Virginia Naturalists Rally at Sweet Briar College

| April 28, 2008

The Sweet Briar biology department and the Central Virginia Chapter of the Virginia Master Naturalist Program will host an “Advanced Training Rally” Saturday, May 3 and Sunday, May 4 at the Elston Inn & Conference Center and its surrounding environs on the College’s campus.

Attendees are certified or apprentice Virginia Master Naturalists, who have completed 40 hours of basic training under the program. They will participate in workshops and field trips on topics ranging from “Reptilian Search” with Kimberly Burge of the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission to “Wet Spineless Wonders” with Garrett Jones of the Robert E. Lee Soil and Water Conservation District.

Mike Hayslett, naturalist-in-residence at Sweet Briar and VMNP founding member, is coordinating the rally. He said it is designed to be “one-stop shopping” to allow participants to complete eight hours of advanced training, the minimum amount required annually to maintain certification.

The Virginia Master Naturalist Program trains volunteers to provide education, outreach and service to help manage the state’s natural resources and natural areas within their communities. Members also must log at least 40 hours of volunteer service each year. About 21 chapters are recognized statewide and more are in the pipeline, according to the VMNP Web site.

The rally’s keynote speaker will be Arthur V. Evans, entomologist, author and research associate of the Smithsonian Institution and the Virginia Museum of Natural History. Evans also will conduct a nighttime work session, “Bugs (& other insects) by Blacklight.” The Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation’s Chris Hobson will lead another, demonstrating how to net bats.

Concurrent two- to three-hour sessions on Saturday will be held at outdoor stations on Sweet Briar’s 3,250-acre campus. Instructors are environmental and conservation professionals from the public and private sectors, or both as in the case of “Shocking Fish Tails.”

In the workshop, Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries biologist Scott Smith will use a specially equipped “electrofishing” boat to stun and catch fish in the Lower Lake. On shore, meanwhile, SBC biology professor John Morrissey will lead a group collecting and recording data on the fish before returning them to the water.

On Sunday, participants will choose from among several off-campus field trips, such as a predator survey walk on the Appalachian Trail or a visit to vernal pool wetlands at Piney River.

For more information, visit or contact Hayslett at [email protected] or 381-6439.

Category: Biology