Rivanna Master Naturalists, Charlottesville, Virginia

Starting in February, two dozen locals will give their Tuesday nights over to the study of rocks, plants, and birds. Together, they will pledge to devote nearly 1,000 hours annually to environmental study and education. These volunteers will be the 2014 class of Rivanna Master Naturalists, the newest members of a statewide corps of highly trained volunteers. Some of the volunteers devote their annual hours to eradicating invasive plants. Others help maintain the Rivanna Trail, or teach environmental education classes in schools and at the Ivy Creek Natural Area.

Charlottesville is the epicenter of the Commonwealth’s Master Naturalists program. This local chapter was one of the first established when the volunteer effort was founded in 2006. Current coordinator Alycia Crall, who took the post in January, said it’s a natural fit; Charlottesville is centrally located for the 2,000-plus program volunteers around the state, and it’s home to one of the most active and fastest-growing chapters. Supporting state agencies and nonprofits that fund the Master Naturalist program include: the Department of Forestry, the Department of Environmental Quality, regional soil and water conservation districts, and others.

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