The VIMS Center for Coastal Resources Management (VIMS-CCRM) sponsors the Virginia Master Naturalist program (VMN). Virginia Master Naturalists are volunteer educators, citizen scientists, and stewards helping Virginia conserve and manage natural resources and public lands. They inspire a love for nature and share their enthusiasm for Virginia’s natural world. Many Virginia Master Naturalist volunteers attend VIMS training and public programs to learn about coastal and marine ecology and to earn required continuing education credits. Some of them volunteer at VIMS to satisfy requirements for service project hours.
Helmut Walter and Bill Blair are both Master Naturalists and VIMS volunteers who lead education tours and assist VIMS staff with large group programs. Bill received the Virginia Master Naturalist Volunteer of the Year award in 2017. Susan Crockett is a Master Naturalist who helps at the VIMS Teaching Marsh and the VIMS Aquarium. Susan was awarded the VIMS Freeman Volunteer of the Year award in 2014.
VIMS is now supporting the formation of a new Virginia Master Naturalist chapter for five counties in the Middle Peninsula region, including Gloucester, Mathews, Middlesex, King William and King & Queen Counties. A new chapter will make it easier for existing Master Naturalists who live on the Middle Peninsula to serve in their local communities. Other Middle Peninsula residents interested in becoming Master Naturalist volunteers will have access to training classes and service projects close to home.
A New Chapter Coordinators Training was held at VIMS on May 8, 2018, to facilitate the new chapter’s formation. State VMN Program Coordinator Michelle Prysby & Terri Keffert, VMN Volunteer Coordinator, came to VIMS to meet with a Local Coordinating Committee of eight volunteers. They were hosted by VIMS scientist Karen Duhring, who will serve as the new Chapter Advisor. The purpose of the training was to review state program policies and procedures for chapter administration, volunteer recruitment, training courses and service projects.
The next steps for the new chapter of Middle Peninsula Master Naturalists will be to formalize Bylaws and elect a Board of Directors. Existing Master Naturalists from neighboring chapters will be given an opportunity to voluntarily transfer to the new chapter. Service projects will be set up with local partners, like Gloucester County parks & schools, the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, Friends of Dragon Run, and others. Middle Peninsula Master Naturalists already lead nature hikes and bird walks, perform park trail maintenance, and assist with citizen science projects like water quality monitoring. These service projects will continue and new ones will be added in cooperation with local partners. New volunteers will be invited to enroll in the Middle Peninsula chapter after a basic training course is developed for new recruits.
For more information or to express interest in becoming a Middle Peninsula Master Naturalist, contact Karen Duhring.