Naturalists to hold training

Published 12:05 pm Saturday, January 16, 2016

by Tracy Agnew
Special to The Tidewater News

The local chapter of the Virginia Master Naturalists will have a training program beginning Jan. 19 for anyone who wants to become involved in the group.

“Anybody who wants to get into helping or understanding he world around us should be considering coming out,” President Geoff Payne said. “It’s for anybody that’s concerned about man’s impact on the environment.”

The chapter had a stellar 2015, with about 50 individuals contributing 2,900 volunteer hours in the areas of education, “citizen science,” stewardship and more.

Payne said anybody can find a way to be involved in the group.

“You can really do it on any level and do the sort of thing you’re interested in,” Payne said. “We might do trail building. Some people record birds they see in their backyard and put it into a national database.

There’s something for everybody. If you want to sit in an armchair, you can do that; if you want to get out and stomp through the undergrowth, you can do that, too.”

In the last year, the group has participated in projects including setting up collection boxes for fishing line recycling at boat ramps, monitoring bluebird boxes and salamander pools, building nature trails, monitoring rain gauges and wildlife species, evaluating eradication methods for invasive species, general clean-ups and more.

The group is based in Isle of Wight County, as it’s a central location, but it covers Suffolk, Southampton and Smithfield.

The training classes are taught by experts in their fields. Students will learn about ecology, botany, geology, wetlands, forestry, weather, mammals, birds, reptiles, fish and insects.

Field trips are planned to the Great Dismal Swamp, Chippokes Plantation, Piney Grove Preserve and Blackwater Ecological Preserve.

The class costs $100, which includes about $60 worth of books, Payne said.

“It’s just to make people aware of what information is out there, and those people are a resource to us as we get into our projects,” Payne said.

Classes begin Jan. 19 and reoccur roughly every other week until May 17.

Payne said the first session of the class will be a meet-and-greet, where people on the fence can decide whether they want to commit.

“It’s really an opportunity for any group of people,” Payne said. “It doesn’t matter what your background, what your physical abilities are.”

With the exception of field trips, all classes take place from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. at the Isle of Wight Extension Office.

For more information, including a full schedule, visit Register by calling 365-6262 between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m.