Here are some useful resources for Master Naturalists and anyone else who is curious about nature, enjoys the outdoors, or wants to contribute to natural resource management and conservation in Virginia.
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Virginia Native Plants for Conservation, Restoration, and Landscaping: Department of Conservation and Recreation site for information on native plant species in Virginia.
Flora of Virginia Project: The Flora of Virginia Project was undertaken in 2001 to steer creation of the first comprehensive reference work on the native and naturalized plants of Virginia.
Virginia Dept. of Forestry – Tree Identification: The Virginia Department of Forestry has many tools to help you identify the trees you love. You can also also download a free copy of the popular book “Common Native Trees of Virginia” (English; PDF format)
VTREE: Virginia Tech Tree Identification brings the award winning Virginia Tech digital dendrology material to your iPhone or Android. It contains fact sheets for 969 woody plants from all over North America with an in-depth description, range map and thousands of color images of leaves, flowers, fruit, twigs, bark and form.
Arbor Day Foundation – What Tree is That? Online, Eastern Edition: An illustrated, step-by-stepfield guide that makes it easy to identify a tree simply by the kinds of leaves it produces.
Identifying American Chestnut Trees: This page is designed to help you distinguish among several species of the chestnut family (Castanea) commonly seen in North America. Also included are three non-chestnut species that are often confused with chestnut.
Chestnut ID Presentation (PDF download) from The American Chestnut Foundation.
The Cavity Conservation Initiative: Retaining dead and dying trees to preserve cavity-dwelling species and their habitats.
BugGuide: An online community of naturalists who enjoy learning about and sharing our observations of insects, spiders, and other related creatures. We collect photographs of bugs from the United States and Canada for identification and research. We summarize our findings in guide pages for each order, family, genus, and species.
Monarch Joint Venture (MJV): A Minnesota-based partnership of federal and state agencies, non-governmental organizations, and academic programs that are working together to support and coordinate efforts to protect the monarch migration across the lower 48 United States.
The Butterfly Society of Virginia: Education – Study and learn more about butterflies and moths. Raise the general consciousness of the survival problems of butterflies and moths through publicity, programs and activities for both adults and children. Conservation – Promote butterfly and moth conservation, including conservation of habitat and host and nectar gardens. Gardening – Encourage the planting of butterfly and moth host and nectar plants in home and public gardens. Volunteering – Support the butterfly gardens and programs of the Norfolk Botanical Garden, the Virginia Zoological Park, and other appropriate organizations throughout the State.
Geology of Virginia at W&M: A resource at William & Mary University for information, photographs, maps, and diagrams of the geology of the Commonwealth of Virginia.
Geology of Virginia at Radford: A Web resource for learning about the geology of Virginia.
Geology of Virginia at JMU: This site was created from materials developed over the past two decades by Lynn S. Fichter. Site creation was supported by a Summer 1999 Faculty Assistance Grant awarded to L.S. Ficher and Steve J. Baedke by the College of Science and Mathematics, James Madison University.
Geology and Mineral Resources of the Roanoke Area, Virginia: (PDF download) A PDF version of the 1932 Virginia Geological Society Bulletin #34 by Herbert P. Woodward. It is a “…comprehensive discussion of the surface features, rock formations, structure, geologic history, and mineral resources of Roanoke County and adjoining parts of Botetourt, Bedford, Franklin, Floyd, Montgomery, and Craig counties.”
Herpetology (Reptiles and Amphibians)
Virginia Herpetological Society: Reference pages on Reptiles (Snakes, Lizards, Turtles) and Amphibians (Frogs. Toads, Salamanders) of Virginia plus additional educational materials.
EFISH – The Virtual Aquarium: The Department of Fisheries & Wildlife Sciences at Virginia Tech provides key characteristics, aquatic habitats, distribution in Virginia, food and reproductive habitats for representative species of the fish families found in Virginia waters.
Virginia Game Fishes: Virginia offers excellent, extremely diverse freshwater angling opportunities. Over 176,000 acres of public lakes and 27,300 miles of fishable streams provide every freshwater angler something: tidal river for largemouth bass, striped bass, blue catfish and shad; unsurpassed float fishing smallmouth bass rivers spread across the state; expansive reservoirs renowned for largemouth bass, striped bass, and crappie; numerous “close-to-home” small, family fishing lakes and ponds with great chances to land bass, sunfish, and channel catfish; and phenomenal stocked and wild trout fishing in the Blue Ridge and Allegheny mountains.
Virginia Marine Fish Identification Guide: (PDF download) Depicts more than 50 species of marine fish commonly encountered in Virginia coastal waters. In addition to color illustrations of each species, the description of each species lists the distinctive characteristics which enable a positive identification.
Beginner’s Guide to Bird Watching: A very informative and helpful page for those who want to get started in the exciting hobby of bird watching. Provides guidance and links to excellent sources on identifying birds, setting up bird feeders, and even selecting binoculars.
Cornell Lab of Ornithology: The Cornell Lab of Ornithology is a world leader in the study, appreciation, and conservation of birds. Our hallmarks are scientific excellence and technological innovation to advance the understanding of nature and to engage people of all ages in learning about birds and protecting the planet.
All About Birds: An online guide to birds and bird watching provided by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
eBird: Provided by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Audubon, eBird is a global tool for birders, collecting critical data for science. It allows you to record the birds you see, keep track of your bird lists, explore dynamic maps and graphs, share your sightings and join the eBird community, and contribute to science and conservation.
Sialis.org (Bluebirds): This website was developed as a resource for people interested in helping bluebirds and other native cavity-nesters survive and thrive.
Roanoke Valley Bird Club – Birding Sites List: An excellent list of local and regional birdwatching sites hosted on the Roanoke Valley Bird Club website.
The Feather Atlas: From the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, an excellent visual search tool for identifying flight feathers of North American birds.
Especially Good for Young People
How to Identify the UK’s 10 Most Common Birds: Recommended by Ms. Wagner’s class, this is an excellent resource for young people and adults in the UK where the common birds differ from those in the US. House Sparrows are common in both places, as are Starlings (called European Starlings in the US). However, US birdwatchers will be fascinated by the Blue Tit, Great Tit, and Chaffinch. Robins and Goldfinches also look very different in the US and UK.
A Kid’s Guide to Bird-Watching in the Playground (New!): Bird watching, also known as birding, is considered a hobby by some and a sport by others, but it can also be a great activity for kids. It is one of the most popular hobbies in that it embraces a large group of people of all ages. About one-fifth of the United States population is thought to be involved in bird watching, according to the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. One of the reasons for the popularity of bird watching is that there are no special requirements in order to participate.
Official Birds of the United States (New!): A map and description of the Official State Birds of the US.
Hawk Migration Association of North America: The Hawk Migration Association of North America (HMANA) is a membership-based organization committed to the conservation of raptors through the scientific study, enjoyment, and appreciation of raptor migration.
A Guide to Hawks Seen in the Northeast (PDF Download) by the NorthEast Hawk Watch, a chapter of HMANA (2008). This two-page guide shows soaring silhouettes and key field marks for the migratory hawks regularly seen in the northeastern United States and eastern Canada. You can download and print the guide free for personal, noncommercial use. You can also order inexpensive printed editions of the guide: a standard edition printed on heavy, glossy card stock or a special laminated edition designed for heavy use in the field. Individual and bulk ordering information is available from the Northeast Hawk Watch website.
A Guide to Hawks Seen in North America (PDF download) by the Hawk Migration Association of North America (2009). An expanded version of the earlier Northeast guide, this new two–page guide shows soaring silhouettes and key field marks for 21 migratory hawks regularly seen in most of North America. You can download and print the guide free for personal, noncommercial use. You can also purchase a special laminated edition designed for heavy use in the field. Individual and bulk ordering information is available from HMANA.
Leave No Trace Seven Principles. For when we actually hike on trails in addition to maintaining them!
Virginia Master Naturalists
Virginia Master Naturalist Program: The Virginia Master Naturalist Program is a statewide corps of volunteers providing education, outreach, and service dedicated to the beneficial management of natural resources and natural areas within their communities. Interested Virginians become Master Naturalists through training and volunteer service.
Virginia Cooperative Extension – Natural Resources: Virginia Cooperative Extension develops and supports new discoveries, ideas, products, and services in natural resources and the environment. Virginia’s rich natural resources have a long history of use, misuse and changing pressures. Today our treasured natural resources are more valued and needed and simultaneously under more varied pressures, than ever. Every Virginian depends on the goods and services provided by our Commonwealth’s natural resources.
Other Local, Regional, and State Resources
Virginia State Parks: You’ll find plenty of programs, events and activities at Virginia State Parks. Our 36 parks have thousands of campsites, hundreds of cabins, more than 500 miles of trails and convenient access to Virginia’s major waterways. Beaches, picnic shelters, family lodges, meeting facilities, festivals, concerts, nature programs, cultural happenings… the list goes on and on.
Explore Park: Just off the Blue Ridge Parkway at Milepost 115, Explore Park features hundreds of acres of rolling hills, pristine woodlands, hiking trails, river frontage, historical buildings and a visitor information center. Stop inside the center from April to November to browse our gift shop featuring artisan crafts and parkway memorabilia. Whether you’re looking to bike, hike, canoe, picnic, or learn more about all Roanoke County has to offer, Explore Park is your destination for exploration!
Virginia Birding and Wildlife Trail: Within Virginia’s 43,000 square miles of diverse natural habitat, you can find some 400 species of birds, 250 species of fish, 150 species of terrestrial and marine mammals, 150 species of amphibians and reptiles, and a wide variety of aquatic and terrestrial invertebrates. The Virginia Birding and Wildlife Trail celebrates this diversity. In fact, it is the first statewide program of its kind in the United States.
The Nature Conservancy – Bottom Creek Gorge Preserve: One of the head-water streams of the South Fork of the Roanoke River, Bottom Creek boasts a 200-foot high waterfall. Bottom Creek is a powerful mountain stream that forms a stair-step series of broad-basin waterfalls known as “The Kettles.” Flanking Bottom Creek are forests of mixed hardwoods (tulip poplar, maple, oak, hickory) and upland meadows. Bottom Creek Gorge also contains virgin hemlocks and hundreds of wildflowers.
George Washington and Jefferson National Forests: The George Washington and Jefferson National Forests stretch along the ruggedly beautiful Appalachian Mountains of Virginia and even cross into parts of West Virginia and Kentucky. The forests are primarily Appalachian hardwood and mixed pine-hardwood forest types located within the Blue Ridge, Central Ridge and Valley, Allegheny, and Cumberland Plateau provinces.
Updated: October 15, 2020