2022 VMN Statewide Conference and Training

Thanks to Pam Gray for filling us in on the VMN annual meeting that most of us missed!

Find a Part 2 report on the conference from Ann Murray HERE.

The 2022 Virginia Master Naturalist Conference was a resounding success. The Tidewater Chapter worked hard to pull off another memorable and worthwhile conference in Virginia Beach, September 9 – 11.

There is so much benefit in attending a conference in a completely different region of VA, as every field trip and class exposes you to flora and fauna so different from ours locally. Seeing a Diamondback Terrapin up close and personal was truly exceptional.

It was hard to pick from all the different field trips and classes. Lincoln and I went early on Friday to participate in the “Stumpy Lake Paddle”.

The weather was beautiful and paddling this 278-acre lake was quite an experience. The fish literally jump into your kayak. We were treated to many bird sightings, such as Double-Crested Cormorants, Blue and Green Herons, and Egrets.

The Dolphin Watch was cancelled because of the weather, but we boarded the boat anyway and were treated to Coastal Collections, which meant dragging nets on the bottom of the channel with experts pulling up treasures providing us a glimpse of the bottom. We viewed flounder, jellyfish and crustaceans such as the Decorator Crab, who utilizes materials from its environment to cover itself in disguise.

Decorator crab on left. Ann Murray and Lincoln Gray enjoying the boat ride on right.

(The duck was a “tangible resource” for her storytelling.)

My favorite of the weekend was next. I attended a class called, “Interpretation – Connecting People to Nature’s Story”.  Assistant Park Ranger, Jennifer Higgins from First Landing State Park (at right) taught us how to bring the stories of nature to life through the portrayal of universal truths and tangible resources.

Our last event was the “Upland to the Bay – Natural Communities and Coastal Processes”. We went by Greyhound bus to the Savage Neck Dunes Natural Area Preserve. This 298-acre preserve contains outstanding Chesapeake Bay beach, dunes, and maritime forest communities; migratory songbird habitat; and a population of federally threatened northeastern beach tiger beetles. It was striking to see a developed system of sand dunes that reached 50 feet above the coastline. We viewed large oak trees with just their top canopies poking through above the sands. Amazing! Nestled among the dunes were freshwater ponds supporting a variety of plants and wildlife.

Nestled among the dunes were freshwater ponds supporting a variety of plants and wildlife.

While in the preserves, the ranger took us to the shoreline so that we could witness the large amount of beach erosion, which was the main reason for the dwindling population of the beach tiger beetle.

This conference had the largest attendance I’ve seen. Accommodations directly on the beach were awesome and the food was GREAT! Not to mention getting to meet fellow Master Naturalists from all over the state. This only covers a small amount of all the courses and field trips offered. I wish I could have attended them all.

Lincoln is photobombing the group picture 😊

– Pam Gray, Cohort VI, Projects Committee Chair, September 2022

Unless otherwise noted, all photos by Pam Gray.