This is Our ANS. We’re connecting communities to nature here in the DC region. We’re providing our members with meaningful nature-based experiences. A warm welcome to our 656 new members this year! As good stewards, we have begun to restore habitats at our 40-acre Woodend Nature Sanctuary. We’re being good fiscal stewards too. Your contributions continue to provide the strong financial foundation for the organization. Thank you. With your support, we’re standing up for our local environment and teaching the next generation of nature stewards to love and protect the natural world for the future.
Take a look at our highlights video. It tells the story of a great year for ANS.
Greetings members, friends and staff. On behalf of Lisa Alexander and our Board of Directors I am happy to offer this annual President’s Report.
When I wrote to you last year, I described the many efforts ANS has undertaken to strengthen our systems and internal processes. We have benefited tremendously. The refinement of our strategic plan has provided tangible goals and tactics for every part of our mission: environmental education, conservation advocacy, and the stewardship of our sanctuaries. Our improved financial reporting has happily coincided with improved financial health. Many thanks are due to our Development Director Jacky Wershbale and her staff for the increased revenues that have underpinned the latter.
We have also continued to expand our communications into new outlets, including this exciting new format for our annual report that our talented Communications Director Kelli Holsendolph has prepared for you. Kelli also worked this year with Board Member Jennifer Hinrichs to develop a bright new logo for ANS. The change in format and logo is emblematic, I think, of the change in focus our new systems have allowed us. With our internal house in good order, we have been able to put energy into external efforts that have increased our interactions with – and visibility within – the greater DC area. This shift has happened more quickly than I would have imagined a year ago. But such is the pace of change now at ANS.
2015 saw the evolution of our Creek Critters app into Communities for Clean Streams. With its own website and eight partner environmental organizations, ANS has led the development of this platform that teaches community members to monitor stream health and engage in conservation efforts. We have distilled our successful Ten Mile Creek campaign experience into Watershed Advocacy Boot Camps for community groups that seek to promote clean streams and rivers in their local areas.
Ever at the forefront of environmental education, the promotion of Diane Lill to Education Director coincided with the extension of our GreenKids program into Fairfax County, Virginia. We have also begun a Fresh Air Kids series of parent/child outdoor education classes at our Rust Sanctuary in Leesburg and Algonkian Regional Park in Sterling. Our work at Algonkian Park is a concrete example of how our partnership with NOVA Parks has helped us expand our environmental education work beyond Rust.
Our annual Birdathon benefited from a major makeover this year, which greatly increased opportunities for participation in this important ANS fundraiser. We also held a very successful Audubon After Dark event, substantially elevating our profile as a worthy charitable organization within the corporate community. Fundraising events such as these do double duty for us, boosting our financial position while also giving us exposure to new potential members and partners. Growing our membership base continues to be important for us. To that end we were fortunate to benefit from the findings of the Membership Task Force led this past winter by former Board Member Patty O’Malley.
We have begun to put more thought into how to use our main sanctuary, Woodend, as a vehicle to build bridges to the larger community around us. We have always made Woodend available to the public, but have never provided much in the way of signage to welcome and educate our visitors. We were very fortunate recently to receive a pledge from an ANS supporter that will allow us to install outstanding new signs at Woodend.
To build on the success of our meadow restoration project, new conservation landscaping and the new rain garden at the Woodend pond, generous donors have established a fund that will help us install a deer fence around Woodend so that we can restore biodiversity to all the habitats at our beloved sanctuary.
How will we tie all these projects together? An equally generous donor has given a gift that will support creation of a master plan for Woodend that will focus on improving the visitor experience, restoring its habitats and using its buildings to demonstrate best green practices. It is significant to me that this effort will be underwritten by a committed ANS member and guided by the input of the many members who responded to our survey on sanctuary restoration priorities.
To round out major contributions for the year, I am happy to report another donor family has pledged support for the expansion of preschool with the addition of a kindergarten. We will look at extending the preschool into more space at the Teale Center and into another grade – Kindergarten. I’m excited to think our wonderful Preschool Director Stephanie Bozzo and her staff of dedicated teachers will be able to bring our environmental education efforts to an even larger group of parents and future environmentalists.
In the coming years you will be hearing much more about ANS and its involvement in communities. At our annual meeting we will usher in a new leadership team for the ANS Board that provides an impressive mix of financial savvy and communications expertise. I am thrilled to hand the reins to Leslie Catherwood as Board President, Paul D’Andrea as Vice President, Scott Fosler as Treasurer and Laura Hull as Secretary.
I’m sure my fellow Board members will look back on their service at ANS as fondly as I do now. For many, many years I have been an ANS member. That involvement grew to committee service, Board membership and then leadership. For any of you who might wish to deepen your ties to ANS, I can highly recommend such service. Since joining the Board I have formed great friendships and been inspired by the environmental commitment of so many. Going forward I will count myself as privileged to remain, as I began, a member of this terrific organization.
With best regards,
Lee Babcock, President
Leslie Catherwood, Vice President
Paul D’Andrea, Treasurer
Laura Hull, Secretary
Jennifer Judd Hinrichs
Lisa Alexander, Executive Director
Stephanie Bozzo, Preschool Director
Diane Cameron, Director of Conservation Program
Kelli Holsendolph, Director of Communications and Marketing
Diane Lill, Director of Education
Stephanie Mason, Senior Naturalist
Lois Taylor, Comptroller
Karen Vernon, Youth Education Director
Jacky Wershbale, Director of Development
This year we redesigned the ANS logo—made possible by a Taproot Foundation pro bono service grant award valued at $55,000. The new logo design is inspired by DC’s bird the Wood Thrush. Streams, trees and land imagery used show the breadth of our work. And, a bolder font makes for better representation on mobile devices.
In 2015, ANS was a Gold Winner in the AVA Digital Awards for its 2014 Annual Report microsite. WeddingWire, named ANS’s Woodend Nature Sanctuary a winner of the Couples’ Choice Awards® for ceremony and reception venue. This year, we also successfully completed – for the second time – the Standards for Excellence ® accreditation program from the Standards for Excellence Institute®, a project of Maryland Nonprofits.
A new bigger, Bloomin’ Birdathon this year raised $26,710—exceeding our goal of $25,000. New Birdathon events helped increase participation to 222, compared to 43 participants last year.
We regularly host author talks at Woodend Nature Sanctuary throughout the year. The authors books on a variety of natural history subjects are available in our Audubon Naturalist Shop. This year we held 6 free author talks with more than 252 ANS members and friends attending.
A taskforce of ANS members and volunteers spearheaded by former Board Member Patty O’Malley completed its work this year, which included a survey exploring ways we could make ourselves more attractive to a broader range of communities.
ANS is a host site for the Maryland Master Naturalist Volunteer training program in coordination with the University of Maryland Extension. The training program includes high-quality classroom instruction and hands-on field work. Upon completing the training, Master Naturalists give 40 hours of volunteer time back to ANS. Graduates of the program often become some of ANS’s most engaged volunteers. This year’s Master Naturalist Class (2014) donated 1,200 volunteer hours to ANS activities, programs and classes. Thank you: Stacey Anderson, Angela Barnes, Lisa Burke, Linda Davidson, Patty Friedman, Mike Gerecht, Laura Kaiser, Barbara Lewis, Stephen Panossian, Nieves Santos, Lissie Sorensen, Debra Street, Jim Tate, Paula Wang, Heather Zindash – Master Naturalist Class of 2014.
In December 2014 we installed a conservation landscape at Woodend near the gravel parking lot, on the slope near the Walnut Tree. Local sustainable landscaping company Backyard Bounty, founded by Edamarie Mattei, completed the 1,600 square-foot project. Your support along with a rebate from the Montgomery County RainScapes Rewards Program made the project possible. The new conservation landscape’s spongy soil, Earth berms, plants and mulch are helping to soak up runoff from the shop parking lot and other paved surfaces. In tribute to the 2014 student tragedy in Mexico, swamp milkweeds were too included, made possible by special donations.
Thanks to the Chesapeake Bay Trust and our 2014-2015 Chesapeake Conservation Corps Volunteer Samantha Roth, we installed a rain garden where there is a runoff issue near the Woodend pond. Sam with a team of 15 volunteers and 34 students planted 121 native plants around the pond to better absorb runoff and improve the pond’s water quality and species diversity. The crew placed deer cages on plants, used small boulders to slow runoff and mulched the plants to help them retain their moisture. The new rain garden is also a great stormwater management teaching tool for students visiting the sanctuary.
This year, one special supporter’s generosity helped us launch Communities for Clean Streams. ANS’s Communities for Clean Streams is a growing number of clean stream stewards and partners working to influence local clean water policies and inspire individual best practices to produce cleaner streams in the DC metro region.
In the spring and summer of 2015 we trained 60 (33 in MD; 27 in VA) Clean Stream Partners on successful advocacy for local watersheds during our Watershed Advocacy Boot Camps in Maryland and Virginia.
In June, 258 participated in 14 Creek Week events with our Clean Stream Partners to launch of our Creek Critters smartphone app. The Creek Critters App is another tool partners are using to engage people in water quality monitoring and protecting local streams.
ANS advocates responded to two notable calls to action from us this year: in September the US Environmental Protection Agency was accepting public comments on its Waters of the United States Proposed Rule and in January 2015, a WSSC sewer project threatened our hard won protections for Ten Mile Creek. This year we also joined in celebration with our partner Trash Free Maryland as Montgomery County banned foam in January 2015 and Prince George’s followed suit in April 2015.
Our Environmental Education Department got a new Director of Education late this fiscal year. Diane Lill, new ANS Director of Education, has served as ANS GreenKids Director since 2007. In her new role, Diane will oversee and coordinate the Audubon Nature Preschool, ANS youth and adult programs. Under Diane’s leadership, this year the GreenKids program engaged 10,614 children in environmental education.
We also expanded GreenKids to Fairfax County. In September, GreenKids Director Diane Lill delivered a two-hour Salad Science workshop to Fairfax County Public Schools teachers at Coates Elementary—training funded by the Fairfax County Health Department. Coates Elementary is our first GreenKids school partner in Fairfax County Public Schools. With Salad Science, more than 2,312 helpings of salad has been grown and eaten by GreenKids students this year.
We hosted our inaugural Environmental Education Open House at Rust Nature Sanctuary in July 2015 to showcase ANS programs for school aged children to 12 Loudoun County schools. Our Rust Environmental Education duo of Susanne Ortmann and Ellen McDougall showed off our Unplug and Play Afterschool Nature Clubs; Naturalist in the Classroom programs; and Environmental Science Field Trips to Rust to about a dozen principals, resource specialists, and high school and elementary school teachers.
Adult nature enthusiasts signed up for more than 120 classes and field trips in our nature program for adults. From Secret Lives of Spring Wildflowers to Fall Migration at Cape May to The Buzz on Bees and Wasps, 1,710 participants hiked, biked, and slowly shuffled through the many rich habitats in our mid-Atlantic region, IDing plant life and wildlife while discussing their conservation.