenerate back to the rich state of equilibrium that existed ten thousand years ago. If insects were to vanish, the environment would collapse into chaos.”  While the “10,000 years” part is probably optimistic, the role of decomposers, pollinators, and other insects is indisputable.

In her NYT piece, Jarvis talks about the long amateur naturalist tradition in Europe and how that has figured into faster, more aggressive response to the insect apocalypse there, compared to the U.S. 

So as part of the growing master naturalist movement in the U.S., you are a vital resource in this era of shrinking budgets for conservation and a time of overt hostility toward science in some quarters of the federal government. Your work as monitors, mentors, and stewards is invaluable.

While all the 2018 numbers aren’t in yet, look what you’ve done:

680 hours staffing information desks at nature centers

445 hours working on nature programs for the county

435 hours removing invasive plants

375 hours as Audubon at Home ambassadors, assessing wildlife habitat

360 hours for the Cornell Lab of Ornithology feederwatch program

350 hours managing habitat and land for Fairfax County Park Authority

343 hours for school programs for Fairfax County Park Authority

330 hours for citizen science programs for the park authority

267 hours monitoring trails for Virginia Bluebird Society

260 hours working with the Plant NoVA Natives campaign

That’s just a small snapshot of your amazing numbers and work. Congratulations, and thank you. 

And a hearty thanks to the many volunteer leaders who serve as officers, committee chairs, and committee members who manage the training and all the mechanics that make the Fairfax Master Naturalists the force for nature that it is.

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

Virginia Forest Health Conference

Each year the Virginia Association of Forest Health Professionals (VAFHP) holds a conference for professionals and other interested community members who want to learn more about forest health and ecology of the Mid-Atlantic. The 2019 Conference will be held in Blacksburg, VA January 28-29.

Attendees include local, state and federal officials, independent contractors, consultants, horticulture and forest industry representatives and students. We encourage anyone interested in the ecology of the Mid-Atlantic to participate. VAFHP is committed to developing and providing education and training for natural resource professionals. 

This year they will be offering a scholarship which will provide free registration to the conference. Note that the deadline to apply is December 31.  The application for this is available on the VAFHP website.

Agenda and registration 

Diversity Inclusion in Environmental Education webinar

The United States prides itself as a melting pot and with the current overall demographic shifting, we are seeing more nonnative- English-speaking students engage in both the traditional and outdoor classrooms. However, various stereotypes and misconceptions tend to follow this multicultural student, and it is our job as educators to evolve to meet the needs of all of our students. Whether you are interacting with nonnative English speakers during a school presentation or offering educational programs in a nature center, this webinar focuses on various techniques you can use to better connect with your audience. And, no, you do not need to learn a second language!

Presenter: Mariya Hudick, Tri-County/City Soil & Water Conservation District

Mariya Hudick is an Education Coordinator with Tri-County/City Soil & Water Conservation District. Her primary focus is to educate the local community on soil and water conservation efforts. For the last three years, Mariya worked for the Department of Conservation & Recreation as a Park Ranger where she provided meaningful environmental education opportunities for the general public. Mariya is originally from Russia and immigrated with her family in the early 2000s. As a former ESL student, Mariya has used her experiences to better connect with other non-native English speakers in the hopes of inspiring future stewards. She has been conducting research on the multicultural student in environmental education and has partnered with various Master Naturalists to collect and interpret data on the subject for the last two years.

Webinar Details

When: November 27, 2018, 12:00 pm

Meeting Number: 225-404-939

Link to join: Join Webinar

(This link will connect you to the video feed, but you will need to connect your audio separately to hear the speaker.  Zoom will prompt you to do that once you have connected the video feed.  See the technical information below for details on connecting your audio.)

Link for recordings of this and past webinars:  VMN Continuing Education page 

VMN webinar: Mason Bee Project update

Are you interested in learning about mason bees? Master Naturalists across the state and mason bee researchers at the University of Virginia’s Blandy Experimental Farm were able to monitor spring-emerging mason bee populations. Over 150 Master Naturalists all over Virginia were involved by deploying bee “hotels” (nest boxes) in 2017 and 2018 and bee bowls (traps) in 2017. This webinar will cover the natural history of spring-emerging mason bees, it will describe our project setup and methodology with a live demonstration, results will be shared, and we will share information for how to participate in the 2019 mason bee monitoring project season. Everyone is welcome to join the webinar.

Kate LeCroy is a Ph.D. student studying ecology in the department of Environmental Sciences at the University of Virginia. She is advised by T’ai Roulston, Ph.D., at University of Virginia’s Blandy Experimental Farm in Boyce, Virginia. Kate graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology from Birmingham-Southern College in Birmingham, Alabama and went on to complete a Master of Science degree in Biology from the University of Pittsburgh studying the community ecology of flower color. Now at UVA, in 2017 and 2018, Kate worked with over 150 Virginia Master Naturalists throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia to document springtime wild bee diversity, particularly the diversity of mason bees (genus Osmia). Kate enjoys interacting with Master Naturalists because of their curiosity, their steadfast commitment to projects, and their enthusiasm for conservation and the natural world. When she’s not out “saving the bees” Kate enjoys spending time in Charlottesville with her husband Riley and their dog, Magnolia.

Webinar Details

When: November 13, 2018, 12:00 pm

Meeting Number: 467-052-749

Link to join: Join Webinar

(This link will connect you to the video feed, but you will need to connect your audio separately to hear the speaker.  Zoom will prompt you to do that once you have connected the video feed.  See the technical information below for details on connecting your audio.)

Link for recordings of this and past webinars:  VMN Continuing Education page 

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.

2019 VMN Conference – 20-22 September

Photo credit: Massanetta Springs Camp & Conference Center

It’s time to mark your calendars for the 2019 Virginia Master Naturalist Statewide Volunteer Conference and Training!

The group will meet in Harrisonburg, Virginia on 20-22 September 2019 at Massanetta Spring Camp and Conference Center. The Conference Center has on-site lodging, dining, and meeting rooms, as well as trails and outdoor spaces.

Please check out the current information here:

Further information will be sent out in the spring. Fun and learning guaranteed!

It’s time well-spent when Virginia Master Naturalists convene in conference

Mike Bishop 

The 2018 Virginia Master Naturalists State conference is over, but attendees left with a lot of useful information, new friends, and fond memories. This year’s conference was held in Fredericksburg, 7-9 September. Although I also attended the 2017 conference in Front Royal, this year I participated not only as a student, but as an instructor. 

Mike Bishop (left) discussing purple martins with Chris Ludwig

The organizing committee asked if I would be interested in teaching classes about the Purple Martin and the Northern Virginia Purple Martin Initiative that I founded several years ago. I immediately said I would, seizing a great opportunity to be able to spread the word about this conservation effort.

The conference started for me on Friday with a thrilling and educational 3-hour kayak trip down the historic Rappahannock River, with 25 other naturalists. Sights along the way were Bald Eagles, Osprey and Great Blue Herons, to name just a few. Our guides had extensive knowledge of an adjoining canal system that I didn’t even know existed. We pulled ashore at several places to explore them. This was just one of many field trips led by local experts on the area. I spent the rest of the conference teaching or attending classes by leaders in their fields of study. One class I particularly enjoyed covered current research and findings about bird migration patterns and habits.

The conference center was top notch; classrooms were excellent for teaching and the meals were delicious. The Rappahannock chapter did everything right to make this a most enjoyable and comfortable event. There were even three tables of superb, nature-related door prizes. Everybody walked away with something.

After attending the state conferences for the past years, I plan on going to as many future ones as possible. As important as the classes you learn from is networking with others from around the state—finding out what makes their chapters so fun and effective. 

In September 2019, the conference will be held in Harrisonburg. The close proximity again makes it convenient for the members of our chapter. Considering the area, the field trips should be visiting some spectacular natural areas of the Shenandoah Valley. 

Unfortunately, representation from our chapter has been low at the past two conferences. Let’s see if we can change that next year. Believe me, it’s time well spent and I hope to see you there! 

Earth Science Week: Oct 14-20, 2018

What is Earth Science Week?

It is an internationally recognized celebration that helps the public gain a better understanding of, and appreciation for, the earth sciences. Organized by the American Geosciences Institute (AGI), this annual celebration has attracted young people since 1998.

This year’s theme: Earth as Inspiration

According to AGI, this theme will engage young people and others in exploring the relationship between the arts and Earth systems and promote public understanding and stewardship of the planet, especially in terms of the ways art relates to geoscience principles and issues as diverse as energy, climate change, the environment, natural disasters, technology, industry, agriculture, recreation, and the economy.

Did we mention the Earth Science Week 2018 “Earth as Inspiration” toolkit?

  • 12-month school-year activity calendar, suitable for hanging
  • New Earth Science Week poster, including a learning activity
  • NASA materials on school resources and planetary exploration
  • National Park Service posters on caves, plants, and geology
  • Geologic Map Day poster dealing with artistic inspiration
  • Mineral Education Coalition “Quarry to Crop” postcard
  • IRIS material on seismology and earthquakes
  • AmericaView poster on exploring America through LandSat
  • Howard Hughes Medical Institute poster on global change
  • UNAVCO materials on Geodesy and websites to explore
  • Fact sheet from Critical Zones Observatories
  • Switch Energy Project information on energy science
  • Bureau of Land Management dinosaur coloring page
  • Material on Constructing the Rock Cycle from GSA
  • Water Footprint Calculator information on water science
  • EarthScope material on what it means to be an Earth scientist
  • CLEAN, AMS, TERC, and GPS information and more

Order the 2018 Earth Science Week Toolkit – Earth as Inspiration!

For more info, please download and read the attachment here, and go to the website:

If you have any questions, please contact:

David Spears, State Geologist: or 434-951-6350