Sweet Briar College, in collaboration with the Central Virginia chapter of the Virginia Master Naturalists, will host a Virginia Master Naturalist Advanced Training Rally June 3-5 at the College’s Elston Inn conference center. The rally, the third at Sweet Briar since 2008, provides educational workshops and activities that enhance the knowledge base and support the conservation efforts of Virginia Master Naturalists throughout the commonwealth.
This year’s event includes workshops on a variety of natural history topics led by experts in their fields, informal activities on Sweet Briar’s 3,200-acre campus, and naturalist-led field trips to off-campus sites in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Topics range from hummingbird banding to the identification of late-spring wildflowers and fungi.
Bruce Peterjohn, chief of the Bird Banding Laboratory at Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Laurel, Md., will be Saturday’s keynote speaker.
Michael Hayslett, Sweet Briar’s naturalist-in-resident, is responsible for the collaboration between the two organizations. Having been involved with the Central Virginia VMN chapter since its beginning, Hayslett wanted to share its services with the Sweet Briar community. The oldest chapter in the state, its members have assisted in numerous projects on the College’s campus.
“They’re a real important partner organization for the naturalist program at Sweet Briar,” Hayslett said. “This event that we put together three years ago is a weekend-long conference and the objectives are to provide training opportunities for the members of the Virginia Master Naturalist program all around the state of Virginia.”
Members of the program, who range from students at local colleges to older adults, are certified as Virginia Master Naturalists. Advanced training is required annually to maintain their certification. The Sweet Briar rally is designed to allow members to complete all of the required training at one time.
Hayslett said extending the rally an extra day should draw more people and he expects attendance of about 75 to 100 participants. Those arriving on Friday will have free time to canoe the lake or explore the campus’ extensive hiking trails. There also will be a social event Friday evening, which Hayslett says is similar to a “trade show where chapters can share what’s going on.”
Registration is open to anyone involved in the Virginia Master Naturalist Program. To learn more about the program, please visit http://www.virginiamasternaturalist.org/. The registration deadline is May 15.
A complete schedule for the rally is posted here.