VMN CE Webinar: Using Virginia's Natural Community Research to Guide Virginia Master Naturalist Stewardship Activities.
From Michelle Prysby
A common stewardship issue facing Virginia Master Naturalist (VMN) volunteers is to recommend plants to add to help a damaged natural area recover. In Arlington County, as an example, VMN volunteers working in Powhatan Springs Park removed invasive vines smothering the park but the resulting forest lacked mid-story trees, shrubs, and herbaceous layers.
In addition to consulting experts on which plants to add, the Arlington Regional Master Naturalist (ARMN) Chapter examined amazing research by Virginia’s Department of Conservation and Recreation, Division of Natural Heritage (DCR-DNH) to help make better and more effective recommendations to local authorities. This research is found within the Natural Communities of Virginia section of the DCR-DNH website (Natural Communities of Virginia).
Working hand in hand with Arlington County, the DCR-DNH, and with other ecologists and biologists, a year-long project followed to translate the science of natural communities into practical guidance usable by VMN volunteers for local ecological restoration and stewardship activities. The resulting guidance has been published in a website entitled “The Natural Ecological Communities of Northern Virginia”.
The webinar will describe the Natural Community research and explain how use it to make better stewardship decisions. The ARMN chapter has decided to use the Natural Communities work as the backbone of restoration activities going forward, in collaboration with local authorities. The topic is applicable to VMN volunteers throughout the Commonwealth, particularly those involved in restoration and stewardship activities.
Glenn Tobin has been a member of ARMN since 2016 and led the efforts to translate the science of Natural Communities into practical guidance usable in the field. He has been motivated by a multi-year restoration effort in the Lower Potomac Gorge section of the George Washington Memorial Parkway National Park and in the adjacent Windy Run Park of Arlington County. He actively worked with the volunteers at Powhatan Springs Park and, more recently, at other parks in the area, to test the methods and insights. He recently was recognized by Arlington County with the 2020 Bill Thomas Park Volunteer Award for his efforts, including the creation of the above website to make the insights available to all.
Anne Chazal is the Chief Biologist of the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation Division of Natural Heritage. After obtaining a B.S in Biology from Furman University and an M.S. in Wildlife Science from Auburn University, she began working at DCR-DNH as a Field Zoologist in 1997. She spent 17 years in this position, traveling across the state to document the rare animals of Virginia. In 2014 she shifted gears and became the Species Modeling Project Manager (still with DCR-DNH), and dove deeper in the data DCR-DNH maintained. In 2019, she returned to her passion - inventory of the biodiversity of Virginia's rarest flora, fauna, and communities - as the Chief Biologist. Her team consists of botanists, karst specialists, zoologists, and ecologists, who help identify what is rare, where it is, and how it is doing.
Michelle Prysby, Virginia Master Naturalist Program Director, hosted and facilitated the webinar.