Protecting the Future of Vernal Pools Through Community Action
In 12 Maine towns, local citizens helped put a little-known but all-important wildlife resource on the map. Vernal pools are small wetlands that appear only temporarily at particular times of year. They are essential breeding, feeding and resting areas for a large number of species, including several rare and endangered species in the Northeast, such as the Blue-Spotted Salamander, Blanding’s Turtle and Eastern Ribbon Snake. The Toyota TogetherGreen Innovation Grant provided Maine citizens with training and tools to map and conserve vernal pools, which are threatened by development and sprawl.
“Rubber Boots Required” combined citizen science with new digital photo-technology, as well as the expertise of Maine Audubon, University of Maine, local communities and the environmental consulting firm Stantec. Volunteers were recruited from 12 towns, including Scarborough, Chebeague Island, Cumberland, Yarmouth, Freeport, Brunswick, Bath, Topsham, Readfield, Wayne, Orono and Veazie. They were trained to use aerial photographs and maps based on GIS technology and worked with landowners to obtain information about vernal pools. Then they set out to locate and collect data from the vernal pools.
Once the surveying was complete, Maine Audubon worked with communities to analyze data to determine which vernal pools are most in need of protection. Safeguarding significant vernal pools were incorporated into local land-use planning efforts and through Maine’s state-wide, nationally acclaimed Beginning with Habitat program.
With support from Toyota TogetherGreen, Maine Audubon and partners tested new computer technology that significantly decreased the time and cost of mapping potential vernal pools. Once again breaking new ground in conservation and citizen involvement, Maine Audubon created a model that has been replicated in other towns and states for the benefit of habitat, species and concerned citizens alike.