Naturalists love their Mother

Published 9:49 pm Tuesday, December 29, 2015

By Susan and Biff Andrews

We are certified Master Naturalists (although I don’t like the term, as one can never “master” anything.)

We are members of the Historic Southside Chapter, which is composed mainly of folks from Isle of Wight and Suffolk. We like being active outdoors and leaving nature pristine. But what is this organization, you may ask, and how does it work?

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As its older brother, the Master Gardeners do, Master Naturalists must train for 40 hours (plus field trip time), do advanced training hours every year, as well as 40 hours of volunteer work, and log their hours with the state organization, run through Virginia Tech.

The VMN is sponsored by seven government agencies — from the Department of Forestry and Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries to the Department of Conservation and Recreation. They are highly qualified and helpful partners in our work.

Members may work on other people’s projects or propose their own and work on them. There are plenty of opportunities to volunteer — this group is not for couch potatoes.

Some current projects? Well, we are involved with several bird counts and birding festivals. We study vernal pools and their salamanders. We’re building a nature trail and labeling it. We’re controlling invasive species at several sites, such as Fort Boykin and Windsor Castle in Smithfield. We are members of the Nansemond River Preservation Alliance.

We’re building, installing, monitoring, and cleaning bluebird boxes and wood duck boxes in Western Tidewater. We volunteer every year to clean stretches of rivers and roads. We create and maintain wildlife features at a senior living facility.

We’re doing an ongoing study of stilt grass, an invasive species, and assessing ways to possibly control it. We collect longleaf pine cones and black walnuts and acorns as requested by the Division of Forestry.

Some are birders, some are tree people, some are water folk, some love salamanders, some are buggy (in more ways than one). We all treasure Mother Nature and our time spent with her offspring, and we work to keep them clean and healthy.

Want to join us? The VMN- HSChapter is forming its fifth class. Classes will run on the first and third Tuesdays from Jan. 19 to May 3, with several field trips. There is a fee of $100, which covers all books, materials and field trips.

The Jan. 19 date is a “meet and greet” at the Isle of Wight Courthouse at 6:30 pm. Space is limited. Call 365-6262 for registration information.

Love your Mother — the Earth.

Susan and Bradford “Biff” Andrews are retired teachers and master naturalists who have been outdoor people all their lives, exploring and enjoying the woods, swamps, rivers and beaches throughout the region for many years. Email them at