Chapter News and Events

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​A Message from Lesha Berkel, Chapter President
At the end of 2015, there were nearly 150 members in the Pocahontas Chapter of the Virginia Master Naturalists. For those of you who were part of the first graduating class in 2009, I hope this gives you a sense of both wonder and pride in the rapid growth and development of our group. As we grow in numbers, our momentum and impact also grows. And this becomes most apparent as we put together the annual report that is submitted to the VMN state coordinator’s office.
Here are some highlights from this year’s (2015) report:
713.5   Total Continuing Education Hours
2,495   Total Volunteer Hours for Stewardship
1,035   Total Volunteer Hours for Education and Outreach
2,611   Total Volunteer Hours for Citizen Science
Nearly 50% of all of reported volunteer hours in all categories were obtained through your participation in chapter projects, helping park staff and assisting with public events at Pocahontas State Park! Further, your dedication to support and maintain this state park during the past year resulted in recognition of the Pocahontas Chapter of Virginia Master Naturalists as the Virginia State Parks “Volunteer Organization of the Year.”
I couldn’t be more proud of this group – I get to hear firsthand from those of you who are passionate about conserving and sustaining our natural resources, and it is wonderful to see that what you do is appreciated by so many. Congratulations to all, and thank you for your dedication and service!
Administration is an increasingly important part of serving our members. In 2015 we logged 1,021 hours for chapter administration. As our 28 new trainees become active in volunteer service and continuing education to reach their certification goal, the board and committees play a key role in guiding them toward existing projects, as well as helping them to develop new ones.
Personally, I cannot begin to express the immense gratitude I have for all those who are willing to provide their time to help with the duties of organization, coordination, reporting, accounting, and communication. It’s not always fun – I don’t know if there’s a single person in our group who would prefer a board meeting to a nice hike in the woods – but they take their roles seriously and understand the need to provide leadership.
The Pocahontas Chapter board and committee coordinators are focused on how we can work to support and benefit every member — and the responsibilities are growing along with our membership. I hope that, if you get a call or an email to help support or actively participate on a committee, you will give it serious consideration. There’s a lot of good work going on behind the scenes!
With warmest regards to all, Lesha


On April 26, the Pocahontas Chapter of Virginia Master Naturalists held a graduation celebration for the class of 2016. Members of the class (pictured above) were invited to plant a swamp oak to help recognize the 80th anniversary of the Virginia State Park system.

We are All Beekeepers


Joyce Caldwell (pictured) showed a slide presentation about the types of nests birds make, the variety of nesting materials they use, the challenges they face, and the things each of us can do to help birds "nest in peace." We also had a chance to take a closer look at many actual nests of birds that breed in the Richmond area.
Louise and Earl Woolard, members of the Rockwood Park Backyard Beekeepers, conducted this workshop for anyone concerned about the decline of the bee population (as much as 70% of our food products rely on successful pollination of crops). As their club says, “WE ARE ALL BEEKEEPERS – whether you have a working bee hive, or just maintain a nice flower garden in your yard.” Louise and Earl gave an introduction to backyard beekeeping – the basics of bee anatomy, what equipment is needed, and how to get started with your own hive–if that's something that interests you.  We also learned about bee behavior and which Virginia native plants benefit bees.


BATS! Be Afraid!

Helen Hamilton from the Williamsburg area, presented to 56 attendees (including several of our new class members) on the Fungus Among Us.  We learned all sorts of interesting information on mushrooms and fungi. 
An important comment from Helen (which was perhaps an old Chinese bit of wisdom): "All mushrooms are edible, but some only once!"
(PIctured Kate Conn, Chapter CE Coordinator with Helen Hamilton.)  
It was exciting to have Bonnie Miles (pictured at left), a wildlife rehabiliator and quite an expert on bats, speak with our group in February at Rockwood Park Nature Center. Bonnie's passion, experience and knowledge of bats was obvious as she discussed their value to our ecosystems and presented facts about some of the current threats to bats. Unfortunately, bats are one of the most misunderstood and maligned animals on earth. In fact, they are amazing, unique, and quite adorable. It was an interesting presentation and everyone had a great time.  Ultimately we learned to "be afraid" FOR bats, not OF them!