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logobutterfly-smCurious about nature?  Enjoy the outdoors?  Want to be a part of natural resource management and conservation in Virginia?  Then you are a perfect candidate to become a Virginia Master Naturalist.

Virginia’s environmental agencies initiated this program to build a community of educated, interested conservationists. The Merrimac Farm chapter will start its 2016 basic training program on April 10. Classes and field trips, including some evening sessions and many weekend expeditions to natural areas within the county, finish up in August.

The classes/field trips explore different fields of natural science (botany, geology, insects) with a focus on Northern Virginia’s ecological systems. The foundational knowledge, at the introductory college level, is targeted towards developing a real-world understanding of the local environment and how development is affecting natural systems. Our streams, our forests, our backyards are changing. The Master Naturalist program provides the context, examines what is causing those changes, and gives you the capacity to understand the impacts – good and bad – that we and our children will see over the next decades.

Some time is spent in classrooms; most is spent outdoors seeing up close and personal the plants, the animals, and the interactions that occur. Graduates extend that knowledge to the community through volunteer service. Master Naturalists renew their official certification annually through various projects and at least eight hours of continued training.

flGraduates of earlier Merrimac Farm Master Naturalist Program classes are now having a great time monitoring bluebirds, investigating vernal pools, facilitating camera trapping for the Smithsonian, monitoring stream health, learning more about and speaking up for environmental protection.

No previous experience is needed, just a thirst for knowledge of the world around us paired with a commitment to service to maintain, preserve, and protect our environment for future generations.

For more information, including how to apply for the 2016 class, check online at http://merrimacfarmvmn.weebly.com or email merrimacfarmVMN@gmail.com

For more on the statewide Master Naturalist program, see http://www.virginiamasternaturalist.org/

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