Master Naturalist Program: "A Terrific Way to Spend a Summer"
Recently we asked the individuals who participated in the 2018 cohort of our Maryland Master Naturalist program to share a few words on their experience; we figured that individuals considering the program for 2019 might like to hear directly from individuals who participated in 2018!
2018 Master Nat Dan willingly stepped up to share more about his experience (thanks, Dan!). Read on to hear about the program in his own words:
"Washington, D.C. can feel like a concrete jungle, and it’s easy to forget what an incredible, vibrant landscape we live in. By contrast, when you’re paddling on the Anacostia River on a summer afternoon, it’s just as easy to forget about all that concrete beyond the forest’s edge. It’s a special place. And it’s one that I knew very little about before applying to the Master Naturalist program with the Anacostia Watershed Society (AWS).
The river’s reputation is, admittedly, checkered. To many, the image that the name “Anacostia” brings to mind might be of a polluted river flowing past blighted neighborhoods. It’s true that the river was degraded by agriculture and industry, engineered and then—along with the residents of its adjacent neighborhoods—largely neglected. But things are improving. In 2018, for the first time since AWS has been keeping score, the river earned a passing grade. Take a canoe out now and you might see great blue herons stalking on the shoreline, ospreys soaring overhead, maybe even a bald eagle or two if you’re lucky. The forests provide habitat for beavers, muskrats, foxes, deer, and plenty of other mammals. There are more than 40 species of fish in the river and its tributaries. These days there are even freshwater mussels, which filter the river, improving water clarity and habitat for submerged aquatic vegetation.
I wouldn’t know all of this without the Master Nats program. Each Saturday, we’d assemble at the AWS headquarters in Bladensburg—a diverse group of young professionals, recent grads, and retired folks with a shared interest. We’d hear lessons taught by local experts on the flora and fauna of the watershed, its geology, its history, the indigenous groups that first called it home, and the impact that industrialization and development has had upon it. We’d take field trips out into the watershed, sometimes on the river itself, to learn, for example, how to identify plants, which species are invasive, and how AWS is working to eradicate them and restore native plants more beneficial to wildlife. It was a terrific way to spend a summer.
(Dan was part of the group that helped build - and will install - bird boxes to complement our native plant meadow along the confluence of the NE and NW branches of the river.)
Now, to complete my certification, I owe AWS 40 hours of service, but this, too, has been fun. I’ve cleared phragmites (an invasive reed), planted Virginia mallow, built bluebird houses, sorted through trash (surprisingly interesting), hauled illegally dumped tires out of the woods, assisted with AWS events, and got to feel connected to the environment around me. Although the program is called Master Naturalist, I don’t feel that I’m a master by any means. That’s okay, I know a lot more about the watershed I live in now, and I have the opportunity to help make it a better place."
And thanks for all your help, Dan! We're looking forward to working together with you as we get even closer to a cleaner, healthier Anacostia River!