Stories in Maryland/DC

Volunteer in Maryland/DC

A man and toddler girl in a pink tutu use a long handled digging tool to plant a tree seedling. They are in an open filled ringed by tall cedar trees.
Little Lorax MD/DC Director of Marketing Sev Smith gets a helping hand from daughter Charleigh during red spruce planting at Cranesville Swamp Preserve. © The Nature Conservancy

Covid-19 Update (September 1, 2021)

Due to the ongoing pandemic and continued health concerns around Covid-19, the Maryland/DC chapter has decided not to offer any volunteer group events this fall, including our annual tree maintenance work day at Crescent Preserve. 

The health and safety of our supporters is of top priority, so although we will miss seeing you, we encourage you to celebrate the wonder and beauty of nature in your own unique way. Consider partaking in a solo forest bathing adventure. Get Tips from Qing Li, the world's foremost expert in forest medicine. 

And here are five ways to contribute to a community science project while exploring the natural world around you: 

  • Budburst – Record the growth of a tree or plant in your backyard or neighborhood throughout the seasons.
  • iNaturalist – Contribute to biodiversity science by sharing photographs of nature—participate in the global  City Nature Challenge from April 30 - May 5.
  • Journey North – Help track the migration of species like monarch butterflies.
  • Zooniverse – Collect data on various research projects, like watching nest cams and recording the behaviors of birds.
  • SciStarter - Use this extensive database to search for even more citizen science projects.

These are trying times and we hope that everyone in the TNC community can embark on happy and safe outdoor explorations!

There is more than one way to volunteer for The Nature Conservancy in Maryland and Washington, DC! The chapter hosts or participates in six volunteer events each year. Click on the drop down list below to learn more about each of these events.

Annual Events

  • March: Atlantic White Cedar Planting at Nassawango Creek Preserve

    Help us restore habitat at Nassawango Creek Preserve by planting Atlantic white cedar seedlings.

    This volunteer opportunity is in partnership with the National Aquarium Conservation Team (ACT!) and the Chesapeake Bay Trust.

    The planting is part of an ongoing restoration effort through the National Aquarium’s Wetland Nursery Program, which encourages students in Worcester and Somerset counties to become environmental stewards through hands-on opportunities to care for trees in a nursery pond on their school grounds.  

    Nassawango Creek Preserve is located on Maryland's Eastern Shore, approximately 2.5 hours from Washington/Baltimore.

  • April: City Nature Challenge

    Held over four days, the City Nature Challenge is a citizen science event that encourages people to discover and document the biodiversity of our urban spaces. What began in 2016 as a friendly challenge between Los Angeles and San Francisco has now grown to an international event.

    You don't have to join an organized outing to be a part of the City Nature Challenge.  Explore your neighborhood parks—or even your own backyard.  There's nature all around you!

  • April: Fairfax County Watershed Cleanup

    Each year since 2016, the Virginia Chapter has partnered with Fairfax County Park Authority in Northern Virginia to host a Chesapeake Bay watershed cleanup.

    The goal of the cleanup is to keep trash and debris out of waterways that flow into the bay. 

    In 2019, 1,100 volunteers gave 2,658 hours of service over 4 workdays across 21 Fairfax County parks. 8.6 tons of trash were removed from 65 miles of stream, shoreline, roadways, and trails.

  • April: Anacostia Watershed Society River Cleanup

    Each year TNC takes part in the Anacostia Watershed Society's Earth Day Cleanup.

    Join thousands of volunteers to help stop pollution and restore the Anacostia River by cleaning up sites along the river in Washington, DC, and Prince George’s & Montgomery Counties.

  • April: Red Spruce Tree Planting at Cranesville Swamp Preserve

    Help us replant several thousand locally-sourced red spruce seedlings at Cranesville Swamp Preserve.

    Red spruce (Picea rubens) once covered thousands of acres in western Maryland. Logging and subsequent wildfires at the turn of the 20th Century drastically reduced its range. It's estimated that in the Central Appalachians as much as 90% of the original red spruce forest is now gone.

    You can help us change that statistic—one seedling at a time.

    This volunteer opportunity takes place over two days; volunteers are welcome to join for one day or both. 

  • September: Tree Maintenance at Crescent Preserve

    Join the Maryland/DC chapter as we conduct bay “maintenance” by removing invading gums and maples that have moved in to the wetland at Jackson Lane, threatening to shade out the sun-loving native plants, many of which are state and globally rare.

    The volunteer day will consist of using loppers and hand saws to cut back saplings and small trees. This is a great opportunity to experience a unique Delmarva bay habitat at a preserve that is typically only open for scientific research.

    Crescent Preserve is approximately 2 hours from Baltimore/DC.

  • November: Holiday Card Addressing Event in Silver Spring, MD

    Join fellow Conservancy supporters over a cup of tea or coffee as we work to hand-address nearly 500 holiday card envelopes in preparation for the season! The event is hosted each year in the DC metro area.

In addition to participating in these events, assistance may also be needed in these areas:

  • Volunteer Photography/Videography: Take pictures and/or video throughout the year for use in the Maryland/DC chapter's publications, website and social media.
  • Social Media: Share posts from the chapter's FacebookInstagram and Twitter accounts with your personal networks to help spread the word about our work across the region.


In this video gallery, explore ways in which volunteers are making a difference in Maryland.

Which city on Earth has the most nature and the most engaged residents? The City Nature Challenge aims to find out!

The 2021 City Nature Challenge (CNC) takes place April 30 - May 3. As with so many aspects of our lives, CNC has been impacted by COVID-19. To embrace the healing power of nature, and encourage the celebratory aspect of the CNC, participants are encouraged to safely document biodiversity in whatever ways they can, including from the safety of their own homes.

Explore Your World

The City Nature Challenge encourages people to discover and document the biodiversity of our urban spaces. What began in 2016 as a friendly challenge between Los Angeles and San Francisco has now grown to an international event!

There are still many ways to look for nature in your home or backyard. Discover the plants that are growing on their own and the insects and pollinators that live in and around our homes and yards. You never know what you mind find!

How to Find Insects

Insects are probably some of the easiest organisms to find in and around our homes, since they’re abundant and incredibly diverse! But where should you look to find them? What can you use to catch them?

These sites provide some guidance on how to find and temporarily hold insects. Be sure to release them after you've posted your observation on iNaturalist!

Moth Lighting

Setting up a light and a sheet to attract moths is a simple and easy way to bring more nature into your backyard. Photographing moths on the sheet is easy, and you’ll definitely attract other flying insects as well!

Science Friday has a great set of instructions for observing moths, and the California Center for Natural History has instructions for building your own moth light to attract a wider variety of moths.

Get Involved

It’s easy to get involved using the iNaturalist app (free on the app store). Just take a picture of a plant or animal and upload it to the app. Any observations made in the Baltimore or Washington, DC metro challenge areas will count during the four day challenge.

Taking part is easy!
City Nature Challenge Taking part is easy! © TNC


Each year since 2016, the Virginia Chapter has partnered with Fairfax County Park Authority in Northern Virginia to host a Chesapeake Bay watershed cleanup.

2019 marked the largest volunteer event TNC in Virginia ever accomplished! Over 4 workdays, 1,100 volunteers gave 2,658 hours of service across 21 Fairfax County parks, removing 8.6 tons of trash along 65 miles of stream, shoreline, roadways, and trails. View the photo slideshow below for highlights.

While the numbers are impressive, it’s the stories that make this effort successful, too. Many volunteers express how the cleanup impacted their children and how it “opened their eyes” to some of the environmental challenges we face. We also get a lot of people asking how they can continue to make a difference.


Stay in Touch

Subscribe to Nature News, our monthly e-newsletter. Get the latest news and updates about our conservation efforts in Maryland, DC and around the world, delivered straight to your inbox.