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Join us outdoors

By Biff and Susan Andrews

The picture of a top-hat-covered-old man-with-a-white-beard pointing his finger at the viewer and saying “I want you!” is slowly receding into history. Uncle Sam may not want you as much anymore, but we Master Naturalists do.

If you like helping God’s creatures, we want you.

If you like saving endangered species, we want you.

If you like creating habitats for birds, butterflies, frogs, etc., we want you.

If you would help create and maintain wildlife trails, we want you.

If you would help clean up polluted shorelines, we want you.

If you would build and monitor bluebird boxes, we want you.

If you have an idea for a nature project of your own, we want you.

Water sampling? Experimenting with invasive species eradication? Collecting seed nuts and long-leaf pine cones for the Forestry Department? We want you.

It’s time to form a new cohort of members for the Virginia Master Naturalists — Historic Southside Chapter for 2019. Classes will begin Jan. 29 at the Isle of Wight municipal center. Yes, classes. Most of us know one area very well, but to really understand what’s going on out there, we need to leave our comfort zones and deal with all the creepy-crawlies. Counted any salamander egg masses in vernal pools recently?

There are 27 hours of classes in ichthyology, botany, entomology, ornithology, forestry and more in nine three-hour lectures at the Isle of Wight Cooperative Extension office. There are also 13 hours of field trips in various swamps, forests and beaches. All classes are taught by career professionals — mainly VDGIF game wardens, fisheries biologists and forest managers. The classes, much less the field trips, feature handling of live specimens and field samples — real-world education. They are fascinating. Tuition is $125 per person or $190 per couple. Tuition includes many field guides in the various disciplines.

If you like the club — and you will — you need to do 40 hours of volunteer work per year to remain a member in good standing. You are welcome to propose your own project or work on other people’s projects. All of the projects improve the environment, people’s enjoyment of the environment or spread awareness of environmental issues. We are “citizen scientists” who care.

The entire program is run out of Virginia Tech. To sign up or get more information, contact the Virginia Cooperative Extension Office at 365-6261. Or call us and we’ll put you in touch with this year’s training leader. We want you!

And thanks for your support.

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 b.andrews22@live.com.