2022 VMN Conference and Training: Pt 2


Thanks to Ann Murray for sharing her conference experience with us here!

My trip to Virginia Beach for our state conference only took about 3½ hours. I arrived in time Friday to hang on the beach, soak in some rays and watch the wind surfers. Hurricane Earl caused rough tides, so no swimming for me that weekend.

Saturday I was signed up for the dolphin watch with Pam and Lincoln. No dolphins, but I enjoyed the bay tour. In the net, dragging from the back, we caught “Lookdown fish” and “Sea Squirts” among others. We were behind the Virginia Marine Science Aquarium. Close by we spotted a Bald Eagle and Heron. It was interesting talking to other VMNs to find out what projects they are involved with.

Because dolphin viewing was cancelled due to high seas, we got more time dredging up fascinating sea creatures from the inlet. One of these was a Sea Squirt (Ascidiacea or Tunicata, hereafter just called ‘Squirt’) (shown in photo on the left). Squirt looked like an eighth-cup blob of caulk or wad of chewed gum stuck on a stick. Squirt didn’t move; seemed dead, but the experts on the boat said no.  To recall a bit of basic zoology, Squirt and VMNs are in the same phylum (Chordates). Improbable as it seems, Squirt and all of us are in the same group of animals, because we share a strange structure called a notochord and thus a dorsal nervous system. Our brains and spinal cords are more toward the back, not like all those more ‘distant’ relatives with brains more toward their belly. Squirt sure didn’t seem to be using its brain very much, but it is petty humbling to think of some similarities we don’t often consider.  – Lincoln Gray, Cohort VI

Saturday afternoon, I attended a bus trip to Hampton Roads Agriculture Research and Extension Center. I’ve attended others in the state to keep current on pasture and grazing management, forestry or sheep tests. One group here is studying boxwood blight, another checking fields with drones for insect pests, or working on weed control or storm water management. The black raspberry and strawberry trials were interesting. Attempts are being made to keep deer out with electric fence, and Canada geese with ground covers. The geese foot prints were evident all around. There were 17 types of gardens, such as an herb garden, bayscape garden, rain garden and tree trail. Some are cared for by local master gardeners.

The exhibits by each chapter were interesting. I was lucky to get a copper-roofed custom bat box for a door prize. There is so much to see in Virginia Beach that I’m going to make another trip!

– Ann Murray, Cohort II, September 2022

All photos by or courtesy of Ann.

See Part 1 of our VMN Conference reporting by Pam Gray HERE.