2010 Maine Water Conference
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
Augusta Civic Center, Augusta, Maine
Public outreach and education: communicating water resources and environmental information
Chair: Catherine Schmitt, Maine Sea Grant
Description: Information transfer is a two-way street. How do you know if the information you are providing is reaching the right audience? What does "engagement" mean, and what is the right level of engagement for your research or management issue? This session includes presentations on the practice and implementation of engagement methods and communication tools (e.g., cafe scientifiques, market research, socioeconomic studies, community visioning, needs assessments). The session will provide results of communication and education research as well as examples of successful programs and projects in a dynamic format.
- Conserving Maine Vernal Pools through Collaborative Local Initiatives
Dawn E. Morgan; Aram Calhoun, Dept. of Wildlife Ecology, University of Maine
Current wetland regulation at the state and federal level does not adequately address protection of small geographically isolated wetlands. Beginning in 2007, a subset of Maine vernal pools are regulated as Significant Vernal Pools under section 335 of the Natural Resource Protection Act. Although this new legislation recognizes vernal pools as Significant Wildlife Habitat, it falls short of protecting the year-round habitat needs of the species involved. Using a bottom-up approach to conservation at the municipal level we are attempting to complement the top-down regulatory approach from the State. The Maine Municipal Mapping and Assessment project educates communities about vernal pool ecology and leads them through the process of using citizen volunteers to proactively map and survey vernal pool resources. Outputs from collaborative work with 12 Maine towns include the Maine Municipal Guide to Mapping and Conserving Vernal Pools and an accompanying website, designed to guide additional communities through this process without the level of support we have provided in the pilot phase. By engaging citizenry and encouraging local control over natural resource planning through participation in conservation planning this project promotes working relationships among citizens, town officials, and state agencies.
- New 21st Century Science Learning Community Engages Students in Authentic Scientific Inquiry
Alexa Dayton; Sarah Kirn; Sarah Morrisseau, Gulf of Maine Research Institute
Vital Signs engages students, citizen scientists and scientists to participate in a statewide effort to find invasive species, and to document the native species and habitats most vulnerable to future invasions. The community of practice is facilitated by a state-of-the-art web site www.vitalsignsme.org. Middle school students contribute to a real environmental research effort alongside top scientists, passionate citizens, and a network of their peers.
Vital Signs enables data collection for more than 200 native and invasive species across freshwater, rocky intertidal and upland habitats, including emergent high priority species such as invasive Hydrilla, Milfoils, Asian Shore Crabs, Didemnum, Oriental Bittersweet and Japanese Knotweed. Within the first 2 months of active deployment into 25 schools across the State, more than 400 data records have been submitted to www.vitalsignsme.org, each including detailed photographic evidence to support written evidence. Geographic distribution of the data includes 12 of the 16 counties in Maine, and this is expected to expand statewide as the program grows.
Data records are geo-referenced, fully exportable and include both ‘found’ & ‘not found’, offering critical baseline information for Maine’s practitioners. The data undergoes multiple layers of quality assurance, peer review, and expert review to ensure the accuracy and usefulness of the resulting data set. Online networking tools allow scientists to engage directly in conversations with the statewide network of data collectors. An online forum invites scientists to challenge the Vital Signs community to look for a certain species or to investigate a certain place of particular interest to the scientist.
- Message Testing: Utilizing Traditional Market Research to Develop a Stormwater Awareness
Jami Fitch, Cumberland Country Soil & Water Conservation District
In 2009 the Cumberland County Soil and Water Conservation District (CCSWCD), working on behalf of the Maine MS4 communities, began developing a stormwater awareness campaign. As described in the MS4 Statewide Awareness Plan, the message we wished our target audience (homeowners, aged 35-55) to understand was that water does run off their property, not all is absorbed, and it will carry with it pollutants, such as lawn chemicals, pet waste and oil drops. This polluted water will enter the storm drain system, and discharge, untreated, directly to waterbodies used for drinking, fishing and swimming.
This presentation will describe the process that CCSWCD undertook to develop and test potential stormwater messages. Topics covered will include literature search for existing messages and materials, development of new materials, use of standardized testing forms to test message options, analysis of testing results, and revisions made to the tested messages.
The final message, Follow the Flow, went through a number of revisions and rounds of testing until it was in a form that tested favorably with our audience. Posters that capture the message were developed and distributed throughout all 28 of the MS4 communities in Maine. Additional outreach materials have been developed and are available online at www.thinkbluemaine.org.
Involving our target audience in the message development process helped create a better product overall, and we are confident that the message our audience is hearing is in line with our goal statement. Surveys will be conducted in 2010 to determine the effectiveness of our efforts.
- Applying social science results to change New England lawn care behavior: developing and delivering successful outreach and education
Nicholas Stevenson, Plymouth State University
Nutrient losses from common lawn care practives have been identified as significant contributors to nonpoint source pollution in New England's watersheds. Lawn care practices have been a trafet for Extension programs for some time, however little research exists that addresses either the social dynamics of the means of achieving behavioral changes with lawn care practices. Social science research was conducted to address these issues by providing empirically tested results to enhance and direct Extension programs. This research was condicted as part of an interdisciplinary project that combined social and environmental science to explore ways to reduce the negative environmental impacts from lawns. The key findings from this research were used to guide the development of an outreach and edication campaign administered by the University of Maine Cooperative Extension in the Bangor area of Maine. This presentation will cover the key findings from the social science research, the development of the outreach and education campaign products, methods for campaign implementation, and the results from the campaign evaluation. Participants will leave this presentation aware of the issues of lawn care and water quality in New England, how social science inquiry was used to guide the development of the campaign, what tools can be utilized to develop successful outreach and education, and how this project could be a framework for others to uses.
- Flood of Information: Evaluating the Impact of Science Communication Tools and Methods on Ecosystem-Based Management Decision-making
Peter H. Taylor, Waterview Consulting, Yarmouth
Increasingly, environmental management demands the direct engagement of diverse sectors and stakeholders in decision-making processes. Sharing salient, credible, and accessible science-based information among stakeholders and decision-makers is crucial for effective decision-making. As a result, science communication is now recognized as a core element of the management process, not an optional, add-on activity. However, communicating science-based information in environmental management presents considerable challenges: (1) participants vary widely in scientific understanding, (2) science to address environmental issues is complex and multidisciplinary, (3) volume of useful information far exceeds the capacity of participants to absorb and use it, (4) communication needs to be interactive and multidirectional, not unidirectional, among participants, and (5) budgetary constraints affect funding available for communication efforts. These challenges are especially acute in ecosystem-based management (EBM). In the last several years, numerous organizations in Maine and around the world have sought to address the need for enhanced science communication in environmental decision-making. How effective have these tools and methods been in supporting management decision-making? From December 2009 to March 2010, several collaborators and I conducted an in-depth evaluation of some of these tools and methods. The EBM Tools Impact Study was supported by The David and Lucile Packard Foundation and conducted in collaboration with Mike Beck (The Nature Conservancy), Sarah Carr (NatureServe/Ecosystem-Based Management Tools Network), and Heather Leslie (Brown University). In this talk, I will integrate findings of the EBM Tools Impact Study with those from related efforts in order to identify successful practices for science communication in environmental management.