Building Communities that Conserve Wetlands
The public, and especially school-aged children, increasingly are learning about conservation and ecological issues through digital media. Their connection with, and interest in, the natural world is gradually becoming a virtual one. If people love what they know and protect what they love then the first step is getting them outside to learn and care about their local wildlands.
Coastal Plains Institute's (CPI) mission is to preserve the biodiversity of the Coastal Plain of the southeastern United States. We accomplish our mission in three ways. The first is through conducting biological research to generate new knowledge about Southeastern ecosystems, with emphasis on the longleaf pine ecosystem and its embedded temporary wetlands. Second, CPI provides environmental education opportunities to the general public through field trips, citizen science programs, classroom visits, festivals, lectures, website, and social media. Third, we acquire lands and directly manage or restore them back to native, natural habitat. We are a very small organization (just two employees) but we make a huge impact!
Our free field trip programs engage 100's of individuals, community groups, and school classes an opportunity to participate in our unique research project every year. Each trip to our research location is tailored to the specific group and centers around ephemeral wetland and longleaf pine ecology, rare species conservation, and scientific research. Our Adopt an Ephemeral Wetland program provides free training and equipment to the community for the monitoring and preservation of these special wetlands. Each year we have about 200 participants enrolled in this program, monitoring 50 wetlands in the Apalachicola National Forest.
We as scientists do a great job sharing our research and achievements with each other. We hold conferences, publish in scientific journals, host debates in scientific forums. But we often times don't do a good job sharing the importance of our work with the general public. Our research project to repatriate a locally-extinct species provides a unique opportunity for citizens to witness, and participate in, species and habitat restoration and recovery. Building Communities to Conserve Wetlands program is an innovative approach that uses scientists to engage the community in our conservation and research efforts through citizen science training and research site field trips.