Approved Service Activities

From VMN volunteer policy handbook:

Volunteer service hours are those direct contact hours spent on Virginia Master Naturalist  projects that have been approved by their local chapter. Time spent on chapter leadership  positions, such as serving as a Board or Committee member, are also eligible for service hours  credit. Service may involve a series of short, unrelated volunteer experiences, a long-term  commitment to a single project or resource, or anything in-between. A VMN volunteer may earn  hours working independently or as part of a team, perhaps on a class project. VMN volunteer  hours can come in the form of outreach, such as educational or interpretive programming,  assistance to statewide sponsor or local partner programs and/or research, or simply manual labor  that benefits the local natural resources.Service hours are counted for projects that have first been approved by the  volunteer’s chapter. Travel time can be counted as part of the project hours, as can  project organizational time.

Virginia Master Naturalist trainees will vary in their abilities. Some will want volunteer  opportunities to be presented to them, while others will see a need and want to design their own  project. Virginia Master Naturalist trainees should be encouraged to design volunteer projects  that are interesting to them and that capitalize on their individual talents. Volunteer service must  be dedicated to the beneficial management of the natural resources and natural areas within their communities, and the service must be for public benefit, not personal gain. When designing new  projects, volunteers are encouraged to partner with other local organizations and/or state  sponsoring agencies, particularly for projects that involve a high amount of risk, such as projects  with youth. 

Volunteer Contribution Areas 

VMN volunteers should record chapter-approved service hours in the following areas:  

Education and Outreach Activities 

This area indicates activities or programs in which the VMN educates the public and/or  fellow VMNs. This can include interpretive programs at parks; presentations and  tabling/booths at fairs, markets, and other public events; and educational presentations to  identified audiences, such as garden clubs, school groups, or homeowner associations.  This area also includes training of other non-VMN volunteers or identified groups of  volunteers to assist VMNs in delivering a program. Educational efforts include the time  spent planning, organizing logistics of, implementing, and evaluating the program. If a  volunteer serves as an instructor for a VMN Basic Training course or a continuing  education opportunity, those service hours would count as Education and Outreach and  not Administration hours.  

t is important that those VMN members who are leading these kinds of activities gather  and report civil rights compliance “Contact” information. This information documents  the diversity of the members of the public with whom you shared educational  information. See more details on this under Contacts in the “Civil Rights Compliance”  section.  

Citizen Science Activities 

This area indicates service involving data collection, monitoring, biological inventories,  and other research-oriented activities. Examples include bird censuses, Wildlife  Mapping, and butterfly counts. The activities may be part of statewide projects or  projects specific to a local partner. 

Stewardship Activities 

This area indicates hands-on volunteer activities intended to improve habitat and other  natural resources, or, in some cases, to improve the ability of the public to access these  resources. These activities may include invasive plant removal, habitat restoration, and trail building/maintenance. As with other service projects, these activities must be for  public benefit, not personal gain, and must first be approved by the chapter. 

Chapter Administrative Time 

These hours include efforts spent on chapter organization, VMN volunteer development,  training and other management roles. These may include: leading general membership  meetings, planning and supervising VMN training classes (not teaching, which would  instead be reported as Education service hours); working on a chapter newsletter; communication efforts; and any other activities that maintain and support the  effectiveness of the chapter and the statewide program.  

Chapter administrative time does not include time spent on management activities  associated with chapter-approved projects. Those hours would instead be reported as  Volunteer Service hours for the project to which they are related. 

Local chapters may limit the number of Administrative volunteer hours credited to the  individual’s annual volunteer requirement, but keep in mind that serving in a leadership  role is a significant time commitment that will likely result in more than 40 hours of  volunteer time in a year. If a chapter does decide to have a limitation, they should  indicate these limitations in their Bylaws. Like all other hours, these are added to the  member’s accumulative ‘lifetime’ hours. 

More on Counting Volunteer Service Hours 

Time spent in the preparation and management of an approved project can be counted as  Volunteer Service hours. Where training is a requirement for the volunteer to be able to assist  with an approved project, the member can report those specific training hours as either Volunteer  Service or Continuing Education hours. For instance, if a Butterfly Identification class is  required for those helping with a survey, that class can be counted as volunteer service hours for  that approved project, provided that the volunteer did indeed help with the survey. In addition,  VMN volunteers may count time spent on travel to conduct chapter-approved volunteer service  towards the certification requirements and milestone achievements. Volunteers are strongly  encouraged to choose service opportunities close to their communities, rather than choosing  projects that have very high travel time compared to the actual service time. Volunteers should  log travel time as part of the project on which they were working. 

Process for Chapter Approval of Service Projects 

If volunteers want to contribute their time to a natural resource cause that has not yet  been approved and added to their chapter’s list of projects, they can request the approval of this  project prior to the accumulation of VMN hours for it. The volunteers will need to fill out and submit a Project Proposal form to their chapter’s Project Committee or BOD for consideration.  This form can be found on the VMN website (see “Resources”, Appendix I.) Be sure to first  check your chapter’s existing projects as the proposed project activities may fit into one of these.  For example, if you want to help pull invasive species at a particular county park, your chapter  may already have a project that includes a variety of stewardship activities, including pulling  invasive plants, in all of the county parks. Alternatively, there may be an existing project that  could be broadened to include new activities, rather than adding an entirely new project.

provided that the projects meet the VMN program guidelines for volunteer service. 

Other Volunteer Service Guidelines 

Master Naturalist Volunteer Projects with Private Organizations and Landowners Not all projects must be done on public lands or with public organizations. Projects with  private not-for-profit organizations that have natural resource or environmental education  missions are acceptable. Examples include 4-H Centers, land conservancies, and nature centers. Stewardship projects on other private lands (such as individual landowners’ properties)  are generally not appropriate for VMN service. In some situations, they may be approved.  Some of the things to consider for approval include: state sponsor involvement, public  accessibility, a clear public benefit that outweighs any financial gain to the landowner, free or  affordable entrance to the public, opportunities to tie stewardship to education, and benefit to  natural resources in the broader locality. Chapters should evaluate proposed projects to ensure  they are not simply performing free landscape work on private lands. 

If VMN chapters are offering educational programs for individuals or private  organizations such as private schools, they must ensure that these programs are also available to  other individuals and organizations in the community to avoid discrimination of any kind, in  accordance with the Civil Rights policies of VT/VCE (see “Civil Rights Compliance” section.) 

Wearing “Multiple Hats” 

Much of the time, Virginia Master Naturalist volunteers are volunteering with state  agencies and other organizations. As a result, they may wear multiple “hats” for the same  project. For example, a Virginia Master Naturalist volunteering for Virginia State Parks is both a  DCR volunteer and a Virginia Master Naturalist volunteer. Virginia Master Naturalist  volunteers should follow any volunteer guidelines of the organization for which they are  volunteering. These may include a separate application, additional training, and additional  reporting of volunteer hours. It is fine if both the organization and the Virginia Master Naturalist  program or chapter recognize and count those volunteer hours. The one exception is VCE-run  volunteer programs (such as Master Gardeners) in which there is a required level of service.  Virginia Master Naturalist volunteers who are also volunteers in one of these programs should  choose which “hat” to wear for any reported volunteer hours. 

Administrative Time for Other Organizations 

Virginia Master Naturalists frequently hold leadership roles in other natural resource  organizations. Volunteer service for these organizations may count towards certification if it is on an approved project that benefits natural resources. However, administrative time that is not  project-oriented (e.g., board meetings, member recruitment, fundraising) is generally not  appropriate for certification hours when it is with an outside organization. For example, if a  volunteer is a member of the Board of their local chapter of the Virginia Native Plant Society,  that volunteer may count volunteer hours putting on a public education program pertaining to  Virginia flora. However, the volunteer may not count the time spent on general Board activities  or planning fundraisers for the other organization. 

Volunteer service must be performed in Virginia in order to count towards VMN  certification hours. There may be opportunities for regional projects that cross state borders;  however, chapters may evaluate those on a case-by-case basis.

The following activities have been approved for ARMN service hours. Please report hours served in Better Impact.

Chapter Support
ARMN Board and Chapter Meetings, Committee Support and General Admin Work
Basic Training – Management and Support
Diversity and inclusion Team (VMN state program office)
Continuing Education
VMN Continuing Education (any CE event)
Education – General Public
ARMN Website, Blog, Facebook and Flicker – Content and Editing
Audubon at Home
– Alexandria
– Arlington County
– Eco Significant Private Property
– Fairfax County
– Falls Church
– NOVA Parks
– Other Virginia
Displays and tables at public events
– Same jurisdiction choice
Native plant demonstration garden – Arlington Central Library
Native plant demonstration garden – Buddie Ford Nature Center
Native plant demonstration garden – Potomac Overlook
Nature Core Outdoors Project
– jurisdiction
Nature Forward (formerly Audubon Naturalist Society) – Outreach
Nature Walks
– jurisdiction
Neighborhood Traffic Circles as Native-Plant Demonstration Gardens
– jurisdiction
Presentations, Workshops, Signage, Materials
– jurisdiction
Service on Nature-related Commissions
– jurisdiction
Education – Youth (other than nature centers)
4-H Programs
Partner Youth Programs
School educational programs
School Gardens
Nature Center Programs
Care for Nature Center Gardens, Facilities, and Programs not related to education
Education projects – Adults and family groups
Youth Education Programs (at a Nature Center)
Stewardship – Habitat Restoration
Adopt a Park
Habitat Restoration – Alexandria Parks
Habitat Restoration – Arlington Parks
– Alcova Heights & Doctors Branch
– Barcroft Park
– Benjamin Banneker Park
– Bon Air Park Powerline Meadow
– Brandymore Castle at Madison Manor Park
– Cherry Valley Nature Area and Park
– Donaldson Run Park
– Douglas Park
– Fort Bennett Park
– Fort Scott Park
– Four Mile Run Park
– Glencarlyn Park & Long Branch Nature Cenet
– Gulf Branch Park
– Haley Park, Oakridge & Gunston Woods
– Lacey Woods Park
– Long Bridge Park
– Lubber Run Park
– Mary Carlin Woods
– Powhatan Springs Park
– Sharp Park
– Tuckahoe Park
– Windy Run Park
– Woodlawn Park
– Zachary Taylor Park
– Other
Habitat Restoration – Ecologically Significant Property
Habitat Restoration – Fairfax County Parks
– Clermont & Loftridge Parks
– Lake Fairfax
– Luna Park
– Marie Butler Leven Preserve
– McCalley Park
– Pimmet Run
– Other
Habitat Restoration – Falls Church Parks
– Crossman Park
– Herman Park
– Other
Habitat Restoration – National Park Service (NPS)
– George Washington Memorial Parkway
– Potomac Heritage Trail
– Roosevelt Island
Habitat Restoration – Nature Conservancy
Habitat Restoration – NOVA Parks
– Potomac Overlook Park
– Upton Hills Park
– W&OD trail
– Other
Native Plant Nursery Support
– Arlington County nursery
– Earth Sangha
– VNPS propagation beds (Green Spring)
Other Stewardship Activities
Park Stewards Program Support – for designated Park Stewards only
Stewardship – Other
Stream Cleanup
Tree Distribution Program
VA Bluebird Nest Monitoring
– jurisdication
Wildlife Rehabilitation
Surveys, Inventories and Studies (Citizen Science)
Breeding Bird Survey – Virginia
Ecosystem Monitoring in the Potomac Gorge
NASA Ozone Bioindicator Garden
Other Flora and Fauna Surveys and Studies
– jurisdiction and park within that jurisdiction
Phenology Monitoring
Research and Data Compilation
Stream Water Monitoring