Vernal Pools for Me
Institution: University of Maine
Sponsor: Maine Water Resources Research Institute through the Mitchell Center
The Vernal Pools for Me project highlights and enhances the connection between stakeholders and their vernal pools by encouraging understanding of these special, small water resources through a portfolio of outreach materials. Primary school children will learn about the diversity of animals that use vernal pools and about conservation through songs and a hybrid coloring book and field guide. Middle school and high-school students will benefit from web-based videos. Lay people will benefit from easily accessible and engaging web-based outreach material such as social media and blogs. This interdisciplinary outreach project builds on knowledge and opportunities provided by (1) research conducted under the NSF EPSCoR Sustainability Solutions Initiative and NSF CNH Of Pools and People grant on community based conservation of pools, (2) the Special Area Management Plan (SAMP) for the New England Region of the Army Corps of Engineers created by the Vernal Pool Streamlining Working Group to put pool conservation in the hands of local people, and (3) an Environmental Protection Agency grant.
With the growth of social media, many conservation organizations now reach their audiences both on-site and in their own homes. For example, such groups such as Hirundo Wildlife Sanctuary and North East Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation reach their stakeholders through field trips, seminars, and volunteer programs, but are increasingly following their audiences home through mobile and computer-based outreach. We seek to provide our partners with engaging material that they can use to educate their audiences through social media.
A web comic was developed by an undergraduate artist and has been released online. Bangor High School’s environmental science class provided feedback on the comic. This and other web-based deliverables are posted on the Of Pools and People website. The site also hosts the NSF-CNH research, the Maine Vernal Pool and Mapping Assessment Program, and will showcase the first two towns, Orono and Topsham, to implement the newly approved federal Vernal Pool Special Area Management Plan (SAMP). The website has been expanded to include the project materials.
Work will continue in the fall of 2017 with visits to school teachers, members of local land trusts, citizen scientists, and personnel involved in SAMP in Orono and Topsham to tailor efforts to make deliverables most useful to audiences. YouTube videos will be scripted to highlight science as a process, techniques used to study wetlands, and the biology and ecology of vernal pool animals. These will be filmed in the field and edited before being uploaded to social media. A singer/song-writer will provide a recording to match with footage from the field. Blogs will be composed from interviews with various stakeholders to highlight diverse view points on vernal pool issues.
- Aram J. K. Calhoun, Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Conservation Biology, University of Maine
- Kristine Hoffmann, Postdoctoral fellow, Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Conservation Biology, University of Maine