A Special Webinar Series for VMNs Stuck at Home, April 6-23

In addition to VMN’s normal monthly Continuing Education webinar series, this month they are adding a “High Five from Nature” series. Don’t we all need a little encouragement from nature in our lives right now?

In each webinar, presenters will go over five species or concepts on a theme. These will be somewhat informal webinars of varying lengths, from 20 minutes to an hour. They’ll focus on Virginia species and on seasonal observations. We will record them and provide links to the recordings from our web site.

Please visit the web page for the Zoom link and Meeting ID for each webinar.

The Current Lineup

Five Frogs to Recognize by Ear

  • With Michelle Prysby, Program Director, Virginia Master Naturalist Program
  • Monday, April 6, 2:00 pm

Five Needled Trees (Plus 5 More as a Bonus)

Five Native Shrubs

Five Dragonflies

  • With Emily Luebke, VMN-Rivanna Chapter volunteer and nature photographer
  • Wednesday, April 15, 2:00 pm

…and more! We will be adding additional High Five webinars in the coming weeks. If you or someone you know would like to be a High Five presenter, contact Michelle Prysby.

Each of these webinars is listed with its separate Zoom link on our website.

FMNs can get credit for attending these webinars under: A Special Webinar Series for VMNs Stuck at Home

Message to Master Naturalists from Michelle Prysby

Dear Virginia Master Naturalist volunteers—I hope that you all are safe and well. I’ve been in contact with all the VMN chapter board members and advisors regularly over the last week, and I wanted to take time now to reach out to all of our volunteers.

First, I would like to holler three cheers for all of our chapter leaders. They have been doing a great job pivoting as necessary given the ever-changing circumstances. They have had to gather information and preferences from a lot of people, make decisions about canceling events, learn new technologies to move meetings online, and a lot more. Terri, Tiffany, and I are all extremely appreciative of their efforts.

Second, I want to use this platform to ask all of you to take the guidelines from the Virginia Department of Health, the CDC, and the Governor’s office regarding COVID-19 very seriously. The most civic-minded act we all can do right now is to avoid in-person interactions and physically distance ourselves as much as possible. I know you all are very committed to your VMN volunteer work. Please put that work on hold if you cannot do it safely. Some people may even want to stop some volunteer work and projects that don’t require group gatherings, just because they want to conserve their mental and physical energy right now. That’s completely fine. Other projects may continue because people have the energy to do them and because they can be done safely.

Third, you’ll notice I did not use the term “social distancing”, and that’s because your fellow volunteers, friends, and family need connection now more than ever. Use the time you might have spent at all those events that are now canceled instead reaching out (in a safe way) to people you know. If there are safe ways to volunteer in your community to help the COVID-19 response effort, that could be a good way to re-direct your inclination to volunteer. 

Fourth, in the spirit of staying connected, I plan to be ramping up our Continuing Education webinars in the coming weeks. I had a couple of our regular webinars already lined up, and I will add to these so that there are more learning experiences available to you. I’ll announce those on our CE webinar webpage at and via our CE Webinar mailing list. You can join that mailing list by going to and clicking the “Email Alert Sign-Up”. 

Fifth, I am very proud and fortunate to work with Virginia Cooperative Extension, an agency that is providing great leadership, community assistance, and public information during this crisis. VCE now has a public webpage with COVID-19 resources at Every day, additional fact sheets and other information is added there.We are so fortunate that spending time in nature, so long as we are not in close contact with other humans or sharing our binoculars, is safe! I have noticed more families than ever spending time outside in the park and trail near my house, which gives me a lot of hope. 

Spring is springing, and I hope that you will be able to spot your favorite wildflower in bloom, hear the birds singing, and watch the forests turn green again as the leaves emerge.

Stay well, Michelle Prysby, VMN Program Director

Derelict Crab Traps and How Volunteers Can Help

2020 VMN Continuing Education Webinar Series

When: Wednesday, March 4, 2020, 12:00 pm

Meeting Number: 863-745-357

Link to Join: Join Webinar

Link for recordings of this and past webinars:

VMN Continuing Education Webinar page

Reminder – We still have our February webinar on February 25, discussing feral swine management. Information on that is on the CE Webinar page.

Derelict fishing gear represents a major challenge to marine resource management through deliberate abandonment or accidental loss. Derelict crab traps in particular have significant negative effects, both economic (e.g., reduced fishery harvest from ghost fishing and reduced efficiency of active gear) and ecological (e.g., crab, fish and other animal mortality). This webinar will discuss the derelict crab trap issue in the Virginia portion of the Chesapeake Bay, the recent commercial waterman removal effort, and how volunteer Citizen Scientists can help.

Volunteers who are interested in participating in this project in the 2020 season should request approval from their chapter now, because the period for marking and removing traps ends March 14, 2020. Volunteers must register with the project, be 18 years of age, have a smartphone, and have an email address. For additional information and registration, visit the Crab Trap page. We have a project proposal form that you can take to your chapter available here.
Kirk Havens received his B.S. in Biology and M.S. in Oceanography from Old Dominion University and a Ph.D. in Environmental Science and Public Policy from George Mason University. He is a Research Associate Professor, and Assistant Director of the Center for Coastal Resources Management at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science. He also serves as a collaborating partner in the William & Mary School of Law, Virginia Coastal Policy Center. His research has spanned topics as diverse as hormonal activity in blue crabs to tracking black bears and panthers using helicopters and thermal imaging equipment. His present work involves wetlands ecology, adaptive management processes, marine debris, micro-plastics, and biopolymers. He hosts the VIMS event “A Healthy Bay for Healthy Kids: Cooking with Virginia’s First Lady” and the public service segments “Chesapeake Bay Watch with Dr. Kirk Havens”. He serves as the gubernatorial appointee to the Chesapeake Bay Scientific and Technical Advisory Committee and is a past chair of the Committee. He was originally appointed by Gov. Warner and re-appointed by Governors Kaine, McDonnell, McAuliffe and Northam. He also serves as the chair of the Leadership Council for the North Carolina Albemarle Pamlico National Estuary Partnership. He lives in King & Queen County, Virginia with his wife, Karla, and son Kade where he serves as the chair of the County Wetlands Board.

2019 Year in Review, by Michelle Prysby, Virginia Master Naturalists Program Director

For the full report, click here.

Cutting edge: Water Chestnut Program (WCP) Meeting, Nov. 15th

Twin Lakes Golf Course, Club House, Ball Room
6209 Union Mill Rd., Clifton VA 20125
Friday, 15 November 2019
10 am – 2 pm

The Fairfax Chapter of Virginia Master Naturalists is facilitating an informational meeting about the invasive water chestnut (Trapa bispinosa).

The water chestnut program (WCP) would be an early detection and rapid response project for naturalists who would like to identify, verify, map and remove this novel species of water chestnut before it becomes established. The focus area is within the Potomac River watershed in Virginia.

This type of water chestnut, discovered by Virginia Game and Inland Fisheries (VGIF) in the tidal Potomac River at Pohick Bay in 2014, is not known to be established elsewhere in the USA. Scientists at the US Geological Survey (USGS) have found that it is spreading, but it is not yet considered widespread, or outside the Potomac Watershed. This is an opportune time to take measures to remove it before it becomes a huge menace in the Potomac River and watershed. Species of water chestnut (Genus, Trapa) are known to spread extensively and be invasive in Virginia and other regions of similar climate. Trapa can quickly grow over the surface of shallow water, completely shade out native submerged aquatic plants, impede water flow, clog irrigation pipes, alter biodiversity, and obstruct recreational boating and swimming.

Come to learn about this water chestnut species and explore options for eradicating it.  Virginia Master Naturalists, natural resource managers, pond owners, gardeners, naturalists, invasive species managers, pond management companies, and other interested parties are welcome to attend.

Program is free and open to the public. Please see the agenda and register here.  Questions? Email

Fairfax Master Naturalists:  This program qualifies for Continuing Education credit.

Lead and contribute to FMN Chapter committees in 2019 and 2020

Photo: Ana Ka’Ahanui

From President Joe Gorney to Chapter Members,

As a volunteer organization, our chapter succeeds based on the collective efforts of many people participating in an array of service activities. The same is true of the management of our chapter. At the end of this year, we will have a significant number of people rotating out of Board positions. Please consider serving on the board as an officer or committee chair, or as a member of a committee.  Your perspectives and ideas are enormously valuable.  Serving in one of these positions would take only a few hours each month but would be invaluable in helping our chapter to thrive.  And all of these hours count toward your service hours! Please submit your expression of interest to Fairfax Chapter Virginia Master Naturalists. Don’t delay!

Listed below is a description of the respective officer and committee chair positions. And if you’re not ready to be an officer or committee chair but would still like to help, you can still be a part of a committee as a member.  (We would especially like to have a diversity specialist under the Outreach Chair).

Secretary (officer)

Solicits board meeting agenda items; posts meeting agendas; takes and records meeting minutes; maintains chapter bylaws and handbook. Keeps us all accountable and working together!

Treasurer (officer)

Maintains the budget and accounting records; produces a monthly financial report; pays bills; collects dues; presents the financial records for audit; coordinates with committee chairs to produce the annual budget. Allows us to spend our money wisely to accomplish our mission!

Hospitality  (committee chair)

Coordinates general member meetings and basic training graduation activities including logistics, activities, and refreshments; orders and manage sales and/or distribution of fundraising items and logo items if needed. A welcoming presence at our activities!

Outreach (committee chair)

Promotes the chapter and its mission through outreach activities; manages booth staffing for outreach events; opens the eyes of the community to our mission and our work; helps ensure a diverse membership; motivates others to become members. Keep our good works in the forefront!

Continuing Education (committee chair)

Identifies, solicits, and approves continuing education proposals based on the criteria provided by VMN; notifies members of approved opportunities; maintains a catalog/calendar of opportunities.  Help us all to stay motivated and sharp!

Membership (committee chair)

Leads a small, dedicated, and experienced team; responsible for maintaining FMN and VMN membership directories; tracks and issues service awards and certifications; serves as member of Student Selection Committee.  Help welcome new members and foster camaraderie among current members!

Service (committee chair)

Approves service project proposals using established criteria; notifies members of opportunities; maintains a diverse catalog of opportunities. Help us all to serve our community!

Communications (committee chair)

Maintains the chapter public website, newsletters, social media, and chapter email account. Leads three or four strategically-minded people who communicate effectively and enjoy keeping all of us in the know. Earn hours from the comfort of your home while connecting us all to the chapter!

Help repopulate white oak forests

From Laura DeWald, Forest Genetics Specialist:

I am at the University of Kentucky (Dept. Forestry and Natural Resources), where I am developing a genetics improvement program for white oak (Quercus alba) to address sustainability of the white oak resource into the future. The eventual goal of the project is to have a sustainable supply of good white oak to support healthy forests and restore the white oak resource. 

The first obvious step in a genetics program is to get germplasm – in this case acorns. Collecting will begin this fall and will occur for at least two more seasons, with the future collections focused on filling in collection gaps in the geographic range. Acorns collected will be grown in the Kentucky Division of Forestry’s state nursery and then outplanted into genetic tests as 1-0 seedlings. 

I need help getting acorns from throughout Virginia. Each individual person only needs to collect from 1-2 trees.

Important First Steps

1. Scout for one or two healthy white oaks now and look for the baby acorns to make sure that tree will produce this fall. That said, you can also watch for mature acorns on the tree–it’s important that they aren’t old ones from years past. Mature acorns will start dropping late September to October, so you will need to act soon.

 2. Contact Laura DeWald ( | 859-562-2282) for the collection kit and the important instructions you will need to follow before you gather the acorns. Laura will start sending out kits now to those who contact her. Each tree will get its own kit. (You don’t want to mix up the acorns from different trees because they want to sample the parent’s genetics.)   859-562-2282

Review aquatic ecology publications for VMN

Virginia Cooperative Extension has a 2009 publication series set to expire, “Sustaining America’s Aquatic Biodiversity”. VMN uses publications in this series as part of the VMN curriculum, particularly for the Aquatic Ecology and Management topic. To renew these publications so that they do not expire, they need to review them to make sure the information is still accurate, links still work, etc.

What You’ll Do

They are seeking volunteers (just one or two per publication) to review twelve publications. Each publication is typically just 4-8 pages long, with illustrations. They are all written for a layperson audience, and you do not need to be a professional biologist to review them. You will be asked to:

  1. Read through the publication to check for any information that may no longer be accurate. Most of the text is general and likely still correct. Things that may have changed are likely number-based facts.
  2. Using reliable sources, find updated information to replace anything that is no longer accurate. For example, if the publication lists the number of federally endangered salamander species, you would want to do further research with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to see if that number is still correct.
  3. Look at the illustrations and confirm that the drawings and pictures are labeled correctly.
  4. Correct any typos found in the publication.
  5. Test any internet links provided and make sure they work. Update the URLs as needed.
  6. Handwrite your edits directly (and neatly!) on a printed copy of the publication. Then, either scan and email the revised version back to me, or snailmail me the printed version.
  7. Communicate with Michelle Prysby if questions come up along the way.
  8. Complete all your edits and send them back by October 23.

You will be recognized in the acknowledgements of the revised publication once it is updated in the Virginia Cooperative Extension publications system online.

They are looking for reviewers for the following publications

  1. What is Aquatic Biodiversity and Why Is It Important?
  2. Why is Aquatic Biodiversity Declining?
  3. Aquatic Habitats: Homes for Aquatic Animals
  4. Freshwater Mussel Biodiversity and Conservation
  5. Crayfish Biodiversity and Conservation
  6. Freshwater Fish Biodiversity and Conservation
  7. Selected Freshwater Fish Families
  8. Frog Biodiversity and Conservation
  9. Salamander Biodiversity and Conservation
  10. Turtle Biodiversity and Conservation
  11. Freshwater Snail Biodiversity and Conservation
  12. Aquatic Insect Biodiversity and Conservation

To volunteer

Please contact Michelle Prysby by September 15 and let her know which of the twelve publications you would be willing to review. She will send out the final assignments shortly after that date, and you’ll have approximately one month to complete your review. Depending on the volunteer response, she will try to assign volunteers to just one or two publications, unless someone really has a lot of time on their hands!

Wildlife Corridors and Crashes: Research and Efforts to Facilitate Safe Wildlife Movement across Roads

Webinar Details

Wednesday, August 28, 2019, 12:00 pm
Meeting Number: 306-718-517
Link to Join: Join Webinar
Link for recordings of this and past webinars: VMN Continuing Education Webinar page


As wildlife move across the landscape or through our waterways, they increasingly find their habitat shrinking or carved up by human development and infrastructure. The road network was built with a focus on providing safe and efficient transport, with little regard for ecology. Roads not only threaten the viability of certain species’ populations, but also pose a substantial risk to driver safety. Virginia is consistently among the 10 states with the highest number of deer-vehicle collisions, with more than 60,000 reported each year.

Today, the transportation and scientific communities increasingly seek to reconnect fragmented habitat and avoid further disruption to wildlife movement. It is now more widely recognized that prioritizing wildlife corridor protection and helping wildlife move safely through the landscape is a benefit to both wildlife populations and drivers.

This webinar focuses on three road ecology efforts underway in the Commonwealth:

  • Wildlife crossing research conducted by the Virginia Transportation Research Council (the research division on VDOT)
  • A newly established Virginia Safe Wildlife Corridors Collaborative that seeks to implement solutions to address driver safety and habitat connectivity, and
  • The development of wildlife corridor legislation to identify corridors in the Commonwealth and encourage the implementation of measures to ensure safe wildlife passage across roadways.


Misty Boos received a Master of Environmental Planning degree from the University of Tasmania in 2006 and a BS in Sociology with emphasis on Environmental Studies from Southern Oregon University. She has extensive experience in the non-profit sector working on research projects and in the field for many environmental organizations. She has been an active participant and leader for Wild Virginia outings and completed training as a Virginia Master Naturalist.

Bridget Donaldson is an associate principal research scientist at the Virginia Transportation Research Council. She holds a BS in Ecological and Populational Biology from the University of Colorado and an MS in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from the University of Tennessee. While her research covers a variety of environmental topics, ranging from climate change to roadkill composting, she has been involved in the research and implementation of measures to reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions for over 15 years.

Your chance to design 2020 VMN recertification pin

VMN is planning its 2020 VMN recertification pin, and they have decided that the species for the pin will be an aquatic macroinvertebrate.  They would like to invite any VMN volunteer (certified, member or trainee) to submit artwork that could be the basis for the pin design.


1. Species: You can choose any benthic macroinvertebrate species (for example, species of mayflies, stoneflies, caddisflies, etc.)  The artwork should be of the immature stage of the invertebrate that lives in the water.  Please identify the invertebrate in your drawing at least to taxonomic order (e.g., mayfly, stonefly, etc.)  If your artwork is of an invertebrate from a particular family, genus, or species, please let us know that as well.

2. Drawings or paintings are preferred, as they tend to make a better pin in the end, but photographs will also be considered.

3. Full color is best.  Something that is uniform in color or very dark likely will not show up well as a pin.

4. The drawing or photo can be any size, but the pin is typically going to be about 1 inch in diameter, so keep in mind how the details will look when shrunk down to that size.

5. We plan to have the pin be cut out in the shape of the design (versus an oval or round pin), in the same style of the turtle and frog pins from 2016 and 2017, for example.  Because of that, it is best if the artwork is just the aquatic macroinvertebrate, without any background or other objects.  Try to visualize how your artwork will look cut out all around its edges.

6. The artist or photographer must be a current VMN volunteer (certified, member, or trainee.)

7. If you have been the artist for a recertification pin in a previous year, you are welcome to submit again, but if we have enough submissions that would work well for the pin, we are likely to try to choose a volunteer who has not had the opportunity before.

8. All entries will be recognized in our fall newsletter and at our statewide conference!

For inspiration, see past artwork that we used for the pins at would like to have your submissions by 5:00 pm, Monday, August 26.  Please email a high resolution digital scan of the artwork or digital photograph to me at