13 graduate in naturalist volunteer training course at conservancy

Marriottsville-Woodstock-Sykesville Column


May 26, 2011|By Cassie Felch

Recently, the Howard County Conservancy marked a milestone in environmental education. The organization became the first in the state to host a Maryland Master Naturalist volunteer training course, graduating 13 certified Master Naturalists.

Congratulations to the members of the first graduating class — Natalie Brewer, Carolyn Cradler (volunteer liaison), Alex Dunbar, Tabby Fique (program facilitator), Joanne Heckman, Caroline Kosisky, Kerrie Kyde, Woody Merkle, Anne Roy, Meg Schumacher (conservancy director), Marion Sernulka, Larry Uhteg and Janice Winter. Last month, the graduates celebrated their achievement with a luncheon, where they received their certificates and name badges.


The Master Naturalist program originated in Colorado approximately 40 years ago and has now taken root in 34 states. Planning for the Maryland branch began in 2005. After several years of gathering information, developing coursework and forming partnerships, the University of Maryland Extension rolled out the pilot training course in March 2010 under the supervision of Program Coordinator Wanda MacLachlan, Program Assistant Rondalyn Reeser and the program steering committee.

Over the course of seven weeks, a variety of local university professors and environmental specialists guided the students through 48 hours of instruction and field work. Studies focused on Maryland geography and geology; ecology; fungi, plants and animals; and the consequences of human activities on natural environments. The students also performed 40 hours of volunteer service and presented a final project.

The Conservancy has already incorporated the following projects into its educational mission:

•A notebook titled, "Management Plan for the Control of Invasive Species at Howard County Conservancy," to assist volunteers in managing invasive species on the property.

•A children's book titled, "Where is My Home?" about a bluebird named Skye living on the grounds of the conservancy.

•An information kiosk near a walking path to teach visitors about the "Impact of White-Tailed Deer on Natural Environments in Howard County."

•A poster titled, "Wetlands Serve as a Mini Ecosystem," to describe the natural process of wetland development.

•A community survey called "Making the Connection," to help increase neighbors' visits to the conservancy.

•A "Tree Survey" conducted on local parkland to determine the reason for tree decline.

•A research project about "The Story of Camp Ilchester Girl Scout Camp" to study the history of land usage in the Ilchester area of Ellicott City.

Some of these projects will be visible at the conservancy, and since the Master Naturalists must continue to volunteer at least 40 hours of service in their region each year, visitors may also encounter the graduates at various conservancy events.

After the successful conclusion of the pilot program, the Master Naturalist training expanded to other host sites in the Piedmont region of Maryland (Cylburn Arboretum and Cromwell Valley Park in Baltimore, Oregon Ridge Nature Center in Cockeysville, and Audubon Naturalist Society in Chevy Chase) and the Coastal Plain region (Adkins Arboretum in Ridgely) and will ultimately move to the Mountain region, as well.

For more information about the Maryland Master Naturalist Program, go to http://masternaturalist.umd.edu.

We hear a lot about jazz concerts at the local high schools, but terrific student musicians often get started much earlier in life. On June 6, Folly Quarter Middle School will present a jazz concert that also features the West Friendship and Dayton Oaks Elementary School Combined Jazz Band as an opening act. Come out to FQMS, from 7 to 9 p.m. to support all of these talented young students. The address is 13500 Triadelphia Road, in Ellicott City.

On May 14, two groups from Mount View Middle School – the symphonic band and the advanced orchestra – earned high praise at the Music in the Parks festival in Hershey, Pa. Both groups achieved superior ratings and won "Best Overall" in their categories. The band even received a standing ovation!

Shortly after the event, Mount View band director Shelly Williams boarded a plane for Spain, where she accompanied the Shepherd University Wind Ensemble and Chamber Choir as a guest conductor. The group will perform in concert with its counterparts in Madrid, Seville and Granada. Kudos to Williams on her selection for this prestigious role!

Congratulations, also, to MVMS orchestra director Matthew DeBeal and to all of the Mount View students who performed so strongly at Music in the Parks!

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