Ever wonder why dragonflies repeatedly dip their tails in a pool of water or how long a salamander can live?
Nature is full of wonder and mystery, but some of its riddles can be solved by becoming a master naturalist.
The Virginia Master Naturalist program requires a basic training course and 40 hours of volunteering on nature-related projects — from trail maintenance to erecting birdhouses. Certification is maintained annually through 40 hours of volunteering and eight hours of advanced training.
The 2019 Central Virginia Master Naturalist Basic Training Course will begin Feb. 13 at the University of Lynchburg. Classes take place on Wednesdays from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. through May 15. Field trips are occasionally held on Saturdays.
This basic training provides 39 hours of experiential learning that include 13 classroom sessions and four half-day field trips in the Greater Lynchburg area.
Instructors come from local colleges and universities as well as the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries and the Department of Forestry. Subjects include geology, plants, birds, soils, reptiles, ecology, streams, mammals, forests, insects, wetlands, fish and conservation.
Cost of the training is $125 per person and includes course materials and books. Registration and payment are due by Feb. 10. To register, contact Greg Eaton at (434) 544-8360, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Visit www.virginiamasternaturalist.org/centralvirginia.html for an application and more information.
Becoming a master naturalist lets you follow old passions or learn new ones. Bonnie Miles, for example, became a statewide expert on bats after taking the course.
The current president of the Central Virginia Master Naturalists, John Powers, became a Lynchburg Tree Steward before taking on additional duties for the naturalists.
Some folks, myself included, find that they already do enough volunteer work with a variety of organizations to keep up their hours.
I took the training three years ago and enjoyed learning more about amphibians, reptiles and wildflowers. I was inspired to join the Lynchburg Tree Stewards, who help prune trees along city streets, but also continued to volunteer for the Natural Bridge Appalachian Trail Club and the James River Association.
On the AT, Michael and I have recently adopted a three-mile stretch of trail near the Pedlar Reservoir in Amherst County that we maintain. For the JRA, we keep an eye on a nine-mile stretch of the James from downtown Lynchburg to Mt. Athos, picking up trash and reporting cows in the river.
Because we love birding, we participate in annual bird counts with the Lynchburg Bird Club and a bird feeder watch for Cornell University.
There are many interesting ways to get advanced training. Last year, for example, I went to a talk at Randolph College on gingko trees, attended a Trees Virginia workshop and went to a discussion on the city’s stormwater management efforts.
Back to those mysteries. Some dragonflies lay eggs by tapping the surface of the water with their abdomens, while others have a sharp-edged ovipositor to slit open a stem or leaf and lay the eggs inside.
Salamanders can live for 20 to 50 years.