Our Mission

Virginia Working Landscapes' (VWL) mission is to study and promote the sustainable use of Virginia’s landscapes for native biodiversity through ecosystem research, habitat monitoring, and community engagement.

This dynamic working network is convened by Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI) in Front Royal, Virginia, with Piedmont Environmental Council (PEC), Blandy Experimental Farm at the State Arboretum of Virginia, the Virginia Native Plant Society, the American Bird Conservancy, Virginia Outdoors Foundation, USDA, Environmental Studies on the Piedmont, Shenandoah National Park and several local service providers and landowners.

2014 Grassland Biodiversity Survey Volunteer Opportunities


Virginia Working Landscapes is currently recruiting citizen scientists to assist with plant, bird and pollinator surveys across the Virginia Piedmont and northern Shenandoah, from Frederick to Albemarle County for spring and summer 2014. These surveys are part of a study of working grasslands that examines species diversity under various management regimes and at different stages of warm season grass establishment.Training and surveys are supported by the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI) in Front Royal.

There is no need to be an expert naturalist to participate in the surveys (although both the plant and bird surveys demand a working knowledge of local flora and birds). All that is required is an interest in learning and sufficient time to dedicate to the project. Each survey will have a mandatory introductory meeting that will cover important information such as survey protocols, identification skills and site assignments.  Please join us for one or more of the survey projects listed below (note: first time volunteers will be limited to one survey):


Bird survey: Introductory training will be held on April 12th from 9:00 am to 12:00 pm at SCBI and will include a brief overview of project goals, survey protocols, data collection and site assignments.  Prior knowledge of local bird species is essential. Survey season begins May 15th and runs until June 30th. Point counts are carried out within 4 hours of sunrise and take approximately 45-60 minutes per site (three 10-minute counts). Time commitment is a minimum of 6 survey sessions plus training (estimated 15 hrs not including travel). You will need personal binoculars and a field guide, all other survey supplies provided.


Plant survey: Training will be held April 27th from 1:00 pm to 4:00 pm at SCBI and will include sampling protocols and specimen collection and identification guidance. There is no need to be an expert in Virginia’s native flora, but we do ask that you have familiarity with Virginia flora, and the ability to key out unknown specimens with field guides and dichotomous keys. It is possible to pair with a more experienced person. Surveys will be performed in June and again from the last week of July through August. Each site will take approximately 6-8 hours to survey.  You must be able to commit at least 5 days (an estimated 30-40 hrs plus travel), but the scheduling of the survey days is relatively flexible. Supplies and equipment provided.


Pollinator survey: An introductory training session will be offered May 3rd from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm at Blandy Experimental Farm in Boyce VA, and will include training on pollinator life history, survey collection protocols in the field, identification of the most common bees, and specimen preparation for taxonomic identification. Surveys will be set up in April, and samples will be removed from traps every two weeks until mid-August. Citizen scientists are expected to pull specimens from the field, separated by site and sampling protocol (trap type -pan trap or blue vane trap), check trap condition, process and store specimens properly, fill in survey sheets, and coordinate delivery of samples to the the parataxonomist at Blandy Experimental Farm. The final identification of specimens will be completed by para-taxonomists. Survey collections need to be made on a regular schedule every 2 weeks from all sites. You must be able to commit a minimum of 30 to 40 hrs (plus travel to our survey sites). Survey training, supplies and equipment provided.    



What you will gain from volunteering your time:

1.  An opportunity to apply your naturalist skills to scientific research.

2.  Training and knowledge of identification of key components of Virginia grassland communities.

3.  Training in survey and preparation protocols for specific guilds (birds, plants, pollinators).

4.  Opportunities to network and communicate with others of similar interests.

5.  Preferential admission to 2014 VWL sponsored workshops.


What we will need from you:                                                                   

1.  Volunteer Registration Information.

2.  Your participation in introductory training sessions and sampling days.

3.  Agreement to undergo fingerprinting and background check.

4.  Completion of your field surveys within the allotted time period.

5.  Prompt replies to emails concerning logistics, data management, and recording of volunteer hours.


Registration Information

Please email the following information to SCBIVWL@si.edu


   -Cell and/or home phone numbers:


   -City of residence:

   -Survey you are interested in:

   -Short description of your relevant skills:

   -Which counties you’d be willing to travel to for surveys: (Frederick, Clarke, Loudoun, Rappahannock, Warren, Shenandoah, Page, Madison, Greene, Orange, Albemarle, Culpeper Fauquier, Prince William, Augusta)



VWL 2014 Grassland Biodiversity Survey Locations

Banshee Reeks Nature Preserve

Loudoun County

Blandy Experimental Farm

Clarke County

Callander Farm

Clarke County

Chilton's Gate Farm

Culpeper County

Fannon Farm

Rappahannock County

Jones Nature Preserve

Rappahannock County

Kinloch Farm

Fauquier County



Manassas National Battlefield Park

Prince William County

Marriott Ranch

Fauquier County

Miller Farm

Rappahannock County

Ogden Cave

Frederick County

Over Jordan

Rappahannock County

Oxbow Farm

Warren County

Sharp Rock Farm

Rappahannock County

Shenandoah University-Cool Spring

Clarke County

Sky Meadows State Park

Fauquier County

Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute

Warren County

Spring House Farm

Shenandoah County

Stonebridge Farm

Warren County

Swoope Boy Scout

Augusta County

The Farm at Sunnyside

Rappahannock County

Volgenau Farm

Fauquier County

Wheatlands Farm

Augusta County


Virginia Working Landscapes' (VWL) mission is to study and promote the sustainable use of Virginia’s landscapes for native biodiversity through ecosystem research, habitat monitoring, and community engagement.