Date of Award

8-2009

Level of Access

Campus-Only Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department

Ecology and Environmental Sciences

Advisor

Aram J.K. Calhoun

Second Committee Member

John Daigle

Third Committee Member

Michael W. Klemens

Abstract

Abstract Use of citizen-scientists to collect data on natural resources is gaining credibility globally and is now considered a valuable tool in the conservation tool box. We conducted town-wide vernal pool mapping and inventories using citizen-scientists in four New England towns (USA) to test the efficacy of voluntary best development practices (BDPs) for vernal pools. We gathered information 5 years later to evaluate changes in vernal pool conservation strategies as a result of the mapping project. We spatially analyzed data gathered in the Town of Falmouth as a case study to establish if vernal pools were protected by existing natural resource and open space data layers, determine the extent of overlap between Tier 1 pools ( highest priority pools on a scale of 1-3) identified in Falmouth and "Significant Vernal Pools" under the State of Maine Natural Resource Protection Act ( new legislation passed in 2007) criteria, and to identify vernal pool clusters on the landscape to focus conservation efforts. Steps included pool mapping and inventory, training of citizen-scientists, vernal pool field assessments, and guiding town development of local conservation strategies using data provided by the project. Potential vernal pools were remotely identified and photointerpreted. Partnerships among the University of Maine, the towns, and non-governmental organizations were forged to implement the project in Spring, 2003. Local coordinators in each town recruited volunteer citizen-scientists to conduct ground assessments. Volunteer training sessions were held prior to and during the field season. Fifty-two citizen-scientists surveyed and assessed 262 vernal pools. Quality control tests in the field confirmed that citizen-scientist data on amphibian egg mass counts were equivalent to data gathered by biologists. Each pool was given a conservation priority Tier rating based on the BDP assessment. Data were entered into a Geographic Information System database and delivered to each town. All towns initiated conservation plans and are developing conservation mechanisms to protect pools. Town strategies ranged from amending existing POCDs and wetland ordinances to incorporation of vernal pool resources into larger biodiversity mapping and planning projects. In Falmouth, NWI and soils data layers were poor indicators of vernal pools. Few of the potential pools (19%) were located on protected open space parcels. Fifty-one percent of the Tier rated pools qualified as a Maine NRPA "Significant Vernal Pool". Most (67%) of the Tier 1 pools qualified but only 1 of the Tier 3 pools met the criteria. These four case studies illustrate that vernal pool conservation initiatives can be developed in local communities using the skills of trained citizen-scientists to collect accurate data. All four towns are using the data and developing strategies for conserving vernal pools through POCD updates, • - • amendments to ordinances, and incorporating into other biodiversity information to better protect natural resources.

Share