The long-term success of any natural resource conservation effort will depend on public education and public support. It is our job as researchers and natural resource managers to increase the public's appreciation for natural resources and publicize our increasing needs for research and data while administering these tasks with reduced budgets and personnel. NatureMapping is comprised of partners who have this vision. The goal of NatureMapping is to facilitate the exchange of information between natural resource agencies, academia, land use planners, local communities, and schools through public education and participation in data acquision.
The Washington Gap Analysis Project (WAGAP), conducted by the Washington Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit at the University of Washington is part of a national program which seeks to enhance the protection of biodiversity by identifying habitats and terrestrial species that are underprotected (Scott et al. 1993). To conduct these analyses in Washington State, WAGAP developed a large cooperative network of local, state, and federal natural resource agencies, conservation groups, corporate landowners, and Indian nations. Each partner offered data, in-kind support, funding, or use of facilities in order to create the first complete land cover map of the State, as well as, range distribution maps for all of the State's terrestrial species and an analysis of biodiversity protection.
Even with this large cooperator network, private citizens were needed to assist in filling in the datasets. The Washington Gap Analysis Outreach Program began by enlisting retired natural resource professionals to assist in ground truthing land cover maps. Audubon Society members, who participated in the State's Breeding Bird Atlas Project, were asked to census areas that had not been previously sampled. Public observations of reptiles and amphibians were recorded, verified by biologists within the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) and digitized.
Schools were yet another resource. In 1990, Washington State mandated environmental education for K-12 students. Teachers are looking for opportunities to involve their students in relevant science studies by allowing them to function as junior scientists, budding biologists and chemists. Curriculum integration techniques connect the skills and knowledge of several subject areas necessary for an interdisciplinary understanding of what is essential to learn in life (Jacobs 1989). The need for curriculum restructuring has propelled teachers to find opportunities to involve students in "real-world" educational experiences.
In light of the need for school change, WDFW began devoloping programs which encouraged teachers along with their students, as novice wildlife biologists, to explore wildlife and habitats in their community. WDFW provided a summary of what was known about the wildlife and challenged schools to fill in the information gaps. This approach to working with schools facilitated the "action research" approach popular in education; undertaking original research to learn new information to answer predetermined questions, or to test a new hypothesis. In environmental education, action research is used in conjunction with community problem solving where students choose to work on a project to benefit the community (Wals and Stapp 1990).
WAGAP, in partnership with WDFW, initiated a pilot project in 1993 in which teachers were asked to collect "real" data for a statewide biological database. This "public" data layer is a discrete layer that will remain separate from data collected by agencies and researchers, but will provide additional data for expert review.
Within 18 months, the pilot project included 320 teachers and was selected from over 2,000 applicants to receive the Fifth Annual RENEW America National Award on Environmental Sustainability in the wildlife and habitat category. Other states requested information to begin comparable programs and their interest provided the incentive to develop a national program. The program's name S.A.V.E. (Student And Volunteer Education program), was changed when the West Coast Office of Defenders of Wildlife coined the name NatureMapping and became a partner to develop the program in Oregon as the public outreach component of the organization's Oregon Biodiversity Project. WAGAP and Defenders are currently collaborating on refining program-related products and creating a regional model for national program expansion.
Partnerships, an integral part of NatureMapping, are a voluntary collaboration of individuals, organizations, or both to achieve common goals on a specific project (Trauger et al. 1995). There are nine reasons why our partnerships developed and have continued to grow: (1) gaps in data needed for statewide analyses; (2) budget cuts and limited resources for natural resource agencies, and local, county and state land planners, yet an increased need for data; (3) an opportunity to improve relationships between reguatory agencies and the public by working together on natural resource issues; (4) utilization of the cooperator network by academic researchers and graduate students to identify new areas for research and provide their results to local communities; (5) directives to education specialists within management agencies to make education programs useful to their agencies; (6) the opportunity for citizens to work on local community projects and contribute data that are needed for local and regional analyses; (7) opportunity for students to collect "real" data for school projects and their communities; (8) the opportunity for teachers to incorporate consistent scientific terminology, data collection methodologies, research results and professional assistance into their environmental education curriculum; and (9) the opportunity to complement existing national environmental education programs and to link students and community members to participants throughout the State and nation via Internet.
In addition to the partnerships mentions, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has provided the National Wildlife Refuges for workshop sites. The Woodland Park Zoo has hosted workshops in Seattle. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has provided maps. The Governor's Council on Environmental Education has assisted in linking agencies and schools together while the Washington Department of Ecology has provided funding and support personnel. Professionals from agencies and private organizations have offered their services as part of their normal daily activities and on their personal time.
Recruitment has been primarily via word of mouth. However, training workshops are advertised through school mailings and various newsletters. Partners within the community are invited to attend workshops. Audubon Society chapters are encouraged to "adopt" teachers in their areas and the names of contacts within local natural resource and land planning agencies are provided.
NatureMapping has focused on becoming a "many-to-many" program instead of a "one-to many" program. Cooperation and partnerships allow groups to accomplish more than any one member could do alone. WDFW recognized the "win-win" opportunity involving students and citizens in the work of the agency. The agency gained some new information and cooperation while developing an educated cadre to support local policy affecting wildlife and habitat and to lead responsible community action. WDFW committed its wildlife education specialist (also the Washington Project WILD Coordinator) to develop NatureMapping with WAGAP. Many agency biologists raised doubts about the credibility and usefulness of data collection by non-professionals. However, WDFW Wildlife Diversity program managers eagerly supported NatureMapping's evolution. Now, a new Ecosystem Management division within WDFW commits personnel and resources to assist the public involved in the program.
In order to maximize the utility of the information provided by NatureMapping participants, data must be collected and reported consistently. To do this, WAGAP and their cooperators created the "Gap 1040" (using the example of the IRS 1040) for ground truthing land cover maps and recording vertebrate sightings. Cooperators were not asked to change their own datasets, but all datasets used by WAGAP were converted into the same format. Community groups, private citizens and conservation organizations are now asking how their data collection efforts can fit into the program. Using the Gap 1040 as a model, the Educator's Guidelines (Dvornich and Tudor 1993) and an accompanying video were created for teachers to prepare their students for collecting habitat information and wildlife observations. Workshops and field trips lead by Audubon Society members or agency biologists have provided further training on field identification and techniques.
The U.S. Forest Service, through a grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, provided funding to create and distribute Teacher Kits containing bird, mammal, reptile and amphibian field guides; binoculars, and U.S.G.S. maps to 35 teachers in Washington State (Fig. 3). This funding was also used to create an educational/data entry software package that could be used by schools, libraries, national parks and wildlife refuges. The wildlife module of the software became available to teachers in September 1995.
The primary focus of the wildlife module is two-fold; education on wildlife and their habitats and data entry. The diskette viersion contains 13 habitats with 5 species associated with each habitat. By "clicking" on a species the general life history appears on the screen. The CD-ROM version will contain approximately 40 habitats, associated species and the pronunciation of their scientific names recorded by high school students. Field notebooks on-screen and in a hardcopy format are included to record participant's field observations in more detail than what is entered into the database. The database is in a format that easily transports to the Geographic Information System (GIS) software ARCVIEW, of which the ESRI Corporation donated 100 copies to teachers through Washington State. GIS layers created by WAGAP and other cooperators, especially local land planners, are available for NatureMapping participants.
The feedback of data, information, and analyses to the partners who helped collect these data is critical. NatureMapping participants are using their own data in classes and in their communities and they need to know that they are conducting their projects correctly. The quality and credibility of these data improve with the public's increased knowledge. New information and research findings are quickly made available through newsletters, workshops, and the NatureMapping World Wide Web home page on the Internet.
Twenty-three teachers signed up to beta test the NatureMapping pilot project in 1993. All of them, plus an additional 5 teachers, submitted over 3,000 records in the first year. Their sightings, along with those from farmers and Audubon Societey members, provided data in areas that had not been sampled (e.g., their own property) or could not be easily sampled without their assistance. The data collected by NatureMapping participants can be used to refine WAGAP's predicted range distribution maps. Sightings that fall within the predicted ranges pass the coarse-scale evaluation. Sightings that fall outside the predicted ranges or are of a species of interest undergo a fine-scale evaluation by interested researchers and agency biologists. Field notes can provide further information for specific observations.
Long-term monitoring is frequently needed, but rarely funded. NatureMapping participants can become "long-term monitors", whether they are teachers bringing students to the same site each year or landowners assessing changes on their lands. As they learn, so will we.
What have the schools gained from their participation? A recent Environmental Education Association of Washington conference highlighted outstanding teachers. A majority of those teachers were involved with collecting wildlife data for NatureMapping. Their research activities also included water quality monitoring and measuring stream characteristics. For these teachers and studients, taking inventory of their environment and applying their data to real situations in the community offered a genuine and relevant educational experience. This enthusiasm within the education community provides an opportunity to train future scientists and the general public by involving them in the research and natural resource issues.
Additional software modules are being planned to enable NatureMapping participants to collect data on water quality, terrestrial and aquatic invertebrates, fish, plant communities, and air quality and global climate changes. The last module will be on biodiversity. It will build on the other modules in an effort to illustrate how each is an integral component of biodiversity at various spatial scales. Gap Analysis datasets and analyses will be included in the biodiversity module.
NatureMapping partners are contributing to the design of the software module s because they will use these data within their organizations (e.g., public schools, natural resource agencies). WDFW has assigned an intern to spend 8 months determining the data volunteers can collect on fish that will have value for both the agency and local community resource management. Modules will reinforce each other, but each will be available as a stand-alone program. The templates created for all the modules can be modified for each state or major ecoregion. Plant communities, wildlife and water do not acknokwledge political boundaries. Data collected by participants will be consistent from state to state, allowing students, volunteers and NatureMapping partners to share their data and analyses at several different spatial scales.
NatureMapping works efficiently on a local and state scale. As a national program, it will complement the national programs of two of its partners; the Global Rivers Environment Education Network (GREEN), in which students monitor water quality and macrobenthics throughout 133 countries, and EPA Streamwalkers, consisting of adult water quality monitoring volunteers.
Natural resource professionals have underestimated the desire of the general public to become involved and the expertise the public has to offer. NatureMapping focuses mutual interests to create a synergy in efforts to deal with the social and biologically complex issues surrounding natural resource management.
Acknowledgments.--Funding for this initiative was provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Biological Service to the Washington Gap Analysis Project through the Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit. Financial and in-kind support from the numerous cooperators mentioned in the text is also gratefully acknowledged. We appreciate reviews of this manuscript by R. Body, W. Hudson, and A. Litwer and the moral support of G. VanBlaricom.
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