PA Master Naturalist Annual Meeting

Philly Naturalists Nicole Cantwell and I attended the PA Master Naturalist Annual Meeting in Pittsburgh November 8-10 . Our experiences were probably different as I believe Nicole probably attended different sessions than I did and she did the off-site sessions and I chose not to. I spent Friday on my own exploring the Laurel Highlands and most of Sunday morning being a tourist in Pittsburgh. In any case, I hope to provide an overall view of the event, what was presented and what I got out of it.

There were two Field Trips scheduled on Friday and for future note, the off-site field trips tend to fill up quickly and are usually an additional cost, but the main part of the meeting actually started on Saturday. Every Annual Meeting has a theme and this year it was “Navigating Pennsylvania’s Changing Waterways”. Attendees register ahead of time and you pick what sessions you want to attend. Because the event was in Pittsburgh, there were some sessions particularly focused on areas in Western PA. I did not attend those but Nicole may have. There were off-site field trips to Carnegie Museum of Natural History, Shenley Park (restoration) and Nine Mile Run (also a restoration site, attendees participated in live willow staking—Nicole did this one)

Saturday started with keynote speaker, Jennifer Christman from the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy speaking about Watershed Conservation in Western Pennsylvania and the history, protection and restoration projects undertaken by the Conservancy. I learned a few things about how mussels reproduce. Also discussed was how historical land use by timber, mining and farming industries have disturbed the connection between stream channels and their floodplains how restoration efforts should seek to re-establish that connection.

Next we heard from Ben Hayes from Bucknell University who talked about “Landscape Memory”, this was actually one of my favorite talks. Ben talked a lot about how geologic events shaped watersheds and I learned about the Pennsylvania Salient Region, also known as the “Fold Belt”, aka The Ridge and Valley Eco-Region. Ben talked about the forces at work that created this area and how limestone deposits in the valleys made the areas conducive to farming by buffering the soil. He talked about what areas of the state are the oldest and which are the youngest . My biggest take-away was how tree debris should be left or put back into the streams. He talked about 5 key concepts that basically state how streams will self-adjust and he built upon the concept that restoration efforts should seeks to bring streams into equilibrium.

Next came Fred Zelt talking about What Every Naturalist Should Know About Climate. This speaker obviously loves graphs and charts and is every bit a scientist with the most detailed information. He basically talked about all the things that effect Climate besides fossil fuels raising carbon dioxide levels, there are effects from land use, earth’s orbital fluctuations and volcanic activities. Solar flares and radiation are not responsible for increased temperatures on earth, believe it or not.

The last class was a demonstration of hands-on activities that teach about climate conservation, carbon footprint and stormwater run-off. I enjoy these types of sessions as I am always looking for ideas for nature club and I came away with a good one about stormwater run-off that I can adapt for my kids.

The afternoon ended with the annual meeting…Michele reviewing the year and sharing a little about how the organization is doing financially, sources of income and related expenses. It is optional to attend this but it is interesting to see the financials and hear plans for the upcoming year. Next came Volunteer Recognition, Graduation and Social. Everybody got a drink ticket if you wanted one. People who finished their initial first year service projects graduated from Trainees to Master Naturalists.

People who do over and above their required volunteer hours (like 100, 250, 500, 1000 hours) get recognized. I got a pat on the back for being Training Coordinator for Philadelphia. I guess I should say at this point what is included in attending an annual meeting, you get snacks, food is available almost all day long, coffee, and other beverages, Saturday Lunch and Sunday Breakfast, plus everyone gets some swag. This year it was journals. There is also a Merch Room where you can buy PAMN stuff. There was also a Silent Auction, A Photo Contest and Vendors with lots of free stuff and free information, maps, etc. Saturday dinner is on your own. I got invited to go to dinner with the staff, but I kind of wanted to hang out in my comfy Hilton Garden Inn room a 10 minute walk away. I picked up dinner on my walk back to the hotel and watched TV.

Finally Sunday arrived and I had signed up to attend the Breakfast Table Talk with Fred Zelt who talked about the Geology of Pennsylvania, particularly Chester and Huntington counties. It was noisy and there were constant interruptions from people getting on the microphone to make announcements. However, he gave me a thumb drive of his presentation and that was so worth it. He is coming to our area in May and I am hoping he can speak to our group.

Next year’s event will be in Valley Forge, and I am so excited as we are going to “OWN” that meeting!

See you all there next year…Remember, it is always the 2nd week in November.