Our Mission

Virginia Working Landscapes (VWL) is a program of the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI) that promotes the conservation of native biodiversity and sustainable land use through research, education and community engagement.

About VWL

Learn more about who we are, our program mission and vision.  
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Our Research

Learn about our research and wildlife surveys in Virginia.  
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Get Involved

Interested in joining our team of citizen scientists or landowners?  
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In late 2009 public and private land holders and ecologists teamed up to share information, with meetings convened by the Smithsonian and, in 2010, a new website (vaworkinglandscapes.org) developed by Piedmont Environmental Council. With the help of experts from the various organizations (including excellent volunteers), the Smithsonian developed a research program in 2010 focused on managing native grassland to support native bird, pollinator and plant species in Virginia.

We conducted bird, pollinator and plant surveys on thirteen 20-acre grasslands in Northern Virginia (five planted in native grasses) to monitor change in focal grassland species based on different management, including restoration of native grasses and common management regimes for the region. In addition to landowner workshops and volunteer trainings, we also hosted an invasive plant species workshop and several lectures in 2010.

2011 Progress

While PEC and Smithsonian have continued to refine the website and communications strategies, we were able to host some important training and workshop events to increase the capacity of our community to understand the importance of native habitats and to develop management tools. For the workshops and surveys, we were able to retain Maria Van Dyke to serve as coordinator.

We acquired 12 additional grassland study sites; a total of 25 grassland research sites with 14 of those sites being native warm season grasslands. Nine counties are now represented in the research program (Loudon, Fauquier, Clarke, Warren, Frederick, Rappahannock, Culpeper, Albemarle and Frederick). Our 2011 volunteer citizen science program included volunteers from 12 counties in Virginia.

In efforts to expand our educational reach we held two days of grassland restoration workshops for large parcel landowners. For smaller landowners we hosted an all day native plant and grassland restoration hike preceded by a lecture on native habitat restoration by a respected restoration expert, Neil Diboll from Prairie Moon Nursery. The lecture was sponsored by Shenandoah University, Blandy, PEC, and Smithsonian.

Meetings and Workshops

We convened three network meetings in 2011:

  • 2010 update of survey results and call for support, unveiling of website
  • Meet-and-Greet for members and partners and introduction of new Program Coordinator, call for volunteers and research sites for 2011
  • Member and Partner Luncheon: Report out summary of 2010 survey results

156 individuals and organizations registered within the VWL network from central to northern Virginia (counties: Loudon, Arlington, Fairfax, Richmond, Albemarle, Nelson, Page, Frederick, Clarke, Loudon, Prince William, Fauquier, Culpeper, Rappahannock, Warren)


Shenandoah National Park became a new agency partner in 2011. SNP’s Big Meadows open area became a research site in the summer of 2011. Jointly, the Shenandoah National Park Trust, Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, and the Piedmont Environmental Council hosted a sell-out gala to focus on “Virginia’s Living Landscapes.” The event was co-chaired by Beatrice von Gontard and Maggie Bryant. This generated funding and more interest in the area’s agricultural land assets. Another joint-event is being planned for June 2012.


  • Virginia Working Landscapes and Native Bee Lecture to Aldie Garden Club 6/19/2011
  • Virginia Working Landscapes and Native Bee Lecture to the Virginia Native Plant Society 11/10/2011
  • Hosted Native Grassland Walk with the Piedmont Environmental Council Spring Farm Tour May 2011
  • Hosted Table at the PEC film debut of “Vanishing of the Bees” July 2011
  • Bill McShea presented the Virginia Working Landscapes Native Warm Season Grass Program at the Fauquier County Conservation Roundtable
  • Native Warm Season Grass Forage and Management Training - 2 days (70 attendees) – hosted at SCBI Front Royal and Mare Center in Middleburg
  • Neil Diboll Lecture on Native Landscaping (100+ attendees), at Shenandoah University
  • Native Plant Walk lead by Neil Diboll, VNPS president and VNPS members (50 attendees), at Jones Farm in Rappahannock County
  • In January 2011 we launched our Virginia Working Landscapes Website with the support of PEC


  • Trained 37 Volunteer Citizen Scientists – 4 volunteers helped with more than one survey
  • Total # of Volunteer hours (Training + Surveys + Specimen Identification) = 910 hours total
  • Citizen Science Pollinator Survey Training – 1 day (15 volunteers) a. Citizen Science Native Bee Specimen Preparation Training (7 attendees) b. Citizen Science Native Bee Identification Training at SCBI (3 attendees) c. Provided monetary support for one citizen science volunteer to take a week long professional bee identification training
  • Citizen Science Plant and Grass Survey Training - 1 day (16 volunteer Citizen Scientists) a. Two follow-up Identification workshops during sampling season (8 attendees)
  • Citizen Science Bird Survey Training - 1 day (10 volunteer Citizen Scientists)
  • Maria Van Dyke attended two Grassland Restoration Workshops: 1- Wake Forest University in NC and 2- Virginia Tech with Dr Ben Tracy
  • Maria Van Dyke also attended a NAPPC Pollinator Conference where VWL has agreed to participate in developing a national pollinator sampling training manual with NAPPC partners including USGS, NFWF, and other local environmental organizations


  • Measured and identified pollinator, bird and plant species on 25 properties (500 + acres of grassland surveyed)
  • Over 900 hours of citizen science volunteer time
  • Collected and identified 380 species of plants - Identified 125 species of grassland, edge, forest, and migratory birds
  • Collected over 6000 specimens of bees
  • Identified 15 species of butterflies

Properties Currently Involved in Grassland Research Project

This is a list of participating properties and a brief explanation of the field type, field age and management strategy. (Four of these properties have implemented their native grass field restoration upon or after involvement with VWL (Fannon Preserve, Kinloch Farm, SCBI-Happy Field and Turkey Run Farm).

Field Site Age of Field in 2011
Big Meadows – Shenandoah State Park Warm season grass – wild (>15 years)
Blandy Cool Cool season grass - Old field (>20 years)
Blandy Warm Warm season grass (6 years)
Briars Farmstead Cool Season Grazing Field (>20 years) not grazed this year
Environmental Studies on the Piedmont (no survey 2011) Warm season grass (>10 years)
Fannon Preserve Warm season grass (year 1)
Innisfree Old cool & warm season field (>15 years) mow once a year
Jones Long Mountain(no survey 2011) Warm season grass (3 years)
Jones Tiger Hollow(no survey 2011) Warm season grass (3 years)
Kinloch Farm – Hay field First year warm season grass hay field (year 0)
Kinloch Farm – Old Field Cool season grass – Old Field (3 years)
Manassas – Picnic Area Warm season grass (3 years)
Manassas – North East Warm season grass (10 years)
Manwaring Farm Warm season grass – Switchgrass Hay Field (15 years)
Ogden Caves Warm season grass (3 years)
Oxbow Hay Cool season grass - Hay field (>15 years)
Oxbow Warm Warm season grass (3 years)
Oxbow Horse field Cool season grass - wild (>15 years)
Panorama Farms Unmanaged (seeded) warm season grass field (15 years)
Hume Farm Cool season grass – Old Field (3 years) mow once a year
Rosehill Game Preserve Warm Season Grass (10 years) Burn Management
SCBI - Crane Cool season grass - Old Abandoned Hay Field(>20 years)
SCBI - Happy Creek Warm season grass (year 1)
SCBI - Posey Cool season grass - Old Pasture Field(>20 years)
Stonebridge Farm Cool season grass - Old Field (>20 years) mow once a year
The Farm at Sunnyside Warm season grass (3 years) Burn Management
Trappe Farm(no survey 2011) Cool season grass - Hay field (>16 years)
Turkey Run Farm First year warm season grass biodiversity meadow (year 0)
Walnut Springs (no survey 2011) Cool season grass - Old Hay/Pasture Field(>20 years)
White House Farm Warm season grass – (5 years)

Hopes for the Future of Virginia Working Landscapes

As we and our partners continue to develop this network and conduct the research, we hope to continue encouraging the sustainable use of Virginia landscapes and grasslands for native biodiversity. And we plan to promote the benefits of managing private working lands for biodiversity, as well as agriculture, and other traditional economic uses. Through all these efforts, we hope to lay the groundwork for scaling up such practices regionally.

When we think about the potential for this program in the longer term, we are hoping for the following outcomes within five years:

  • To have biodiversity data from enough sites to quantify how different management practices impact native species richness and diversity
  • To have established, supported, and nurtured demonstration lands in each county that serve as real examples of sustainable use of working lands
  • To have a core of knowledgeable landowners who support sustainable use of their land that encourages native species and biodiversity to their neighbors, institutions and governments
  • To develop best practices and measures for assessing sustainable land use that enhances biodiversity, and a group of professionals and citizen managers who can implement and measure these standards
  • SCBI plans to continue serving in this process by providing knowledge, exemplifying best practices on its own 3200-acre property, and by helping facilitate the networking of landowners, professionals and experts

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Virginia Working Landscapes
Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute
1500 Remount Road
Front Royal, Virginia 22630
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