Getting Involved in the Arlington Regional Master Naturalists Program: Why Mentoring Benefits Both Mentor and Student

By Susan Berry

If you have ever thought you might want to get involved in the conservation and stewardship of our local natural resources, then the Arlington Regional Master Naturalist (ARMN) program is for you! ARMN conducts a 3 ½ month basic training course for new volunteers in ecology, botany, herpetology, ornithology, forest and aquatic ecosystems and more—and the next session is coming up soon!

To support new volunteers in the program as they become certified Virginia Master Naturalists, ARMN recently started a mentorship program by asking current members to help out. Susan Berry, one of ARMN’s first mentors, shares her experience:

Photo of ARMN member Susan Berry wearing a blue bandanna standing in front of the woods

Susan Berry. Photo courtesy Pablo Nuesch.

Current ARMN members were recently asked if they’d like to serve as mentors for new ARMN trainees and graduates. From my perspective, this is an activity that has primarily benefitted me, and not just my mentees, though I certainly hope they liked the idea too. I was in the Spring 2012 ARMN class, which has the distinction of always having the lowest turnout at any ARMN holiday party or chapter meeting. We had lots of folks in the class who were already planning to move out of the area at the time of graduation. Others seemed to follow shortly thereafter. So, the opportunity to make a connection with someone from another class really intrigued me, and I signed up to be a mentor. Then, I was fortunate to be matched up first with Colt Gregory, and later with Todd Minners.

Photo of ARMN Member Colt Gregory wearing a ball cap standing in front of a flowering tree with pink flowers

Colt is (among other things) an expert on birds, while I know little about them. Therefore, I was thrilled to use mentoring time to have Colt train me. He was kind enough to take me to Huntley Meadows Park in Alexandria for a personal lesson on how to use binoculars and how to look and listen for those delicate creatures that I have always found elusive. His knowledge and ability to communicate were evident on our outing. I also really enjoyed attending his graduation at the end of the ARMN basic training program, and later hearing his first ARMN presentation to the public on “Beginning Birding by Ear” at the Arlington Central Library.

Selfie photo of ARMN member Todd Minners wearing a ball cap standing next to a flowering plant

Coincidentally, my second mentee, Todd, and I signed up for the same volunteer event the week we were matched up as mentor and mentee. Once again, I knew I was the beneficiary. We had the good fortune to help Bobbi Farley, a naturalist at the Long Branch Nature Center, during the “Arlington Palooza” event where we spent several hours with kids of all ages petting the Long Branch animal pelts and marveling over the skulls of some of our local animals. Todd has lived around the world and was great at connecting with the diverse crowd, even in multiple languages. I usually consider myself to be outgoing, but Todd outdid me.

Recently, it occurred to me that Todd and Colt would have some ideas for engaging children at ARMN’s outreach events. Sometimes when ARMN has an information table at events attended by children, we find that if we can engage the children, we can usually also involve the adults, too. Todd and Colt are more comfortable than I am at engaging kids in activities. The three of us met at Long Branch and brainstormed on what would attract children to the ARMN display tables. We came up with several good ideas and I think that some of them will get us moving ahead in the future; a few might even make their way to this year’s Arlington County Fair!

Our new ARMN students have a great deal to share with us, and I was fortunate to learn a lot from Colt and Todd. So, here are two of my recommendations to current ARMN members who may be considering mentoring:

First, do it;

Second, let your mentee’s skills lead the way!

And for those of you desiring to make  a difference in your community, check out the ARMN website and apply for the next basic training course.  Applications for the next basic training session are due Aug. 1 with classes beginning on September 4.  You will find committed master naturalists and your very own mentor in the program!

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ARMN: Getting to Know Yolanda Villacampa

Photos courtesy of Yolanda Villacampa unless otherwise noted.

ARMN’s Membership Committee occasionally posts profiles of our members, including how they came to be master naturalists, which parts of nature they most enjoy, and how they affect their environment. This latest biography features ARMN Member Yolanda Villacampa, who graduated from our training class in Spring 2011. She’s made quite a contribution to science as a naturalist. Read the blog through to the “something unusual about yourself” section to see for yourself.

 If you know someone in ARMN with an interesting story to tell and think others might be interested, please contact Bill Browning (browningwh@gmail.com) or Alison Sheahan (ab.sheahan@verizon.net).

Photo of ARMN member Yolanda Villacampa next to the George Washington Survey Marker Monument.

Yolanda at Glencarlyn Park next to the George Washington Survey Marker Monument. Photo courtesy of Silvia Villacampa (2014).

Tell us about the ARMN projects you spend time on.

During my ARMN training class (Spring 2011), we had the opportunity to think about the type of volunteer projects we could choose from. Volunteering in Arlington County streams was a natural choice for me. Four Mile Run is practically right behind the house where I grew up in Arlington, VA. As a child, I had always enjoyed being near this stream, which is accessible via the backyard. I took walks with my mother and sister along the banks and biked along it with my father. I enjoyed looking inside the water to see the fish, snails, and rocks. So, I became a macroinvertebrate stream monitor under a program coordinated by the County’s Office of Sustainability and Environmental Management. As a macroinvertebrate volunteer, I can continue to check out what’s in the water and know that I’m looking at a black fly larva, isopod, left-handed lunged snail, or planarian.

Photo of a crayfish in a bowl at Barcroft Park

Crayfish at Barcroft Park in Four Mile Run during macroinvertebrate sampling in 2015.

I also have enjoyed documenting local wildlife by participating in wildlife mapping and citizen science projects. More recently, I have started using a newer way of observing wildlife with the iNaturalist app and have taken part in local bioblitzes. I can check out wildlife, photograph it, identify or find out what it is—whether it’s a dragonfly nymph or a great blue heron!

Photo of a Female Northern Mallard by water

Female Northern Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) documented during a bioblitz at the National Park Service, George Washington Memorial Parkway, Dyke Marsh Wildlife Preserve in 2017.

Other fun activities I’ve participated in include the cricket crawl in the summer, the frog/salamander patrol, bird outings, and outreach events.

How did you learn about ARMN?

I’m an Arlington County park naturalist on a part-time basis and heard about it at work. A fellow park naturalist at Long Branch Nature Center, Matt Neff, also an ARMN volunteer and animal keeper at the Smithsonian National Zoo, recommended ARMN. It sounded like a great way to keep learning about local nature!

What do you like most about ARMN?

The variety of volunteer opportunities for a wide area of interests in nature with terrific people taking part in it. It’s great to be outdoors and share information too!

Tell us something about your childhood/adulthood experiences that shaped your perspective on nature?

I grew up with woods and Four Mile Run stream behind my childhood home. I was fascinated by the wildlife passing through my backyard—a variety of birds, box turtles, opossums, caterpillars, walking sticks, praying mantids, and even the colorful box elder bugs.

Walks with my mom and sister near the stream towards Barcroft Park were a common ritual. Not too long after teaching us how to ride bikes, my dad would take my sister and me on biking excursions on the Four Mile Run and W&OD trails. A lot of my local vacations involved my father taking the family to state parks. We stayed in a cabin or went camping. I always remember the kind park ranger who that talked to me at Douthat State Park after a nature program.

At Claremont Elementary, we had a rabbit in school that roamed the classroom which I thought was the neatest thing. Pet rabbits were my favorite pets growing up.

When I was at Wakefield High School, I took an animal science class at the Career Center where I learned about and took care of classroom animals including snakes, a rabbit, ducks, and a chinchilla. I even had a summer job there taking care of the animals.

As a kid I have fond memories of my parents taking my sister and me to the National Zoo and the bus ride with my mom to Washington, DC to visit the Natural History Museum.

What is your background? 

During high school and college, I had seasonal jobs such as being a veterinary assistant and an outdoor job working as an Arlington County Park Ranger on bike. I have a bachelor’s degree in Biology from George Mason University in Fairfax, VA. After getting my degree, I started working a few hours at the Arlington County Nature Centers…and still do!

Photo of Four Mile Run Stream at Barcroft Park

Upstream view of the macroinvertebrate sampling section of Four Mile Run at Barcroft Park in 2016. Macroinvertebrate volunteers submit photographs of the sampling site, a required protocol for stream monitoring.

Currently in my full-time job as a Museum Specialist in Zoology, I work on invertebrates, such as mollusks, in the District of Columbia at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History—back to one of my childhood excursion locations!

Heritage-wise, my father was born in Spain and my mother in Ecuador, so I grew up speaking both Spanish and English. Thanks to my father, I’ve traveled to both countries and have enjoyed the adventures of traveling to various places. I’ve been able to put my Spanish-speaking and writing skills to use, whether helping Spanish-speaking visiting scientists and translating text at the Museum or conducting bilingual nature programs in Arlington.

Tell us something unusual about yourself.

I’m a District of Columbia/Arlington area native. At least it seems unusual to others when I mention it. As my mom likes to say, I was 18 months old when my family moved to Arlington from DC, where I was born.

A snail is named after me. In my first Museum Technician job after college, I helped with a research project to describe western US spring snails. Pyrgulopsis villacampae in Little Warm Springs, Nye County, Nevada is named after me.

ARMN Helps DC Area Place 5th Worldwide in City Nature Challenge

By Rosemary Jann

During the weekend of 27-30 April 2018, 180 ARMN members and other area residents answered the call to participate in the third annual City Nature Challenge. The Nature Challenge seeks to encourage interest in urban nature by having groups compete to record and identify the nature around them. It began in 2016 as a friendly competition between Los Angeles and San Francisco to see which area could document the most species and involve the most participants. It went national in 2017 and international in 2018, this year including 68 urban areas worldwide, including greater Washington, DC.

 ARMN members took part in 27 different CNC events held in more than 15 parks in Arlington, Alexandria, Falls Church, and Fairfax County during the weekend. As leaders

Photo of John and Josie Buchanan examining a salmander on a hike in Barcroft Park

Photo courtesy of Marion Jordan.

and assistants on various nature walks, ARMN members helped raise interest and educate other community members in nature observation, like John and Josie Buchanan, seen here examining a salamander they found on their ARMN-led hike in Barcroft Park.

 

Other events included a “birding by bike” tour on April 28 in which Lori Bowes and Phil

Photo of water snake swallowing a fish at Four Mile Run

Photo courtesy of Carol Mullen.

Klingelhofer led more than 10 people on a 22-mile route through Long Branch, Barcroft, Fort F. C. Smith, and other Arlington parks along the Potomac. Cyclist Carol Mullen snapped the accompanying photo of a water snake swallowing a fish at Four Mile Run.

 

ARMN Basic Training class members also contributed observations from their “herps

Photo 3

Copyright David Howell 2018.

and chirps” fieldtrip at Huntley Meadows on April 30th, including photos of a Hooded Merganser with ducklings.

All City Nature Challenge participants documented their observations on iNaturalist, a free app and website that allows individuals to easily upload, share, and identify species.

The results were impressive: we helped the DC Metro area come in 5th place world-wide for overall number of observations (22,866), 4th overall in number of observers (886), and 8th overall in number of species (1,850). 537 people helped make 38,968 species identifications for our area. This year Boston had thrown down a specific challenge to DC: we bested them in observations and species and came in one place behind them in total number of observers. Our area’s most frequently observed species were the Common Blue Violet for plants, the American Robin for birds, and the White-tailed Deer for mammals.

The City Nature Challenge celebrates and supports two vital functions of citizen science: it brings members of the community together to enhance their appreciation of nature, and it provides scientists with valuable data on biodiversity that can help guide the understanding and preservation of our natural resources. Thanks to all members of ARMN and the greater community who participated. Save the date for our next big citizen science project: the Arlington Bioblitz to be held on Saturday, September 15, 2018!

If September seems too far off to collect more environmental data, then look for our next blog piece on how iNaturalist can be used to map a whole variety of observations that can help us better understand our environment.

ARMN Member Joanne Hutton Receives Bill Thomas Outstanding Park Service Volunteer Award

(Based on article in Arlington County’s Environment webpage.) Photos courtesy of Bill Browning.

 On April 24, 2018, ARMN member, Joanne Hutton, was honored with a Bill Thomas Outstanding Park Service Volunteer Award for her volunteer work in Arlington last year. This award was established to pay tribute to lifelong parks volunteer Bill Thomas and to honor and encourage residents with passionate dedication and support for the county’s dynamic programs, natural resources, and public open spaces.

Joanne Hutton is one of ARMN’s super stars, and Arlington County has recognized her value to the natural world with this very special annual award. Joanne is also a member of the Master Gardeners of Northern Virginia and became an ARMN member upon retiring from Arlington County’s Parks Division, where for five years she, trained VCE Master Gardeners and oversaw the county’s Community Garden program.

Phot of ARMN member Joanne Hutton holding the 2017 Bill THomas Award

Joanne with her 2017 Bill Thomas Award.

Among her ARMN projects, Joanne worked with the Audubon Society of Northern Virginia to establish a native plant demonstration garden at Potomac Overlook Regional Park, and she continues to lead the ongoing maintenance of that garden. She helped form the Audubon at Home (AAH) Ambassadors program for Arlington and Alexandria. AAH volunteers visit individual homeowners to offer guidance on best environmental management practices and increased use of native plants to improve habitat in their yards. Joanne has also worked on the Steering Committee for the Plant NOVA Natives Campaign, helping edit its published guide, Native Plants for Northern Virginia, encouraging property owners to buy and plant locally native plants.

She trained in Arlington’s first Tree Steward class and in 2010, assisted in surveying trees on Arlington’s 256-acre Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall to help better manage its tree population. She also has been a community gardener at Arlington’s Barton Park Community Gardens since 1999, and served as Chief Gardener for three years, continuing on its steering committee. Her focus as a Master Gardener remains public and continuing education.

Joanne actively participates in citizen science projects, including Christmas bird counts, monitoring bluebird nest boxes at Fort C. F. Smith Park, and assisting the Virginia Breeding Bird Atlas to determine distribution and status of breeding bird populations. She participated in Arlington’s first BioBlitz in 2017, a 24-hour citizen science inventory of plants and wildlife.

Photo of ARMN Member Joanne Hutton with all the 2017 Bill Thomas award winners

All 2017 Bill Thomas Award winners with the Arlington County Board.

In her time with ARMN, she has brainstormed ways to attract new members and make them feel welcome, served as a mentor to new members, and created an overall sense of inclusion within the group. As Joanne’s neighbor and fellow ARMN member Bill Browning puts it, “Joanne is a literal force of nature by her knowledge of the natural world, her willingness to share this knowledge, and her desire to make members in the Arlington Regional Master Naturalists feel welcome and have a sense of camaraderie.”

Joanne serves a multigenerational cohort to ensure that Arlington residents have the skills and information they need to be good stewards to the environment. Her service has inspired and encouraged others to join the local community of active volunteers. The natural world in Arlington has a true ally in Joanne; the benefits of her volunteer work can be seen throughout the County.

Join the City Nature Challenge: April 27 to 30!

Join the City Nature Challenge Now!

Select from many local events on April 27–30 and sign up. For the list of local events and sign-up information, click: HERE

Banner image for City Nature Challenge 2018

By Louis Harrell, Caroline Haynes, and Phil Klingelhofer

What is the City Nature Challenge?

Mark your calendars for April 27-30 to participate in the City Nature Challenge. What started out as a friendly competition between Los Angeles and San Francisco in 2016 to document urban nature using iNaturalist, expanded to 15 cities in 2017, and is going global in 2018 with over 65 cities participating on five continents. ARMN is helping to organize participation in the City Nature Challenge DC, encompassing the entire DC metro area, including 14 counties in Virginia, 5 counties in Maryland, and Jefferson County in West Virginia.

ARMN members and others participated in the challenge last year and the DC area came in 7th behind Raleigh, N.C.  This year, Boston has challenged DC, and we’re hoping to improve our record.

Who can participate and where?

You, your friends, their friends, and families are all invited to become citizen scientists and participate in an observation event; all ages and levels of expertise are welcome!

Folks may participate anywhere in the metropolitan area.  Each group will have experienced leaders to show you what to do. The more eyes on the ground and up in the sky the better! Join the fun, and contribute to the collection of data, to see which metropolitan area (hopefully, OURS!) can engage the most participants, make the most observations and identify the most species.

How to learn more and sign up.

There are a lot of ways to get more information and join the challenge:

The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History will be hosting an event on Monday, April 30 at 6:30 pm with taxonomic experts to help ID the findings. For details and registration, click: http://go.si.edu/site/Calendar?id=102202&view=Detail&s_src=nmnh_er&s_subsrc=midmo_1803_text.

Images of the logos of sponsors of the City Nature Challege 2018

ARMN: Getting to Know Susan Berry

By Alison Sheahan and Susan Berry. Photos courtesy of Pablo Nuesch

ARMN’s Membership Committee posts occasional profiles of our members, including how they came to be master naturalists, which parts of nature they most enjoy, and how they affect their environment. This latest biography features ARMN Member Susan Berry, who graduated from our training class in Spring 2012. She is active in outreach and recently helped out as a mentor for the Fall 2017 class. If you know someone in ARMN with an interesting story and think others might be interested as well, please contact Alison Sheahan (ab.sheahan@verizon.net).

Tell us about the ARMN projects you spend time on.

My favorite projects involve interacting with the public. I love to talk with people and so I take my very limited knowledge of the natural world (almost exclusively learned from ARMN activities) and use it to participate in education and outreach at the Arlington County Fair, library events, native plant sales, community center presentations, MOM’s Organic Market store displays, and wherever else ARMN might have a table set up.

I also adore the annual Firefly Festival at Fort C.F. Smith Park. Mostly, that is a night when I talk with people about how to glue wings on their firefly necklaces and such, but it still involves interacting with people and occasionally discussing actual fireflies.

What brought you to ARMN?  How did you learn about ARMN?

A few years before I heard about ARMN, my husband and I bought some land in south Albemarle County. For those old enough to remember The Waltons TV show, our property is at “Walton’s Mountain” (actually Schuyler, Virginia).

Photo of ARMN Member Susan Berry's cabin

Susan’s cabin in Schuyler, VA.

After we bought the land, we started going to land-owner workshops sponsored by Virginia Tech. At one of them, the organizer asked that everyone who was a Master Naturalist raise their hands. All these hands went up. That was the first time I heard about the program. Then, we had a forester come out and walk our land with us, and I was overwhelmed by his knowledge and I really wanted to know more about the trees and other plants on our land. Later on, when I was looking for a volunteer activity to replace the pet therapy work I had been doing, I ran across a posting for the next ARMN class and I thought, maybe I could do that.

What has surprised you about ARMN?

I never thought that it would lead to my holding a snake at the County Fair while children petted it.

What do you like most about ARMN?

There are so many things I could choose, but one thing I love is the wonderful emails that show up in my box every day. I will never forget getting that first email asking for people to show up for Salamander Patrol. I thought, “Where else can you find a group of people who send emails like this?”  They know so much and are engaged in so many activities. Even though I cannot volunteer a lot of hours due to my work and other obligations, I feel connected with ARMN every day.

Tell us something about your childhood/adult experiences that shaped your perspective on nature.

I grew up in Williamsburg, Virginia. My mother was a guide for Colonial Williamsburg, and I worked there in the summers and on school holidays. My mother loved gardens and was trained to give special garden tours in Williamsburg. When I was in elementary school, I had to do a report for science class, and my mother suggested that it be on the various hollies found in Virginia. We drove all over and collected specimens together, and later I proudly presented my report, which included a detailed description of Ilex vomitoria (Yaupon holly). I know very few plants by their botanical names, but I’ll never forget that one.

What is your background?

I studied theatre as an undergrad at the University of Virginia and later got an M.A. in theatre from the University of South Carolina. I worked at various small professional theatres and community theatres and eventually figured out that I needed another line of work if I wanted to eat and pay the rent. After deciding that law was the closest thing I could get to theatre, I went to law school and have now been working in immigration law for about 20 years.  I met my husband in law school. He is the one who took most of the pictures that were featured in a backyard habitat display that we used for many years at different ARMN events.

Photo of an ARMN backyard habitat display

Susan’s backyard habitat display.

What would people find interesting about the non-ARMN part of your life.

I have been figuring out how to take what ARMN has taught me into other parts of my life. I am a ruling elder at Fairlington Presbyterian Church and have been helping the church make decisions about its property. That is particularly important now because we just sold a portion of our parking lot for an affordable housing project and there will be new landscaping going on throughout our property as we shift things around, so I would like to promote the use of native plants, wherever possible. I am also in the process of helping the church become an official Earth Care Congregation within the Presbytery. I have learned that one of the things most young people care about when they are looking for a church home is how the church acts in relationship with the earth.   So, I am working to focus some of the energy of our small congregation toward being more sustainable.

Tell us something unusual about yourself.

I don’t use a cell phone.

Is there anything else you would like to share?

It was because of all I have learned with ARMN that I was motivated to convert the front slope of the home my husband and I bought in Alexandria four years ago from a bank of English Ivy to a mostly native plant garden. I got my husband on board and we both hacked away at the ivy while simultaneously collecting plants from native plant sales to install. I also got a lot of golden ragwort from a weeding party at ARMN’s demonstration garden at Potomac Overlook Regional Park. Shortly after we finished the “conversion,” we got a letter from the City of Alexandria saying we were going to be given a beautification award. We thought it was a scam until we found out that there really is an Alexandria Beautification Commission and they really do drive around the city and select properties for awards. So, we ended up receiving our award from the mayor in a very nice ceremony in the fall of 2016. If it were not for ARMN, we certainly would not have been able to achieve this.

Photo of ARMN Member Susan Berry's front yard with native plants

Susan’s yard after removal of ivy and installation of mostly native plants.

Photo of ARMN Member Susan Berry with her Alexandria Beautification award.

Susan with her Alexandria Beautification award.

ARMN: Getting to Know Caroline Haynes

From time-to-time, ARMN’s Membership Committee posts profiles of our members including how they came to be master naturalists, which parts of nature they most enjoy, and how they have an impact on the environment around them. The latest biography is for ARMN’s founding member, Caroline Haynes, who established and graduated from our first training class in 2008. Alison Sheahan conducted the interview.

Photo of ARMN past president Caroline Haynes

Caroline Haynes

Tell us about the ARMN projects you spend time with.

I currently serve on the ARMN Board as a past-president, now with a purely advisory role. There is tremendous talent and enthusiasm on the ARMN Board. They are a terrific group of people—so smart and committed and fun to be with. I actually look forward to these meetings!  I enjoy the people that are drawn to ARMN, as they are so talented, and come from so many diverse backgrounds.

I’ve always enjoyed being able to sample a variety of volunteer activities: Earth Sangha (note: Caroline arrived at the interview lunch fresh from sorting seeds with Earth Sangha), Plant NOVA Natives, Audubon at Home, outreach and education events like the Arlington County Fair, presentations to community and school groups, biotic surveys like those with the National Park Service along the George Washington Parkway, invasive pulls, and restoration plantings. I also still review the applications for each new class of Master Naturalist trainees. I ran the first six ARMN training classes, so I appreciate the huge volunteer effort involved with the basic training classes and am still glad to contribute.

What brought you to ARMN in the first place?

Well, there was no ARMN until I talked to Alonso Abugattas, then the naturalist my kids and I knew at Arlington’s Long Branch Nature Center (LBNC)! Frustrated that Arlington County residents would not be allowed into a neighboring Master Naturalist program, we explored starting a chapter in Arlington. I chaired the coordinating committee back in 2007, and had lots of support from Alonso (now, the Arlington County Natural Resources Manager), Rachael Tolman, a naturalist at LBNC, other naturalists in Arlington, as well as Rod Simmons, Alexandria’s Natural Resource Manager and Plant Ecologist. It took us a year to get ARMN up and running, especially demonstrating that there would be enough demand for another program in such close proximity to the Fairfax Master Naturalist chapter. Alonso agreed to be one of our first instructors and I was actually part of the first training class in the fall of 2008, along with 24 others including current ARMN president Marion Jordan. I became president of the chapter then, and served in that role until December 2013.

My “local” journey toward finding and founding ARMN probably had most to do with our purchase of some property in West Virginia. The more time I spend in the woods, the more my curiosity is sparked by what I observe. I began taking classes in the Natural History Field Studies program at the Audubon Naturalist Society in Maryland. That is where I first heard about the Master Naturalist program forming in Virginia.

Tell us something about your childhood/adulthood experiences that shape your perspectives on nature and your work for ARMN.

Well, I grew up in Colorado! So hiking, camping, and being outside in beautiful places were always part of the deal. After earning a degree in International Finance/International Relations, I came to Washington to work in the Senate and then later as Deputy Assistant Secretary with the Treasury Department. I feel like it is my experience on the Hill that led me to see how important it is for people to “have a seat at the table” to get anything done.

I also met my husband on the Hill and we settled in Arlington, soon joined by our two daughters.

Is there anything else you’d like to share? It seems like you are always trying to get groups of people to put the naturalist perspective “on the table.”

Yes, I strongly encourage others to get engaged in their local advisory groups. ARMN doesn’t generally count this service for hours, unless it has a direct natural resources connection, but it is important to add that natural resources perspective. I currently serve as the Chair of the Arlington County Park and Recreation Commission, as a member of the Arlington Urban Forestry Commission, and as chair the Natural Resources Joint Advisory Group, which is charged with monitoring the implementation of the county’s Natural Resources Management Plan. I also serve on the Chesapeake Bay Ordinance Review Committee. We review plans by homeowners and developers when building in the resource protection area to ensure that mitigation measures comply with the Chesapeake Bay Ordinances. In addition, I am co-chair of the Plan for Our Places and Spaces advisory group, where we are working on an update of the public spaces element of the county’s Comprehensive Plan. I am also serving as co-vice chair of the Four Mile Run Valley Working Group.

Citizen action is important, now more than ever. Paying attention to plans before they gather the full weight of policy is critical if we are to develop a more environmentally-sensitive direction.

911 for Wildlife and How You Can Help!

Text and photos by Lisa Stern

Do you wonder what you should do when you find injured wildlife?  Read on to discover more about wildlife rehabilitation.

Ever wonder what you should do when you find an injured squirrel? Or a baby bird that has fallen from the nest? Or a turtle with a cracked shell? Or, how about a snake caught in garden webbing?

Virginia has two terrific resources that fill this vital need: the Wildlife Rescue League (WRL) and Licensed Wildlife Rehabilitators (WRs). They are on call practically 24/7 to help. It may look like an easy job; just scoop up that baby bird, or untangle the poor snake, but there are many species-specific laws and regulations governing the handling of wildlife, some training to become a volunteer with the League, and a lot of training and mentoring to become a Wildlife Rehabilitator (WR). Here is more information about each and how you can assist with wildlife rehab.

Wildlife Rescue League

The Wildlife Rescue League (WRL) is a nonprofit, all volunteer organization whose primary purposes are to operate a wildlife assistance hotline (providing the public with advice, resources, referrals to licensed rehabilitators), transport wildlife from shelters and vets to licensed rehabilitators, and educate the public on wildlife laws and how to exist with our wild neighbors, thereby preventing situations that lead to the need for wildlife rehabilitation.

The WRL volunteers field approximately 5,000 calls a year! That helpless baby bird found in the grass really may not need a human to scoop it up—it’s possibly learning to fly and the mom is nearby. Hotline volunteers help the caller determine that, in this case, intervention is not required. What about the snake?

Well, that’s a different story. If he’s cut in several places, lost scales, and is not well, he will need an intervention and transport to a licensed WR. In this case, the hotline volunteer will find a WR and arrange transport.

Photo of injured black rat snake by Lisa Stern

Black rat snake (Pantherophis obsoletus) with injuries from being caught in garden webbing.

 

Once an injured, orphaned, or abandoned animal is transported to a WR, it will be treated until it can be safely released.

Carolyn Wilder, Vice President of WRL, has a wealth of knowledge and experience on wildlife rescue. She got involved in the organization while transitioning out of a legal career with a trade association. She started as a transporter because of her love of animals and eventually became a hotline volunteer which she has been doing for 3 years. Because of her work in both areas, and creating relationships with WRs, Carolyn became involved on the board. She now spends her time coordinating and training transporters, offering group training for hotline volunteers, doing presentations for schools and groups, and working to make WRL function more efficiently.

Licensed Wildlife Rehabilitators

WRs are licensed by the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF). Becoming a wildlife rehabilitator requires a big commitment of time and energy, need for appropriate space, and a true love of wildlife. First, anyone interested in the program must take 6 hours of approved continuing education before even filling out the application to become an apprentice. Apprentices must have a sponsoring licensed WR who cares for the species they wish to rehabilitate, spend two years working under the supervision and guidance of their sponsor, and are generally limited to caring for uninjured, orphaned wildlife. In addition, since most rehabbers work out of their homes, apprentices must have a home inspection completed by the VGDIF to ensure that there is an adequate, quiet designated area for the care of wildlife. They also complete 6 hours of continuing education annually, may be required to have a rabies vaccine, and must maintain a full record of wildlife received.

Most WRs “specialize”—choosing a species and age range that fits their lifestyle and space. For example, pinky squirrels (newborns) need more feedings per day than juveniles. Baby bunnies need to be fed only twice a day. And, how much room do you have? Enough for baby ducklings needing bins of water to swim in and heat lamps?

After two years of wildlife care experience, the apprentice can begin to care for wildlife without a sponsor’s supervision, complete 6 hours of continuing education annually, work with a licensed veterinarian, have inspections of the holding facility, and get any required immunizations based on the wildlife cared for. Additional permits are required for WRs who desire to work with most birds, eagles, and threatened or endangered species.

Rachael Tolman, the Park Naturalist at Long Branch Nature Center in Arlington, has been a rehabber for many years and has been through the certification process several times since each state and country has different regulations and covered species. While a rehabber in Australia, Rachael worked with baby kangaroos! Here in Virginia, her focus is on turtles and snakes.

Photo of Rachel Tolman (Long Branch Park Naturalist) holding turtle, by Lisa Stern

Rachael Tolman holding Woodland box turtle (Terrapene carolina carolina) with a cracked shell.

 

Photo of injured woodland box turtle by Lisa Stern

Close-up of Woodland box turtle.

However, you won’t see any of the injured critters on display at Long Branch, since they are tucked away in quiet spaces to get the rest they need for recovery and eventual release.

Though time consuming to become a licensed WR and to nurse injured animals back to health, rehabbers like Rachael find a deep satisfaction in eventually being able to return wildlife to their natural habitat.

Would You Like to Volunteer to Help Wildlife?

If so, contact the Wildlife Rescue League for more information on answering the hotline (training provided), transporting wildlife, or assisting with other activities.

If you’re ready for a greater commitment to becoming an apprentice or licensed WR, there is additional information on WRL’s website on how to begin training for the program.

In either case, you’ll sure to be rewarded by helping our furry, scaled, and feathered friends return to their homes in the wild.

Falls Church Farmers Market, ARMN, and the Environment Team: Good for the Body and the Environment!

A dedicated group of members from ARMN and the Falls Church Environment Team have braved all types of weather over the past several years with their informational display at the Falls Church Farmer’s Market. ARMN members Kent Taylor and Toni Genberg have led the weekly effort on Saturday mornings, and change their messages throughout the course of the year.

Photos courtesy of Kent Taylor unless otherwise noted.

The Falls Church Farmers Market has been a go-to location for everything from Artisan cheeses to Zinnias since 1984. In addition to the edible goodies, plants, and specialty items, there are a number of information booths worth a visit, too. From October through April, ARMN manages its own booth and from May through September, it shares a booth with the Falls Church Environment Team. This booth includes representatives from the Fairfax Master Naturalists, Fairfax Master Gardeners, Falls Church Habitat Restoration, and Green Spring Master Gardeners, and also provides local green information from the Falls Church Environment Web.

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Falls Church Environment Team Booth and visitors.

There are so many topics we covered with visitors to our booths over the years—more than I could possibly recall. But, off the top of my head, we’ve been asked about:
acquiring native plants,
invasive control,
mosquito control,
trees,
mulch,
pruning,
composting,
bees,
monarch butterflies,
cat predation,
rain barrels,
wildlife habitat certification,
and volunteering.

And yes, we have answers, literature, and other resources to address all of these!

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Some of the many topics addressed at the Falls Church Environment Team Booth.

We’ve been asked to identify plants, parasites, insects, etc. (Can do!)

We’ve given away seeds, and trees.

We’ve helped with Eagle Scout projects, and solar campaigns.

We’ve also helped the City of Falls Church gain recognition as a Certified Community Wildlife Habitat community by the National Wildlife Federation.

ARMN has an ongoing Choking Hazards campaign that educates people about the strangling dangers of English Ivy on trees. Falls Church Environment Team member, Toni Genberg, simplified the Choking Hazard message with a simple question for market goers:  “Did you know? English Ivy will choke & kill any tree it climbs.”  The message surprised lots of visitors and started a conversation.

The Saturday before this past Halloween, Toni collected some English ivy and printed Halloween-ish signs, which were a good draw to visitors to the market. There were lots of questions on mulch and pruning. It was a good day!

I really have to give a lot of credit to Toni who is still fighting for the plants and animals around us, even on chilly days in the middle of winter. Two women were so inspired by our information that they said they were going to enroll in the next ARMN Basic Training. Someone else said they would stop using pesticides. And another person asked where they could pull invasives. These are baby steps, but baby steps can add up!

The Falls Church Farmers Market operates year around. The hours from January through March are 9 am–noon, and hours from April through December are 8 am–noon. Come to the Market and visit the ARMN booth in the colder months and the Environment Team in the summer. You’ll be sure to be inspired, too!

Spring Wonders in Potomac Overlook Regional Park

ARMN volunteer and Master Gardener Joanne Hutton reports on spring’s largesse in the native plant garden at Potomac Overlook Regional Park (with photos by the author unless otherwise indicated).

by Joanne Hutton

Spring rains yielded floral abundance this year, and the unfolding of spring at Potomac Overlook Regional Park’s Shady Native Plant Demo Garden was glorious—if you got there in between the showers. This is a space that ARMN maintains for public enjoyment and edification.

The PORP garden was the brainchild of, among others, Long Branch Nature Center naturalist Cliff Fairweather, and has enjoyed support and donations from the Audubon Society of Northern Virginia, Virginia Native Plant Society, Earth Sangha, Master Gardeners of Northern Virginia, and the Arlington Regional Master Naturalists. It is coming into its own in its fifth year, even as it is a work in progress. We’ve learned a lot about what the deer like to eat in a setting to which they were already habituated, especially geraniums, goldenrods, viburnums, ninebark, and some asters.

We have watched the lovely Woodland Stonecrop (Sedum ternatum) establish under a dogwood and twine with the Partridge Berry (Mitchella repens). The latter is a very quiet little groundcover, and I’ve discovered that, while it’s happier with the drainage a small slope offers, this year it bloomed happily the first week of June, despite the rainy conditions.

The Sweet Wake Robin (Trillium erectum var. vaseyi), also called the Stinking Benjamin, was also in bloom, although I confess I didn’t inhale it deeply. This plant is hardly “erectum,” which is why it’s treated as a separate species in some references, and is likely more common farther south. It has various medicinal (and also toxic) properties, and the freshly unfolding spring bracts are edible. To my mind they are too beautiful to consider harvesting.

Sweet Wake Robin (Trillium erectum var. vaseyi)

Sweet Wake Robin (Trillium erectum var. vaseyi)

(Trillium erectum)

Sweet Wake Robin, a.k.a. Stinking Benjamin

Deer do NOT browse on the Golden Ragwort (Packera aurea) that has spread to several beds and throws a golden haze over them in March and April. Similarly, deer avoid the native Wild Ginger (Asarum canadense) that’s created a rich green border under the Carolina Allspice (Calycanthus floridus). Another delightful groundcover, Green and Gold (Chrysogonum virginianum), has eluded predation. Like the Partridge Berry, it prefers decent drainage, especially during winter months. It’s a merry little plant that bloomed this year for nearly two months and is still going strong. Try it in your garden, if you haven’t already. Better yet, come to a work party (look for upcoming events on the ARMN Volunteer page) and we’ll dig you a piece!

Green and Gold (Chrysogonum  virginianum)

Green and Gold (Chrysogonum virginianum)

Ferns are only occasionally sampled by deer, and you can see at least eight different species in the demo garden. Some are delicate and others like the Cinnamon Fern (Osmundastrum cinnamomeum) are statuesque.

Photo 4 Cinnamon fern fertile spikes (Joanne Hutton)

Cinnamon Fern (Osmundastrum cinnamomeum) spikes

There are always things to see in the park. Some of them require a careful eye—to discover a recently emerged toad, uncover a baby box turtle not two inches long while weeding, or spot the source of warbler songs in the high canopy above.

American Toad (Anaxyrus americanus)

American Toad (Anaxyrus americanus)

Photo 6 Baby box turtle (Elizabeth Gearin)

Baby Eastern Box Turtle (Terrapene carolina) (photo courtesy of Elizabeth Gearin)

We are grateful for the support of the new park manager, Doranne Pittz. If you come to visit PORP, please introduce yourself to Doranne, who is new to Arlington. She has promised to install a sign to explain the garden’s purpose. And we are working on garden markers to highlight the valuable species that flourish in the shade and offer something for everyone—even the White-tailed Deer.