Application Period Now Open for ARMN Fall 2015 Training Class

Adults, standing in marsh, looking through binoculars at something

Picture yourself here!

Taking the ARMN basic training course changed my life. It opened up so many opportunities to meet great people, get outdoors, and educate the community about nature and its preservation.

                                                                 ~a current ARMN-certified master naturalist

Have a passion for nature? Want to learn how to channel that passion and share it with your community? Apply now to train as a certified master naturalist through ARMN’s 14-week Fall 2015 basic training class. No prior experience is necessary.

ARMN  will be holding daytime basic training beginning September 14 through December 14, 2015. Classes will be held on Mondays from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm at Long Branch Nature Center in Arlington, and at other locations around the area. (There will be no class on October 12.) Classroom training generally will be scheduled for the mornings with field training to follow in the afternoons.

Apply by filling out the application available through the Apply tab above and returning it to Long Branch by mail or in person no later than August 17, 2015. Space in this popular course is limited, so act now.

Have a question? Ask it through the Contact Us portal above.

2015 Firefly Festival: Perfect Weather, Perfect Fun

by Caroline Haynes, ARMN volunteer

IMG_6714

ARMN volunteers were well represented at another successful Firefly Festival at Fort C.F. Smith in Arlington on Sunday evening, June 28. Unlike previous festivals that were sticky and hot, the previous day’s rain and cooler temperatures made for a perfectly delightful summer evening. Children of all ages improved their insect ID skills at “Bug Bingo,” were transformed into their favorite insect by some artful face painting, learned to imitate the flash patterns of different species of fire flies, created some beautiful glow-in-the-dark firefly crafts––and, of course, caught and released lots and lots of fireflies. Those who participated in the nature walk at dusk were rewarded with a meadow light show as the fireflies began their nightly courtship. The almost-full moon and roasted marshmallows topped off a fun, educational, family-friendly evening.

ARMN volunteer Stephanie

ARMN volunteer Stephanie “Firefly” Martin works the 2015 Firefly Festival. (Photo by Caroline Haynes)

A Visit to Blue Plains Advanced Waste Water Treatment Plant

ARMN member Louis Harrell reports on a group visit to Blue Plains. All came away with enhanced understanding of waste water treatment––and some valuable tips. 

By Louis Harrell, ARMN

On May 28, 13 ARMN members traveled to Southwest D.C. to the Blue Plains Advanced Waste Water Treatment Plant for a guided tour of the facility. Blue Plains is the largest plant of its kind in the world, with the ability to treat 370 million gallons a day. Peak capacity is slightly more than 1 billion gallons per day. The facility serves Loudoun County, Fairfax County, part of Arlington County, Montgomery County, Prince George’s County, and the District of Columbia.

ARMN members visit Blue Plains Advanced Waste Water Treatment Plant

ARMN members visit Blue Plains Advanced Waste Water Treatment Plant. Photo by Yanique Richards.

We saw key features of the facility and met with an engineer who answered questions about the plant and informed us about issues that Blue Plains faces.

We saw the primary and secondary sedimentation tanks, the nitrification and denitrification tanks, and the location where cleaned water is returned to the Potomac. The nitrification tanks use microbes and a large amount of aeration to oxidize the nitrogen from ammonia to nitrate. The denitrification tanks are used to convert the nitrate to nitrogen gas using microbes and methanol. Unlike the nitrification process, the denitrification tanks do not use aeration. The nitrification and denitrification steps, along with a final disinfection step, make Blue Plains into a highly advanced facility. Our guide showed us samples of the effluent and drinking water and we agreed that they both looked the same.

Some of the takeaways from our visit included:

  • Blue Plains plans to start using methane captured on site to produce 10 MW of their power requirements. DC Water is the single largest consumer of electricity in the District.
  • The plant produces Class A biosolids, which are presently distributed locally for free to community gardens; in the next few years they hope to market them commercially. This change will allow the plant to reduce its carbon footprint by one third.
  • We learned that flushable baby wipes should not actually be flushed as they clog the pipes at the plant. Composting was also recommended.

Bees of Singular Tastes and the Plants They Love

by Sherrie Burson and Brooke Alexander, ARMN

Sam Droege, a scientist at the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, entertained and educated ARMN volunteers and members of the public on May 11 in a talk at the Arlington Central Library. Droege works on the design and development of status and trends data for U.S. plants and animals. Currently, he is swept up in surveys for native bees.

Droege shared research from a soon-to-be-published paper he co-authored with Jarrod Fowler that lists plant genera and the native specialist bees that need them. He explained that specialist bees have more finicky needs than generalist species. Generalist bees are out all season, have higher population levels, and can handle disturbed sites. In contrast, specialist bees are out for an average of five weeks, have lower overall population levels, and are good indicators of quality habitat. Of the bees that carry pollen (not all do––parasitic bees, for example,) specialist bees feed their young from a limited range of one to three plant genera. Native bee specialists tend to visit perennial plants commonly found in vernal woodlands (ephemerals), summer composite communities, and ericaceous (plants in a family that includes blueberries) heaths.

Sam Droege

Sam Droege at Arlington Central Library. Photo by Suzanne Dingwell.

Droege dazzled the audience with photographs of flowers and the bees that frequent them, describing their interactions. In response to a question about cultivars, Droege said that initial research performed at the Mt. Cuba Center, a horticultural institution in northern Delaware, and by the New England Wild Flower Society shows that cultivars are less attractive to bees. However, planting native species is a known benefit to native bees.

Droege and Fowler’s paper includes a list of plants that native bee specialists find particularly appealing. The list includes a number of native plants that are not commonly planted in local yards. Droege encouraged the audience to consider planting some of these species to support the bees that need them.

The following table lists genera and common names for a host of native plants that thrive in our area. Most of them should be available from the Earth Sangha plant nursery in Springfield (www.earthsangha.org) or from the Potowmack Chapter of the Virginia Native Plant Society at Green Spring Gardens in Alexandria (www.vnps-pot.org).

Ceanothus

New Jersey Tea

Packera

Ragwort

Chrysopsis

Golden Aster

Penstemon

Beardtongue

Cirsium

Thistle

Pontederia

Pickerelweed

Claytonia

Spring Beauty

Potentilla

Cinquefoil

Erythronium

Trout Lily

Rhododendron

Rhododendron

Euthamia

Goldenrod

Rudbeckia

Coneflower

Gaylussacia

Huckleberry

Salix

Willow

Geranium

Geranium

Solidago

Goldenrod

Helianthus

Sunflower

Symphyotrichum

Aster

Huechera

Alumroot

Uvularia

Merrybell

Hibiscus

Rose Mallow

Vaccinium

Blueberry

Hydrophyllum

Waterleaf

Verbena

Vervain

Krigia

Dwarf Dandelion

Vernonia

Ironweed

Lyonia

Staggerbush

Viola

Violet

Lysimachia

Loosestrife

Zizia

Golden Alexander

Monarda

Bee Balm

Planting species that native bees depend on is one important strategy to help save these important pollinators. Another is to provide patches of bare ground for ground-nesting bees. These kinds of measures, when practiced widely by homeowners and caretakers of community landscapes, go a long way toward ensuring the continued––and critical–– presence of native bees in our ecosystems.

More information about Sam Droege can be found at these links for a National Geographic article and video: http://www.nationalgeographic.com/features/140114-bee-native-macro-photography-insects-science/#.VVjZr7lViko and http://video.nationalgeographic.com/video/news/140711-droege-bees-vin?source=featuredvideo

Also, check out Droege’s amazing bee photographs from the USGS Bee Inventory and Monitoring Lab via this Flickr site: https://www.flickr.com/photos/usgsbiml/

Andrena ziziae

Andrena ziziae by Sam Droege

ARMN Member Mary McLean Wins Bill Thomas Award

mary-mclean-bill-ross-in-front-of-orchid-umbels-of-joe-pye

Mary McLean in Tuckahoe Park

The Arlington Regional Master Naturalists proudly announce that on April 21, 2015, ARMN member Mary McLean was named a recipient of the Bill Thomas Outstanding Park Service Volunteer Award for her work in 2014.

McLean is a steward at Tuckahoe Park in Arlington and her specialty is invasive plants. Since the early 2000s, she has enlisted the help of neighbors, volunteer and school groups, and many others to transform the park and educate them on how to spot a non-native plant species. As a result, Tuckahoe has benefitted from a significant decline in non-native, invasive species, restored health of the native trees, and the return of native shrubs and ground cover.

In addition, McLean has also conducted focused tours and presentations on Tuckahoe Park’s underground stream and other ecological wonders to help educate and motivate others to join in the beautification effort. She also has volunteered at and served professionally as the Outdoor Learning Coordinator at Tuckahoe Elementary School. In those roles, she has worked with teachers, volunteers, and students in Tuckahoe Park on restoring habitat, planting natives, controlling erosion, and learning the natural history of the park.

Continue reading

Virginia Master Naturalists Celebrate 10 Years

In the past 10 years, the Virginia Master Naturalist program, which includes the ARMN chapter, has trained more than 3,000 Master Naturalists who have contributed more than half a million volunteer hours. Read more about this amazing decade of stewardship, education, citizen science, and conservation.


BLACKSBURG, Va., April 9, 2015 – This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Virginia Master Naturalist program. In the decade since the national program started in the Commonwealth, the organization has trained several thousand Master Naturalists, who have contributed 526,583 hours of volunteer service — the equivalent of well over 250 years of full-time employment.

Master Naturalists have installed bluebird birdhouses, counted monarch butterflies, built forest trails, helped schoolchildren plant wildflowers, yanked invasive species from parklands, and much more. Their work, which provides education, outreach, and service to support Virginia’s natural resources and public lands, is calculated to be worth nearly $12.4 million to date, said Alycia Crall, program coordinator.

“Close to 3,500 Master Naturalists have been trained since the program began in Virginia,” Crall said. “Many of them are still active volunteers, donating at least 40 hours of work each year.”

On the average, each active volunteer reaches more than 70 youth and adults annually through educational programs or informal projects. Master Naturalists have contributed to more than 70 scientific studies, advancing knowledge about Virginia’s natural resources. Study subjects have ranged from frogs to American chestnuts to spring beauty flowers to osprey. Master Naturalists have cared for more than 2,500 acres of public lands by removing non-native species, maintaining trails, and planting native flowers.

The organization has grown from an initial 10 chapters to 29, each making a significant positive impact on Virginia’s natural resources. The Virginia Master Naturalist program is open to anyone who wants to learn more about nature. While participation is limited to those 18 or older (or at least 14 years old when accompanied by an adult), many chapters offer Junior Master Naturalist programs for younger children through 4-H clubs or schools.

Participants learn basic ecology and scientific principles as well as ornithology, geology, botany, zoology. They start out by completing 40 hours of basic training offered through a local chapter. An additional eight hours of advanced training are required each year.

“I like marking the seasons by seeing what’s happening out there,” said Brenda Graff, a master naturalist in Christiansburg. “I especially like collecting data that can help the environment.”

Virginia Master Naturalist Program is jointly sponsored by the Virginia Cooperative Extension and the Virginia departments of Conservation and Recreation, Environmental Quality, Forestry, and Game and Inland Fisheries, as well as the Virginia Museum of Natural History. The program is based in the Department of Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation in Virginia Tech’s College of Natural Resources and Environment.

The College of Natural Resources and Environment at Virginia Tech, which consistently ranks among the top three programs of its kind in the nation, advances the science of sustainability. Programs prepare the future generation of leaders to address the complex natural resources issues facing the planet. World-class faculty lead transformational research that complements the student learning experience and impacts citizens and communities across the globe on sustainability issues, especially as they pertain to water, climate, fisheries, wildlife, forestry, sustainable biomaterials, ecosystems, and geography. As a land-grant university, Virginia Tech serves the Commonwealth of Virginia in teaching, research, and Virginia Cooperative Extension.

Earth Month 2015: Ways to Show You Care

April is Earth Month, and events to commemorate Earth Day’s 45th anniversary are right around the corner! Here are a number of opportunities––open to all––to participate in cleanups, view gardens with native plants that beautify and support local wildlife, learn how to take care for the environment, and celebrate our home on Earth.

Spring Garden Tour in Arlington Forest, Sunday April 19, 12 – 4 pm

233 N. Galveston St., Arlington VA, and 210 N. Evergreen St., Arlington, VA. Visit two properties in the same neighborhood with different approaches to native-plant gardening. This event is sponsored by the Potowmack Chapter of the Virginia Native Plant Society and is free and open to the public. No reservations are necessary.

Alexandria Earth Day Celebration!, Saturday, April 25, 10 am – 2 pm

Ben Brenman Park, 4800 Brenman Park Drive [http://alexandriava.gov/EarthDay].This free event will include children’s activities, exhibits by community groups, food sales, tree sales, recycling, an Arbor Day tree planting, and a musical performance.

You can also show your concern for Mother Earth by participating in these volunteer opportunities::

Saturday, April 18, 2 – 4 pm, Madison Manor Park,

6225 12th Rd. N., Arlington, VA. Contact: Jo Allen, 703-474-2671, jo.allen@comcast.net.

Saturday, April 18, 10 am – 12 pm, Tuckahoe Park,

2400 N. Sycamore St., Arlington, VA. Contact: Mary McLean, 703-966-2047, marydmclean@verizon.net.

Sunday, April 19, 2 – 5 pm, Long Branch Park,

625 S. Carlin Springs Rd., Arlington, VA. Contact: Steve Young, 571-388-8508, frazmo@gmail.com.

Saturday, April 25, 10 am – 3 (Lunch included!), Arlington Mill/ Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing site along Four Mile Run, 909 S. Dinwiddie St. (on Columbia Pike), Arlington, VA. Contact: Patricia Findikoglu, 703-975-8292, patfin2@aol.com.

Saturday, April 25, 10 am – 12 pm, Benjamin Banneker Park,

6620 N. 18th St., Arlington, VA. Contact: Eric Sword, 571-338-8508, ericsword@gmail.com.

Sunday, April 26, 10 am – 12 pm, Ft. Bennett Park,

2220 N. Scott St., Arlington, VA. Contact: Mary McCutcheon, 703-217-8850, mmccutch@gmu.edu.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Time to Think About Spring Planting: This Year, Plant Natives!

by Kasha Helget, ARMN Communications Chair

220px-BeeBalm

Scarlet Bee Balm (Monarda didyma)

Why plant natives?

As described by the USDA, native plants are adapted to the local climate and soil conditions where they naturally occur. They also are critical sources of nectar, pollen, and seeds that provide food for native butterflies, insects, birds, and other animals.

Native plants are also advantageous, because they:

  • do not require fertilizers and require fewer pesticides than lawns.
  • need less water than lawns and help prevent erosion.
  • help reduce air pollution.
  • provide shelter and food for wildlife.
  • promote biodiversity and stewardship of our natural heritage.
  • are beautiful and increase scenic values!
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa)

How to know which plants are right for your yard

Take the guesswork out of choosing native plants for your yard. Whatever your goal and whatever your knowledge level, the Plant Nova Natives website (http://www.plantnovanatives.org/nova-native-plants.html ) is a perfect resource for our area. It includes picture-filled, easy-to-follow information that will help you choose native species that are suited to your property. The website includes a colorful guide to local native species, a list of local businesses that supply natives, and links to organizations that will come to your property and offer customized landscaping recommendations.

New England Aster Sympyotrichum novae-angliae

New England Aster (Sympyotrichum novae-angliae)

So, now that you have an idea of which plants you might want to install, where do you get them?

The best locations are at spring native plant sales all around the area. Wherever you live, there is likely to be a plant sale close by.

Saturday, March 28, 9:30 am – 2 pm, Friends of the National Arboretum Native Plant Sale, US National Arboretum, 3501 New York Ave., NE, Washington, DC http://www.fona/org/lahr-symposium/

Falls Church Native Plant Sale—order online now. Contact melanite@verizon.net for the plant list, which will be emailed with an order form to interested persons in April. The vendor is Sassasfras Farms, http://www.sassafrasfarmnatives.com/, a Virginia-based native wildflower grower. The plants may be picked up on Sunday, May 3 from 11 am – 1 pm at Cherry Hill Park http://www.fallschurchva.gov/Facilities/Facility/Details/Cherry-Hill-Park-4.

Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District’s Native Seedling Sale—now accepting online orders. http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/nvswcd/seedlingsale.htm#shrubs. Order by Monday, April 22, or until supplies run out. Orders may be picked up on Friday, May 1 from 9:00 am – 4:00 pm or Saturday, May 2, 9:00 am – noon.

Saturday, April 25, 9 am – 2 pm Northern Alexandria Native Plant Sale         (formerly, Parkfairfax Native Plant Sale), The new location is the Church of St. Clement, 1701 N. Quaker Lane, Alexandria, Virginia 22302, www.NorthernAlexandriaNativePlantSale.org.

Saturday, April 25, 1 – 4 pm (rain date: April 26, 1– 4 pm), Long Branch Native Plant Sale, Long Branch Nature Center, 625 S. Carlin Springs Road, Arlington, VA 22204. You can also order online at https://parks.arlingtonva.us/wp-content/uploads/sites/17/2015/01/Spring-2015-Order-Form.pdf.

Sunday, May 3, 10 am – 2 pm, Earth Sangha Open House and Plant Sale,         Earth Sangha Native Plant Nursery, Cloud Drive entrance to Franconia Park, Springfield, VA 22150. See http://www.earthsangha.org/wpn/wpn.html for plants and directions.

Wednesday, May 6, 10 am – 1 pm (and first Wednesday of each month through October, Virginia Native Plant Society-Potowmack Chapter. Native plant propagation beds behind the Horticulture Center at Green Spring Gardens are open for sales. 4603 Green Spring Road, Alexandria, VA 22312.

Saturday, May 9, 9 am – noon, Prince William Wildflower Society Native Plant Sale, Bethel Evangelical Lutheran Church, 8712 Plantation Lane, Manassas. 20110. (Contact: Nvehrs1@yahoo.com)

Saturday, May 16, 9 am – 3 pm, Green Spring Gardens Day. Includes VNPS-Potowmack propagation beds behind the Horticulture Center, and some native plant vendors mixed in with the non-native vendors, 4603 Green Spring Road, Alexandria, VA 22312.

Got CabIn Fever? Try the Invasives-Pull Cure!

Barcroft workgroup posed with ARMN banner

Photo by Jim Hurley

Does this grinding winter weather have you feeling cooped up and claustrophobic? Get out and get moving at one of March’s scheduled invasive pulls. Take out your frustrations on plants that don’t belong in our area’s lovely parks. Dress for the weather, wear rugged shoes or boots, and bring your own gloves and drinking water.

The public is welcome to join the efforts of ARMN members and others at any of these events. Those with a * occur regularly. If the weather is iffy, contact the listed organizer for event status.

*First Saturday HOG (Haley Park, Oakridge, Gunston) Pull, March 7

2400 S. Meade St., Arlington, 9 to 11 am                                                                             Contact Marti Klein: cummingslc@aol.com

Monticello Park Invasives Pull, March 7 & 8

320 Beverly Drive, Alexandria, 1 to 3 pm Saturday & 2 to 4 pm Sunday                             Contact Phil Klingelhofer:  phil.klingelhofer@gmail.com

*Second Sunday Gulf Branch Park Invasives Pull, March 8

3608 Military Rd., Arlington, 2 to 4:30 pm                                                                             Contact Jen Soles: jsoles@arlingtonva.us

*Third Saturday Tuckahoe Invasives Pull, March 21

6550 26th St. N., Arlington, 10 am to 12 pm                                                                       Meet at school parking lot.                                                                                                   Contact Mary McLean: marydmclean@verizon.net

*Third Saturday Madison Manor Park Invasives Pull, March 21

6625 12th Rd. N., Arlington, 2 to 4 pm                                                                                 Contact  Jo Allen: jo.allen.f2014@gmail.com

*Third Sunday Long Branch Park Invasives Pull, March 15

625 S. Carlin Springs Rd., Arlington, 2 to 5 pm                                                                     Contact Steve Young: frazmo@gmail.com

*Fourth Sunday Fort Bennett Park Invasives Pull, March 22

2200 N. Scott St., Arlington, 10 am to 12 pm                                                                       Contact Mary McCutcheon: mmccutcheon@gmu.edu

*Fourth Saturday Benjamin Banneker Park Invasives Pull, March 28

6620 18th St. N., Arlington, 10 am to 12 pm                                                                       Contact Eric Sword: ericsword@gmail.com

Powhatan Springs Park Invasives Pull, March 28

6020 Wilson Boulevard, 10 am to 12 pm                                                                          Contact Bill Browning: browningwh@gmail.com

Under the Ice

By Cliff Fairweather

Long Branch naturalist Cliff Fairweather reveals the secrets beneath the  surface of winter freeze.

 

 

image

Snapping Turtle under the ice at Poplar Pond, Long Branch NC (Photo by Cliff Fairweather)

In summer, the ponds at Long Branch and Gulf Branch Nature Centers are a lively places. Green Frogs and bullfrogs sit along the edge or float in the water. Turtles bask on logs and rocks. Northern Watersnakes lie in the sun or patrol the water for frogs to eat. Dragonflies and damselflies zip about in aerial duels or in pursuit of prey.  Green Herons silently stalk fish and frogs.

As fall advances and the weather turns colder, this activity slows and finally ceases, at least above the surface. Beneath the surface, though, the ponds are full of life, even when they are covered by ice. One of the many unusual properties of water is that it gets less dense and lighter as it approaches the freezing point.

Like most substances, water becomes denser and heavier as it gets colder. Water, however, does something odd––it starts to get less dense and lighter after it falls below 39o F (3.8o C). As a result, water colder than 39o F rises above the warmer water. At 32o F (0o C) water turns to ice, which floats on top of the slightly warmer water underneath.

If it didn’t, our ponds would freeze from the bottom up and probably remain mostly frozen all year round. Very little, if any, life could survive in that environment. This is especially important for animals that spend the winter underwater.

Bullfrogs and Green Frogs hibernate at the bottom of the ponds, breathing through their skin. Frogs usually lie on the bottom rather than dig into the oxygen-poor mud because they maintain a relatively high (though still pretty slow) metabolism during hibernation. If they burrowed into the mud, they couldn’t get enough oxygen to survive.

Painted, snapping, and other native aquatic turtles also breathe through their skin during hibernation, but maintain a much lower metabolism than frogs. Consequently, they need less oxygen and can afford to bury themselves in the mud.

In more northern latitudes, where ice can cover ponds and lakes for months and oxygen can be depleted, turtles have another trick up their shell. They can switch to anaerobic respiration, meaning respiration without oxygen.

However, this trick can result in a lethal buildup of acid in their bodies. To counter this, turtles can use buffering agents in their bodies, including the calcium in their shells and bones, to neutralize the acid. Turtles can survive for months this way with little or no oxygen!

Both frogs and turtles sometimes become active under the ice and can be seen moving slowly about. You might also get a glimpse of other winter-active pond life, including fish or aquatic insects such as Water Boatmen and Predaceous Diving Beetles. As cold as it is, the water under the ice is still warmer than the often subfreezing temperatures on land.