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Virginia Working Landscapes

Researchers standing and looking across a foggy field

Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI) scientists work to save species and preserve ecosystems all over the world—and in their own backyard.

Virginia Working Landscapes is a network of conservation organizations and local landowners led and overseen by SCBI and partners. Together, they work to protect Virginia’s natural biodiversity and promote sustainable land-use practices.

Virginia Working Landscapes includes SCBI and citizen scientists along with the American Bird Conservancy, Environmental Studies on the Piedmont, the Natural Resource Conservation Service of the USDA, the Piedmont Environmental Council, the Virginia Native Plant Society, and the Virginia Outdoors Foundation.

Areas of Study Include:

  • Native Grasslands: Pastures of warm season grass support declining populations of native plants, pollinators, and birds, and suppress invasive species. Historically, farmers have tended to favor non-native cool-season grasses. Partners and citizen scientists with Virginia Working Landscapes work with local farms to study and implement best practices for sustainable land management of warm-season grass.
  • River and Wetland Biodiversity: Wood turtles are a threatened and declining species across most of their range, including in northern Virginia. SCBI, citizen scientists, and landowners are working together to study and protect this threatened species.
  • eMammal: SCBI, citizen scientists and North Carolina State University work together to document mammals throughout the mid-Atlantic. Volunteers place camera traps—infrared, motion-activated cameras—in parks and other natural areas to help researchers study mammal distribution and abundance.
  • Loggerhead Shrike Recovery: Virginia Working Landscape partners work to study loggerhead shrikes, a once-common songbird species. Their populations have fallen sharply (down 70 percent), and they have disappeared from New England completely. There may be as few as 100 birds remaining in Virginia, a state where they were once abundant. No one knows what caused the decline, but scientists and volunteers study their populations in the wild and help breed them at SCBI.