Over 100 individuals gathered on Theodore Roosevelt Island to participate in a Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service on January 20th. Despite the chilly 24 degrees, it was an otherwise sunny day, and enthusiastic volunteers warmed to the task of cutting non-native invasive plants that have overrun many parts of the island.
The MLK Day of Service event was organized by ARMN member Jenny Wiedower, who partnered with the National Park Service (which oversees the park) and Friends of Teddy Roosevelt Island who help NPS preserve and protect this unique memorial. A team of ARMN volunteers helped the participants distinguish between native and exotic invasive plants and how to cut the invasives without harming the natives.
The volunteers represented various ages and backgrounds from across the region who honored Dr. King by helping to restore native habitat on the island.
During the two-hour service event, the individuals:
collectively logged 224 hours from the 112 volunteers
cut English ivy from at least 97 mature trees
snipped 400 square feet of wine berry (roughly the size of a two-car garage)
chopped down 43 honeysuckle bushes
cut Japanese (vining) honeysuckle from 33 trees
Dr. King and Theodore Roosevelt would surely be proud!
Paul Gibson has been a stalwart volunteer ever since joining the ARMN program in Spring 2013, especially in the areas of citizen science. I was able to interview him online and then finally got to meet him at the ARMN Annual Chapter meeting in December 2019. Here are some fascinating things I learned about Paul.
What are your favorite ARMN volunteer projects?
I really enjoy a variety of projects. I have been doing stream water quality monitoring since shortly after I became a Master Naturalist. I recently became a Master Identifier so I’m looking forward to taking my turn at identifying the critters that we find in the streams next year.
I find it fascinating to see the variety of macroinvertebrates that are in our streams, their variation by stream, and what that says about water quality in different parts of Arlington county. It’s also rewarding to talk with members of the public who pass by when we are out monitoring. Everyone is so curious about what we are doing and when they find out, they want to know more about water quality. I think that the public education that we do is a very important part of our role as master naturalists.
I also monitor bluebird nest boxes at Taylor Elementary School. This project provides a clear view of the perils and successes experienced by our feathered friends. It’s been heartwarming to see bluebirds, chickadees, and tree swallows go from nest-building to egg laying to hatching to raising chicks to fledging but there have also been stark examples of nest predation on eggs or chicks. For better or worse, it’s a front-row seat to the circle of life.
Another citizen science project in which I have participated for a number of years is the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s Grasses for the Masses program. Members of the public propagate native underwater grass seeds in a grow-out system in their homes, schools, or businesses over the winter and then gather to plant the grasses in area rivers to bolster grass populations and help restore the Bay.
What has surprised you most about ARMN?
The speed at which the organization is growing. It is gratifying to see the numbers of new ARMN members who graduate out of the Basic Training program every year.
What do you like most about ARMN?
There is such a wide range of volunteer activities available that there’s really no reason not to participate. With my schedule, it’s hard to get to a lot of organized events but I can also participate at times of my choosing, depending on the project. Monitoring the bluebird boxes, for example, doesn’t need a rigid schedule, so I can fit in two or three visits a week during nesting season in a way that works for me. But there are also a lot of scheduled events to build in, which is great because it’s also nice to participate in projects with other ARMN members.
Tell us something about your life experience that has shaped your perspective on nature.
I grew up in Wisconsin, two blocks from Lake Michigan, and visited Lake Superior every summer when I was young. So, I was exposed to the variety of fish and birds in those areas at an early age. In northern Wisconsin, I remember marveling at the wild shorelines but also learning about the hazards of taconite discharges into Lake Superior from the iron mining range in Minnesota. These experiences taught me that nature and biodiversity were all around us but so were the threats to it introduced by humans.
What is your background?
Growing up in the upper Midwest, I was aware of and, in a way, just took for granted, that we lived among the remnants of age-old geologic forces. It wasn’t until I moved east for graduate school that I realized how unique that area is. (I received my undergraduate degree from the University of Wisconsin, Madison in Political Science and I have a Master’s in Information Management from Syracuse University.) As I settled into the DC area, those experiences gave me the background to appreciate the rich biodiversity and geology of the Potomac River Valley and the Chesapeake Bay. Besides the ARMN programs, I have learned so much from courses in the Natural History Field Studies certificate program of the Audubon Naturalist Society.
What would people find interesting about the non-ARMN parts of your life?
I train our dogs in the canine sport of “nosework.” It’s analogous to what law enforcement detection dogs do except it’s a sport for pets. Instead of looking for illegal substances, we look for target odors in organized competitions. But the skills of the dog and handler are the same. Along those lines, there are growing numbers of detector dogs that search for invasive species. So, one of my goals is to train our dogs to find invasive plants or insects, which is increasingly being done. It would be a natural intersection of two of my interests and hopefully be beneficial to conservation.
Tell us something unusual about yourself.
I have two wildlife cameras in our back yard. I am always amazed at the visitors we have. I’ve captured pictures of foxes, raccoons, deer, flying squirrels, and even a hummingbird that tried to pollinate the lens. But I’m still waiting for Wile E. Coyote to show up!
Text by Kristin Bartschi and photos by George Sutherland
On a sunny Saturday morning on September 21st, EcoAction Arlington hosted a stream clean-up in Barcroft Park as part of the International Coastal Clean-up. The International Coastal Clean-up (ICC) is part of the Ocean Conservancy’s Trash Free Seas program. Every September, over 100 countries take part in the ICC, making it one of the largest efforts to rid the ocean of trash. In 2018, 1 million people collected 23 million pounds of trash from rivers, streams, and beaches around the world.
That morning, George and I joined EcoAction Arlington and our local community to help clean-up trash along Four Mile Run stream. Four Mile Run flows through Barcroft Park and into the Potomac River. The Potomac runs into the Chesapeake Bay and, ultimately, the Atlantic Ocean.
Volunteers of all ages attended the event, including families, couples, and a corporate group. We found lots of trash along the riverbanks and a few volunteers even ventured into the water—luckily, it was warm! In total, we collected 40 bags of trash and 12 bags of recyclables. Interesting finds included an umbrella, traffic cone, toilet seat, engine block, and various pieces of wiring, wood, and metal.
There is something for everyone at the ICC. For example, if picking up trash isn’t for you, ICC volunteers can document the trash found during a clean-up. This data delivers a snapshot of trash found at different sites around the world, which provides key insights for researchers and policy makers.
Even if you missed this year’s International Coastal Clean-up, there are lots of ways you can help protect your local waterways. Research “clean-ups” hosted by local non-profits, community groups, and/or your city or county. You’ll be surprised about how many there are once you do some digging. If you have a special area near you that needs some attention, reach out to your local environmental government/community groups about hosting your own clean-up!
There are also several steps you can take every day to reduce the amount of trash that ends up in our oceans and waterways. Properly disposing of all trash and recycling helps to ensure that it doesn’t end up polluting our environment. Better yet, look for ways to reduce your trash altogether! There are tons of simple swaps you can make to reduce waste that ends up in landfills or in our natural world. For instance…
Swap plastic water bottles for
a reusable one.
Use a reusable cup for your
morning cup of coffee—most coffee shops will even give you a small discount for
Bring reusable bags to the
grocery store instead of using paper or plastic bags.
And this is just the tip of the
Trash clean-ups like the ICC always remind me of how collective impacts can change our world for the better. Picking up a piece of trash, or saying “no” to a plastic bag, may seem insignificant when done by one person. But, when millions of people come together to improve the world we live in, we can make a big impact.
There is a not-so-secret maxim among gardeners that autumn can be the best time to install new plants! The soil is well warmed, but the air is cooler, which provides less stress for transplants. And the native plant sellers are ready to provide you with the best choices of the season. The plants should become established well enough before winter, and by next spring will be ready to do their provide benefits to the critters that depend on them AND add wonderful beauty to your garden to boot! So, please consider a few—or several—native plants to brighten your yard, patio or deck. The native wildlife will appreciate it.
Why Choose Native Plants?
Because they’re “from here,” natives are adapted to our climate and soil conditions. They are often the only or most healthful source of nectar, pollen, seeds, and leaves for local butterflies, insects, birds, and other animals. They also:
require little or no fertilizers and few if any pesticides,
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,
and are beautiful and increase landscape values!
How to Choose the Right Natives for Your Yard or Pots
It’s important to install the right plants for your
conditions (wet, dry, shade, sun, slope, bog, soil type, etc.). One of the best
sources to answer these questions is the Plant Nova Natives website: http://www.plantnovanatives.org/,
with easy-to-follow tips, lots of photos, and additional links to learn what
will work for your situation.
List of Fall Plant Sales Where Can You Buy Natives
Most commercial nurseries do not carry many native plants. If your favorite place has a weak selection of natives, ask them to stock more! In the coming weeks, however, plan to visit the increasing number of native plant sales in the area (many of which provide food, entertainment, and fun for kids, too). Below is information on several in Northern Virginia. Happy shopping and planting!
VNPS First Wednesday of the Month Native Plant Sale
10am to 1pm
Green Spring Gardens
4603 Green Spring Road, Alexandria VA
The VNPS native plant sale takes place behind the Horticulture Center
Text by Kristin
Bartschi and photos by George Sutherland
Recent ARMN Basic Training
graduates Kristin Bartschi and George Sutherland joined in a very satisfying
service activity on the Potomac River. Kristin’s observations demonstrate how they
could get wet and dirty and provide a valuable service at the same time.
I love more than finding new and exciting ways to get outdoors. A few weeks
ago, my husband, George, and I heard about a kayak cleanup run by EcoAction Arlington. Volunteers
would kayak around the Potomac and fish trash out of the water. What an awesome
way to get outside and clean our local river at the same time!
According to the
Commission on the Potomac River Basin, the Potomac
provides about 486 million gallons of drinking water every day to people in the
DC metro area. The health of the river has improved drastically in the last few
years, but polluted runoff, deforestation, and attacks on water protections
threaten to reverse that progress.
Our local storm
drains carry rain and other drainage away from streets and into local
waterways. This means that anything that washes down a storm drain enters our rivers
and streams, and eventually is water we will end up drinking! Keeping our
waterways clean helps us all—plants, animals, and people too.
Saturday in July, we arrived at the Washington Sailing Marina in Alexandria at
8:00 a.m. Over 40 volunteers were there. After a brief presentation by
EcoAction Arlington and a safety demonstration from the Washington Sailing
Marina staff, we were ready to get into our kayaks and clean up some
It was a
beautiful, sunny day to be paddling around the Potomac. George and I kayaked
deep into the Four Mile Run tributary. The water glistened with a film of
pollution as we collected plastic bottles, candy wrappers, and beer cans from
We waved to a
group of fisherman casting lines beneath an overpass and were cheered on by a
friendly cyclist, urging us to, “Keep up the good work!”
When we paddled
back towards the marina, we noticed a commotion along the mud flats. We pulled
up to investigate and see if we could help. A group of volunteers had found an
old mattress onshore and were busy cutting it into pieces with a box-cutter so
that it could be divided onto the kayaks returning to the marina. We each took
our share and headed back in with our bags of trash in tow.
With the help of
the kind folks at the marina, we clambered onto the dock and hauled our trash
onshore. We were sweaty, muddy, and tired, but together our group had pulled 85
bags of trash from the Potomac!
On April 25, 2019, ARMN member, Bill Browning, was honored with the
2018 Bill Thomas Outstanding Park Service Volunteer Award for his volunteer
work for the parks in Arlington. 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. Details regarding the award are on Arlington
County’s Environment webpage. Below, Bill recounts his and others’ efforts to change a
neglected park into a haven for birds, plants, and people. He realizes that he
could not have won this award alone.
Nearly six years ago, I was inspired to bring Powhatan
Springs Park back from abandonment. Powhatan
Springs is a small park next to a heavily-used Arlington County skate park and
county soccer field. The natural area contains a small stream and several
native trees and plant communities that had been neglected for decades and had become
overrun with invasive plants and trash.
Near the end of my graduation from the ARMN Basic Training course in the Fall of 2013, Jim Hurley (a Spring 2009 ARMN graduate) took me and my fellow class member, Matt Parker, to see the site. Jim thought that a little bit of effort by us could make a huge difference for the wildlife in the park. Simply killing the ivy and euonymus that was choking the trees could open up the site to many bird species, Jim thought. So, Matt and I began removing the invasive plants from the park during the early part of 2014.
We used Earth Day 2014 to recruit community members to help.
From 2014–2017, there were three or four invasive and trash removal events each
year, and as we saw progress, the momentum started to build.
Our ARMN classmates from Fall 2013 also joined in. Alison Sheahan dove into the thickets of
multiflora rose and tackled getting them under control. More recently, Mary
Martha Churchman and Marian Flynn have made their own contributions in fighting
invasives on a regular basis. As Matt had to deal with other commitments, I was
fortunate enough to recruit other Master Naturalists to help. Among them were
Mary Frase (from the neighboring Fairfax Master Naturalist chapter), who has
become a de facto co-leader in the park. Mary has been instrumental in helping
volunteers distinguish invasives from native plants. When she’s not been
around, Beth Kiser (Spring 2010) and Joanne Hutton (Fall 2009) weigh in by
examining photos of plants that I send to them.
The park has also benefitted from other ARMN members regarding
the citizen science aspect of ARMN’s mission. Glenn Tobin (Fall 2016) used Powhatan
Springs to start building GIS databases of the parks where ARMN members work.
He, Emily Ferguson (Fall 2010), and I completed a tree inventory for the park,
which will help with monitoring and planning for ongoing rehabilitation
efforts. Colt Gregory (Fall 2017) has started conducting bird surveys in the
park. Just this spring, he has identified 28 different bird species in the
park; and David Howell (Spring 2018) recently captured a pretty cool photo of
one of them.
Louis Harrell (Spring 2015) and Phil Klingelhofer (Fall
2014) have helped put Powhatan Springs on the City Nature Challenge map. There
have been more than a dozen ARMN members who have participated in CNC in
Powhatan Springs over the last couple years.
Arlington County officials have also supported ARMN’s
efforts. Natural Resource Technician Scott Graham (Fall 2014) and Natural
Resources Manager Alonso Abugattas have provided native plants from Arlington’s
nursery. Scott also applied herbicide to bring the Japanese stilt grass under
control, and he has helped install cages to protect them from deer browse.
Natural Resources Specialist Sarah Archer (Fall 2013) helped
with the first Earth Day clean-up and has arranged for commercial support for
invasives control. Park Manager Lyndell Core (Spring 2014) and his team have
been instrumental in hauling away our trash and supporting a major planting
that will happen this fall. A neighbor, Sandra Spear, is donating about 200
native plants for installation in the park, which she will purchase from Earth Sangha from a list provided by Matt
Bright (Fall 2015).
There are a few lessons that I
have taken from the work in Powhatan Springs:
First, I have realized the power of my persistence and calm
I began working in the Powhatan Springs park in January
2014. We started slow and have built up steam over the last couple years. As of
now, people can reliably assume we’ll be having about one activity per month
Also, I’m a reasonably nice guy to work
with. [Editor’s note: “He is!”]
Most of the 70+ volunteers I’ve come in contact with feel
good (I believe) about what they accomplished and what I asked them to do.
I make it a point to read the volunteers’ faces, recognize
the difficulty of some of the work, and steer them towards something that
appears doable and that will give the volunteers a sense of accomplishment. I
take pride in having a wide range of groups (Boulevard Manor neighborhood
residents (thanks to Josh Handler), skateboarders from the skatepark, 4H groups
(thanks to Liz Allan (Fall 2016) and Elizabeth Gearin (Fall 2009)), and scout
troops (thanks to Fran O’Reilly and Jack Person (Spring 2017), all contributing
to the park’s renewal.
Finally, on a personal note, I’d like to say that I started this
project with modest objectives to open Powhatan Springs up for the birds. I do
not live near the park and I did not think it would be a long-term venture. But
I wanted a project to sink my teeth into after I graduated from ARMN. It has
become much more than that for me. I now realize the power of creating habitat,
no matter how small it might be. Thanks to a diverse group of volunteers, this
park is now becoming a real natural area. It has been very gratifying to watch this
park improve in habitat value. Last fall we saw a Barred Owl hunting in the
park which is just another reassuring sign that the park is recovering its
value as a natural habitat. Also, during the award presentation ceremony, I appreciated
when ARMN President Marion Jordan congratulatd me and all the other volunteers
for our work at Powhatan Park: “We are so fortunate to have these parks in our
urban areas and the restoration work at Powhatan shows that even a small area
can be restored as an important part of our natural resources. Congratulations to Bill and to all who contributed
to this important work at Powhatan Springs.”
Text and photos by Gigi Charters,
unless otherwise noted
Last month, I had the opportunity to listen to USGS Wildlife
Researcher, Sam Droege, and Arlington County Parks and Recreation Natural
Resource Manager, Alonso Abugattas, in the exciting event, “Morph Your Yard
into a Bee Grocery Store—Not a Bee Fast Food Joint! Building Homes and Habitat
for Native Bees and Pollinators,” sponsored by ARMN and the Master Gardeners of
Sam and Alonso discussed the significance of wild bee
populations and two important ways that we can help our local bees thrive:
provide pollen sources and nesting structures.
To begin, Sam briefed the audience about the apparent
over-reliance on honey bee populations, and how we may be driving out another
critical lifeline in the event of ecosystem collapse––the overlooked, super
pollinating, native bees.
“Wild bees are not like honey bees,” Sam emphasized. In
fact, I learned that there are around 4,000 species of native bees in North
America alone, and they have been playing a critical role in sustaining
ecosystems and natural resources for millions of years. The majority are
solitary, can be as small as a grain of rice, and do not sting people (stingers
cannot break through our skin).
Moreover, unlike the honey bee, which was actually imported
by colonists, native bees provide us with the essential pollinating services we
need for native plants, in addition to commercial crops. Sam explained that the
big issue is that land-use changes and habitat loss are diminishing wild plant
populations, which conversely diminish wild bee populations, which means: no
bees, no plants, no species who depend on those plants, and eventually,
So how can we fix this?
Step 1: Provide pollen
by planting a garden of native wildflowers!
Sam says “re-wild” your land by moving away from
lawn/corporate kinds of landscapes and start bringing back naturalized types of
landscapes. The big picture is about saving plant and bee diversity, so it’s
important to plant a variety of native species. This is especially important
since some native bees are specialists, meaning they are dependent on one—and
only one—type of flower. Some bees can only reproduce if they have specific
pollen from the native plants they evolved with.
Step 2: Provide Nesting Structures!
Alonso continued the discussion by stressing the importance of another crucial native bee resource in need of recovery––bee nesting structures.
About 70% of all bee species live in burrows in the ground,
so it’s important to create ideal ground space, such as loose soils that are
free of vegetation and exposed to the sun.
The remaining bee species live above ground, in pre-existing
cavities like old beetle holes, or hollow empty stems of reeds or grasses.
Alonso added that “this is one more reason to leave garden plants standing
through the winter, as many are housing insects in various parts of their life
cycle, including pupating or adult overwintering bees.”
He noted that in addition to buying select bee houses, people
can also make their own structures at home. While many species will make use of
them, Mason bees (Osmia sp. peaceful,
dark, solitary bees) in particular, are likely their most common tenants, and
“luckily what usually works for them, generally works for other species,” said
He gave the example: “One simple way is to cut some bamboo,
Phragmites (a good use for both these invasives), elderberry, and/or sumac at
their nodes, hollow them out all the way to the node so one side is still
sealed, and bundle them together (with the open ends facing one direction) for
the bees to discover. Place them where they will get some sun in the morning
and some shelter from the rain.”
To learn more about native bees, how to create your garden
of bee-friendly plants, and how to build your bee homes, check out Alonso’s blog
piece, which includes information about nesting structures, best ways to
encourage and protect bees, and a list of the best plants for specialist bees. Following
these guides will help restore local biodiversity!
Also, to see more
incredible photos of these bees, visit Sam’s webpage with photos from the USGS Bee Inventory and
Monitoring Lab, and follow the
Instagram/Tumblr accounts @USGBIML.
So, let’s kick off spring with an abundance of native
flowers and bee homes! Remember, every resource area, whether it’s a patch in
the ground, or an epic garden, can have huge impacts on sustaining bee
populations during these urgent times. We just need your help to provide them
with the assets to make that comeback!
The Arlington Regional Master Naturalists have reached a major milestone and expands its public outreach to the community in new ways.
Ten Years of Service, Growth, and Outreach
The Arlington Regional Master Naturalists group just finished its 10th year as a Virginia Master Naturalist chapter, and over 70 members celebrated the milestone at the Annual Meeting in December.
President Marion Jordan welcomed all the members and supporters at the gathering. She also gave a special nod to the first class of 2008, with over half the graduates still as active members. Jordan then thanked the ten+ partners who have worked with ARMN over the years.
She highlighted ARMN’s past achievements, present efforts, and plans for future activities. This included an acknowledgment of the various projects on which members have donated thousands of hours during the decade.
Among these are stewardship activities (such as invasive plant removals from regional parks and public lands, stream cleanups, and native plant nursery work);
Also, education and outreach programs (including public events and instructional programs, nature center support, work with children inside and outside of the classroom, and school gardens);
Added to this are citizen science (such as stream water monitoring, bird counts, tree, plant, and insect surveys, and more recently, bioblitzes and other surveys that use internet-based iNaturalist, eBird, and GPS tools to track plant, animals, and restoration efforts).
For the future, Jordan stressed the priority of expanding ARMN’s outreach to include more members of the community with events such as “pop-up parks” (to provide nature mini-presentations to passers-by both in parks and elsewhere), as well as more structured outreach to a variety of organizations and citizens.
The ARMN members also submitted their own reflections on their past and present involvements in the organization, and how they looked forward to continued participation during the next decade.
Active membership in ARMN has grown to over 175 individuals whose contributions have multiplied throughout the years. Just in 2018, members reported over 15,000 hours of work in support of the natural environment locally and throughout Virginia!
The ARMN organization has also been honored during its ten years by awards from the National Park Service and Arlington County, and individual members have been honored for their efforts in supporting Arlington’s natural environment.
ARMN Adds Facebook to its Outreach
ARMN has recently launched the Arlington Regional Master Naturalists Facebook page to engage members of the general public about local natural events, photos, discussion topics, or other items of interest in our natural world. Anyone can join by applying for inclusion in the group. We hope to see YOU participate there, too!
Many people have mixed feelings about taking down the Christmas tree each year: Glad to have it out of the house when it starts to drop needles, relieved that the county or city tree pick-up program makes for easy disposal, but sorry that the short-lived but valued purpose is gone.
You may want to wait before tossing it to the curb.
One way to prolong the useful life of an already cut Christmas tree is to repurpose it as a natural bird feeding station in your garden, or perhaps a bird-friendly neighbor’s garden if you don’t have one of your own. And if you do not have your own holiday tree, you can give and receive the same benefits by “borrowing” a neighbor’s tree after it has been put on the curb for the tree collection truck.
A winter-feeding station makes very good use of your tree, and can be done easily by placing a small or medium sized feeder in the top branches of your tree. Spillage trickles down and gets trapped in the branches, with some reaching the ground below the tree. This distributes the seeds for different sizes of birds, with different browsing styles, including typical ground feeders. And, it also provides shelter, or at least sheltered feeding, with snow, sleet, and cold winter winds.
Carolina wren (Thryothorus ludovicianus). Photo courtesy of David Howell.
Carolina chickadee (Poecile carolinensis). Photo courtesy of David Howell.
Northern cardinal (male) (Cardinalis cardinalis). Photo courtesy of David Howell.
Winter temperatures will keep your tree green and it will perform its function for your backyard bird population through the season. Generally, it has done its job by mid-March and you can decide when to put it out for green-cycle pickup as spring approaches.
Phil Klingelhofer is the Vice President, Service Committee Chair, and an active member for ARMN. I was lucky enough to interview Phil for this series over a cup of coffee at Northside Social on Wilson Boulevard. I learned that he does a lot more with ARMN than his job on the Board. He has already logged in 1000 volunteer hours since he graduated from the training class in Fall 2014. And he does a lot of Master Naturalist-like activities outside our region.
I first grew to know Phil when our kids were in school together and we were both on the Washington-Lee PTA leadership team. Phil was a great collaborator and leader there and he has become a key leader for ARMN, too. Here’s the essence of our conversation
Phil and other volunteers during a stream monitoring event at Bluemont Park on September 28, 2018.
Tell us about the ARMN projects you spend time on.
I lead the Service Committee for the ARMN Board. I have four talented and dedicated volunteers—Juliet Purll, Joy Tobin, Beth Kiser, and Louis Harrell—who help with a variety of related tasks and issues. We are working to provide ARMN members with a wide variety of service projects that will make a real difference in our community and citizen science opportunities to engage the curiosity we all have in nature. We’re a great team, and we have fun at our meetings. Care to join us?
A major priority for the Service Committee is to develop ARMN’s Park Steward program. The aim of this program is to provide ARMN and Tree Steward volunteers with the training, resources, and a collaborative network to take leadership roles and leverage their expertise and knowledge for the protection and enhancement of natural habitat and wild spaces in our local parks. In October, we held our first training session for the program. As part of this stewardship effort, we will also reach out to organizations such as private companies and churches who have groups of volunteers to help with some of our stewardship work. We hope that a number of our volunteer events will be led by an ARMN expert with10-20 participants learning about our natural environment and contributing to our mission. These volunteers should be force multipliers in our invasive work in the parks. We’re also moving the ARMN Service Committee into an area where we can increase the options for citizen science and do a better job of measuring the impact of our work.
My own personal pet project is a habitat restoration effort at Bluemont Park. After I started this effort, Lyndell Core, a fellow ARMN member and county employee, recommended that I apply for Neighborhood Conservation funds from Arlington County for assistance with the invasive removals. Based on the application I wrote and support of my neighborhood, our habitat restoration project was approved two years ago. It includes a five-year invasive plant treatment program by a professional firm, along with other park enhancements. This has already made a huge difference in our restoration effort.
I also frequently work at a variety of habitat restoration sites, indulging my passion for removing non-native invasives, making good use of a shovel to install native plants, and leading a regular stream monitoring team for a number of years. I also love serving on the ARMN Board, where I can help plan ARMN’s path forward with other dedicated Board members. In addition, I serve on the Arlington Urban Forestry Commission and Neighborhood Conservation Advisory Committee, where I try to give a voice to nature in our community.
Personally, and outside ARMN, I just returned from a week of birding on the North Carolina Outer Banks at the Wings Over Water Birding Festival. It’s the third year that I have attended this event, and I participated with small teams on two “Big Days.” My teams set records of 122 bird species, then 125 species, on consecutive days. O.K., I am a bit of a bird nerd…. The highlights of the trip included watching Northern Harriers sweep the fields for dinner, while black bears ate below and the snow geese and white pelicans swooped in for landing on the water impoundments.
Phil at the Bodie Island Lighthouse, Nags Head, North Carolina on October 17, 2018.
What brought you to ARMN?
I heard about ARMN from my sister-in-law who lives in Rockbridge County and is a Master Naturalist there. I was intrigued with the program because I’ve always loved nature and science. So, I started paying attention to ARMN from afar while I was still working, and as soon as I retired, I seized the opportunity to take the training.
What do you like most about ARMN and what has surprised you most?
I like hanging out with people who like nature and put their backs behind their mouths. People in ARMN like talking about nature and being out in it. But more than talk, they are willing to work and make a difference in terms of improving our natural environment through physical labor and sharing their love of nature with others.
I have been surprised by how many ARMN members are serious experts about a wildly diverse set of scientific issues.
Tell us something about your childhood experiences that shaped your perspective on nature.
I fell in love with birding when I was about five years old. My older brother built a bird blind in our backyard with a drip buck over a small pond. I would lie on my back for hours watching the birds take advantage of the habitat my brother had created and use my Field Guide to the Birds, (Peterson, 1947, 2nd edition) to identify them.
What is your background?
I started out as a physics major in college because I wanted to be an astronomer. When the math became more intense than I anticipated, I switched to become a psychology major. I worked in the banking industry and then ran the operations for a national trade association in the energy field, but I’ve always loved science and nature.
What are some other interesting or unusual things about yourself fellow ARMN members and others might want to know?
I was once fluent in German and French. As an elementary student, I attended the German School (run by the German Embassy in Washington) for nearly four years, taking classes and exams 100% in German. My father was born in Germany and came to the US just before World War II. Later, to confuse things, I studied French for six years in high school and college. And while my German and French are still pretty good, I’m no longer fluent. I like to think I only need to take a few trips to Europe to bring it all back.