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The Pollinator
News from the Virginia Master Naturalist Program
Winter 2021
tree-lined creek on a snowy winter's day
Greenbrier Park (Charlottesville, Virginia) during one of our recent winter storms. I was excited to help get this neighborhood park accepted as a new site for the Virginia Bird and Wildlife Trail. I monitor it as part of the Adopt-a-Trail project and also do vernal pool monitoring in its complex of wetlands. Since the pandemic started, I've noticed more people than ever coming out to enjoy the natural beauty and trails at the park, which is wonderful!
--Michelle Prysby, VMN Program Director
Dear VMN Supporter ,
We hope you enjoy this Winter 2021 edition of The Pollinator. This newsletter only goes out to subscribers, so we encourage you to forward this issue to others and to invite them to subscribe to future issues. Follow the links below each article to read the full articles, which are posted on the VMN website
From the State Program Office
Dear Virginia Master Naturalist Community,

This is the busiest winter I can remember for the VMN state program office! We are knee-deep in the transition from our old volunteer management system to the new one on Better Impact. I want to give a HUGE shout-out to all the local chapter leaders who have been helping make that transition happen. I also want to give a shout of encouragement to ALL VMN volunteers: You'll be getting access to the new system in March, and please use it! It has some terrific new features for communication, for finding out about volunteer opportunities in your chapter, and for tracking your volunteer service so that we can do a better job documenting the impacts that you make. But, for it all to work, we need everyone to take the time to log on regularly, check out the information available to you, and report on your VMN activities. The new system is mobile-friendly and has a mobile app, making it easier than ever for you to use it!

We are also focused this winter on launching the work of our new Diversity & Inclusion team. Our Working Group has started meeting, and I look forward to learning from all of them as they develop ideas for how we can make the programs we provide more inclusive. We'll post news about this effort on our website as the team has things to share.

In addition, we are busy right now getting ready for Virginia Tech's Giving Day, a university-wide day of philanthropy during which you can support the Virginia Tech and Virginia Cooperative Extension programs you love, like the Virginia Master Naturalist program. Gifts from donors like you are critical for us in order to both accomplish new initiatives and continue ongoing efforts. We use donations as a match for grants, like the one from the Virginia Environmental Endowment that is supporting the Diversity & Inclusion initiative and some aspects of the Better Impact transition. The focus of Giving Day is more on numbers of people participating, not on the amount you can give, so even small gifts make a difference. Visit the Giving Day site between noon on February 24 and noon on February 25, and search for "Virginia Master Naturalist Program" under the list of areas to support. As in past years, I am committing to personally donating $1 for each person who gives any amount to the VMN program as part of Giving Day.

Happy winter, and make sure to get outdoors to enjoy all that nature has to offer this season!

Michelle D. Prysby
VMN Program Director & Extension Associate
Virginia Tech Department of Forest Resources & Environmental Conservation
In Memoriam
We are mourning the death of Page Hutchinson who was a VMN volunteer, chapter advisor, sponsoring agency representative, instructor, and friend. Page had been engaged in the VMN program for more than ten years, originally as the coordinator for a series of Meaningful Watershed Educational Experience workshops. Later, she became a VMN volunteer herself, and she also served as a particularly engaged and effective advisor in our Historic Rivers and Rivanna chapters and as an instructor for EE workshops at our state conferences. Beyond her role in the VMN program, Page was one of Virginia's leading environmental educators, and she worked for two of our sponsoring agencies, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality and the Virginia Department of Forestry, most recently as the Project Learning Tree Coordinator. 

Page was a leader in the Virginia Association for Environmental Education, and she received the
photo of Page Hutchinson with VAEE award
Page Hutchinson receiving the Virginia Association for Environmental Education "Environmental Educator of the Year" award in February 2020. Photo by Michelle Prysby.
VAEE Environmental Educator of the Year award in 2020. VAEE has set up a memorial page on their website where you can share your stories and photos of Page. The recently published obituary for her is a loving tribute of what she has done and meant to so many people. Her passion for education, curiosity for the natural world, and energy for making a difference in the world will be sorely missed.
VMN Program 2020 Year in Review
Each year, VMN chapter leaders work hard on annual reports that compile their membership and volunteering statistics. See what they accomplished in 2020!

volunteer picks up trash in the forest
VMN volunteers helped with several cleanup days and other projects at The Cedars Natural Area Preserve. Photo by Laura Young, VDCR.
Recognizing Outstanding Volunteers and Projects with Our VMN State Program Awards
We are thrilled to recognize some of the 2020 achievements of our VMN volunteers and chapters!

volunteers standing in a green field on a sunny day
The VMN Old Rag Chapter received the Chapter Connection and Communication Award for their new ways they kept both their existing members and new trainees connected in 2020. Photo by Charlene Uhl, VMN Old Rag Chapter. 
Volunteer News
New Milestone Achievements by VMN Volunteers
We welcome several additional volunteers into the VMN Golden Circle, and we recognized dozens of others who have achieved service milestones. 

photo of Bill outdoors holding a garden tool
VMN volunteer Bill Blair recently completed his five thousandth hour of VMN service. Photo by VMN Middle Peninsula Chapter (taken pre-COVID).
Laurels - Winter 2021
Each quarter in our Laurels post, we highlight awards, accomplishments, and projects of our VMN volunteers.

This quarter, learn about one volunteer's Big Year for herps, how volunteers brought their community to a local nature preserve virtually, ways a VMN volunteer is putting his drone piloting skills to work for conservation, and about the myriad contributions of one retiring chapter board member.

VMN volunteer holds a turtle
VMN Ty Smith, Central Piedmont Chapter, achieved the #1 spot on the iNaturalist Virginia leaderboard for herp species in 2020!
VMN 2020 Projects Make an Impact
Our chapters have been submitting stories of their impactful projects of 2020, and we have picked out a few to share in this newsletter issue. Read about a Winter Nature Challenge, a unique partnership between a VMN chapter and a college course, a project to educate the community about deer management options, an outdoor classroom for a local high school, and more! 

four people on a beach wearing masks with the Virginia Master Naturalist program logo
Anne Clewell, far right, with other Northern Neck Master Naturalists on a shoreline cleanup for the Winter Nature Challenge in December, 2020. Photo by Anne Clewell.
Be Part of Giving Day, February 24-25
We rely significantly on gifts from donors like you for VMN program operations. While we welcome gifts of any amount, at any time, February 24-25 is a special 24 hour giving challenge that we participate in at Virginia Tech. Help the VMN program meet our fundraising goals for this fiscal year! Your support allows us to do more to support our chapters and volunteers across Virginia.
You can also support the VMN program at any time of year. See our website for more information.
The Virginia Master Naturalist program is sponsored by the following state agencies:
logos of Virginia Cooperative Extension, DCR, DOF, DEQ, DWR, VIMS-CCRM, VMNH
This edition of The Pollinator was compiled by Michelle Prysby (VMN Program Director). Contributors included Kathleen Aucoin, Bonnie Beers, Ricklin Brown, Barry Buschow, Valeria Espinoza, Adrienne Frank, Camille Grabbe, Kasha Helget, Melinda Landry, Linda Morse, Charlene Uhl, Tiffany Brown (VMN Project Assistant); and Terri Keffert (VMN Volunteer Coordinator), and the many volunteers who submitted nominations for the state program awards.

We welcome submissions from chapters, volunteers, sponsors, and partners about initiatives that would be of interest to our audience. Please contact Michelle Prysby if you have something to share.
Virginia Master Naturalist programs and employment are open to all, regardless of age, color, disability, gender, gender identity, gender expression, national origin, political affiliation, race, religion, sexual orientation, genetic information, veteran status, or any other basis protected by law. An equal opportunity/affirmative action employer. Issued in furtherance of Cooperative Extension work, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Virginia State University, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture cooperating. Edwin J. Jones, Director, Virginia Cooperative Extension, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg; M. Ray McKinnie, Interim Administrator, 1890 Extension Program, Virginia State University, Petersburg.