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One of the keys of being a Virginia Master Naturalist is a commitment to participate in volunteer activities.  Our chapter has a wide range of projects already in progress that you can assist with, or once you complete basic training you can propose your own project based on your interests!  Projects are divided into 3 categories; Citizen Science, Education and Outreach, and Stewardship.  These are a few activities that our members are involved in:

Citizen Science

Tracking caterpillar abundance, phenology and species diversity at Merrimac Farm!  Volunteers partner with the University of North Carolina on a nation-wide initiative to observe caterpillars (and other insects) and their host plants from April-July.

Caterpillars Count

Help scientists to collect data on the diversity of life in our region by uploading your observations to iNaturalist.  The Challenge takes place around the end of April each year, our chapter is hosting several events open to the public, contact us for more information.


See all related events for the City Nature Challenge across the Washington DC area here!

Even though the City Nature Challenge happens only a few days a year many chapter members contribute observations and identifications to iNaturalist year round.

City Nature 2019

Virginia Breeding Bird Atlas

Several Chapter VMNs participated in VABBA2, a collaborative avian conservation project sponsored by VA DWR (Dept of Wildlife Resources) and VSO (VA Society of Ornithology) with the goal of documenting the occurrence and distribution of all bird species breeding throughout the state from 2016-2020. The data collected during this project will be used to assess changes in breeding populations since the late 1980s and to identify areas or species of conservation priority.  Additionally, it will serve as a far-reaching public awareness and education tool for wildlife conservation efforts.


While the field data collection part of this project has concluded- researchers are still in the process of evaluating and compiling the data to publish the Atlas- more info here!


Bluebird Photo- VMN CC Lim

Virginia Save our Streams, Water Quality and Stream Monitoring

SoS water monitoring

Volunteers perform biological monitoring- collecting and identifying aquatic macro invertebrates, or stream insects and crustaceans that indicate water quality.  This data is sent to the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality by certified monitors four times per year.  Several streams in Prince William County are monitored by Master Naturalists.

More information and data is available here.

Education and Outreach

In partnership with The Virginia Department of Forestry and The National Park Service VMN volunteers are developing interpretative walks to share the natural history and biology of the area. These walks will be held quarterly and open to the public.  

Habitat at Home- Habitat Heroes

Working with the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources and other partner organizations volunteers will promote native plants as effective and wildlife friendly solutions to storm water management.  The bioretention facility at Merrimac Farm will showcase beautiful native plant options maintained by the Merrimac Farm Chapter.

Habitat at Home

Prince William Soil and Water Conservation District Adopt a Stream

There are about 1,100 miles of streams in Prince William County! In the Adopt-A-Stream program, volunteers agree to pick up litter along their adopted stream segment of at least ¼ mile, once (preferably twice) a year for a minimum two-year commitment. Prince William Soil and Water Conservation District (PWSWCD), promotes and helps to administer the cleanup program on behalf of Prince William County government and citizens. The program helps preserve, protect and revitalize community streams benefiting our local Potomac River and Chesapeake Bay watersheds.  Merrimac Farm Chapter has two dedicated spots that it has adopted in Manassas and Woodbridge.


Patriot HS Invasive Removal and Replanting 

In a partnership between Prince William County Schools and the Merrimac Farm Chapter volunteers are transforming an area behind Patriot High School in mid-county Prince William.  Removing invasive plants like Japanese honeysuckle and tree of heaven will allow native plants to reclaim the area.  Additional native plants have been transplanted to make this a beautiful and ecologically diverse spot!  Maintenance will continue into the future.

Removal of invasives

PWC Stormwater Management Pond Planting

The County Arborist, Julia Flanagan recruited Master Naturalist volunteers to work with County staff to put over 1,000 plant plugs into Stormwater Management Pond 3.  This pond is on Discovery Boulevard at Innovation, next to the 2 Silos brewery.  The plants were installed 3-6" underwater and will extract phosphorus and nitrogen from runoff flowing from impervious areas around Innovation. This extraction will reduce the nutrient content of water leaving the pond, resulting in cleaner water downstream at Cannon Branch, Broad Run, lake Jackson and the Occoquan River.


Planting natives
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