Conference Report from VMN Program Director

image001Photo: by Michelle Prysby
Volunteers honed their woody plant identification skills with Ellen Powell, Conservation Education Coordinator with the Virginia Department of Forestry.

We were thrilled to have 210 volunteers and dozens of instructors, sponsoring agency representatives, and partners come together September 20-22 for our 2019 Virginia Master Naturalist Statewide Volunteer Training and Conference.  This year’s event took place at Massanetta Springs Camp and Conference Center in Harrisonburg.  Attendees came from 27 chapters.  Some of the most popular sessions included a pollinator workshop presented by DGIF, a nighttime special tour of karst geology at Grand Caverns, in-depth learning about black bears, and a workshop on “pocket tricks” for naturalists to use on interpretive walks.  The most unusual session was one on chronic wasting disease in deer, during which participants had the opportunity to dissect deer carcasses to practice taking samples to test for the disease.  Social activities included a barn dance and campfire, as well as our Share Fair when chapters bring displays to highlight a project or other activity they are doing in their communities.  The Headwaters Chapter volunteers did an amazing job helping to plan the program, putting together the social activities, and filling most of the volunteer roles at the event!

In our evaluation of the event, 90% of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that their knowledge and skills as a VMN volunteer had improved because of the training they received at the conference.  91% felt it addressed their individual learning needs.  97% would recommend the training event to others!  Consider joining us at next year’s event, which will take place September 11-13 in Virginia Beach at the Wyndham Virginia Beach Oceanfront.

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 Photo: by Michelle Prysby (Photo shared by VMN conference attendee)
Attendees shared meals and swapped stories with fellow volunteers at the Massanetta Springs Camp and Conference Center.

By Michelle D. Prysby
Director, Virginia Master Naturalist Program
Dept. of Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation
Virginia Tech/Virginia Cooperative Extension
460 Stagecoach Road, Charlottesville, VA 22902
Phone: 434-872-4571
Email: mprysby@vt.edu
Web: http://www.virginiamasternaturalist.org