Getting Your Hands Dirty

Master Naturalists support Virginia’s nature and beauty.

Cindy Andrews has documented bumblebees, counted dragonfly larvae, and built nest boxes for the small falcons known as kestrels. “We had a successful brood of two baby kestrels. It was magic,” she notes. A certified Virginia Master Naturalist, Andrews says it’s all about “getting your hands dirty.” 

The 40-hour training program covers fossil digs, native plants, wildlife mapping, “and so much more,” says Andrews, a Master Gardener who wanted to dig deeper into issues such as the critical role native plants play in environmental health.

Statewide, 30 local Master Naturalist chapters offer certification courses. Andrews completed hers through the Riverine Chapter in Hanover. Graduates complete 40 hours of volunteer service and eight additional hours of education each year to maintain the credential.

For the Virginia Oyster Shell Recycling Program, Andrews helped plant “spat-on-shell” oysters in the Piankatank River to rebuild oyster reefs. (“Spats” are oyster larvae that attach themselves to a surface, oftentimes a shell.) Managed by VCU’s Rice Rivers Center, the program uses shells from restaurants, seafood retailers, and from anyone with oyster shells who drop them off at the Route 5 complex. Andrews now serves as the program’s part-time coordinator.

Whether she’s counting butterflies or staffing an information booth, Andrews cites another benefit to certification: “Probably the best thing are the friends I’ve made—people who share my passions and interests.” VirginiaMasterNaturalist.org

Konstantin Rega
A graduate of East Anglia’s renowned Creative Writing MA, Konstantin’s been published by the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Poetry Salzburg Review, www.jonimitchell.com, the Republic of Consciousness Prize (etc.). He contributes to Publisher Weekly and Treblezine.
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