NW PARC 2014 Annual Meeting: Education and Outreach
We held our 7th annual NW PARC meeting and workshop early this February in Pasco, WA, in conjunction with: the Global Owl Project (BUWOC), Researchers Implementing Conservation Action (RICA), Society for Northwestern Vertebrate Biology (SNVB), Washington Chapter of the Wildlife Society (WATWS). This offered members of NW PARC opportunities to partner and interact with a wide variety of groups.
The first afternoon of our meeting featured a national PARC update presented by Priya Nanjappa, the state agencies coordinator for PARC, followed by a regional update. Then, representatives from each of the US states and Canadian provinces and territories provided updates of ongoing conservation efforts or projects focused on amphibian and reptile populations in those areas. For the first time, members from Northern California and Alaska were able to participate in our discussion, via Skype or speakerphone. Thanks so much to all of those who shared details, or delivered a presentation about local efforts and research involving herpetofauna!
The second day featured 7 excellent presentations centered around the theme of: “Problem Solving in Conservation Using Education and Outreach Techniques.” The guest speakers discussed approaches that increase public engagement in conservation efforts for amphibians and reptiles in a range of settings. Kudos to the NW PARC Steering Committee for suggesting such captivating speakers!
Scott Peterson, also known as the Reptile Man, does educational programs with live reptiles. Children get the opportunity to touch and interact with the animals, while learning facts about their natural history. Rachel Rommel is the Community Educational Officer with Amphibian Ark, and we heard from her via Skype. She provided an overview of strategies that help convert awareness into on the ground action and shared details from citizen science projects, including her work with the endangered Houston Toad. David Blackburn, the Herpetology Curator at the California Academy of Sciences, shared ways that the Academy communicates their on-going research to museum visitors and some future directions that they hope to take. He also discussed the value of the Internet in terms of education and raising public awareness, and shared a very catchy song and video about amphibian diversity - Check it out!. Karen Dvornich, with the NatureMapping foundation, presented about the Adopt-a-Farmer project in which she promoted communication between 4th graders and farmers in an effort to map the distribution of Pigmy Short-horned Lizard (Phrynosoma douglasii) in the state of Washington. The project has continued over 14 years and students teach the next generation of 4th graders on how to continue. Two young ladies accompanied Karen to discuss their personal experiences with this project and present data about their research with the lizards. The youngest presenters at NW PARC to date! Dede Olson, Supervisory Research Ecologist with the US Forest Service, has been an active member of PARC since its beginnings. She introduced the themes for PARC’s rotating “Year of” campaigns (for example, 2014 is the Year of the Salamander) and summarized all of the materials that PARC produces as part of these campaigns as a means to raise awareness and promote education. As a side note, we have just identified HABITAT as the 2015 focal conservation issue. Jessica Moore, the Conservation Program Coordinator at Northwest Trek Wildlife Park in WA, provided an overview of the educational programs available to visitors of the park, and emphasized how the captive animals generate interest and concern for biodiversity. She also summarized the success of their Oregon Spotted Frog (Rana pretiosa) breeding program! Finally, Emily Taylor, an associate professor at California Polytechnic State University, presented via Skype. She discussed how outreach programs that allow children to observe and handle calm snakes helps to foster a life-long appreciation for these creatures that often get a bad rap. Positive experiences with snakes at an early age translate into concern for their conservation later in life. Details about each of these speakers and abstracts for their presentations are available on the meeting pageof the NW PARC website. We greatly appreciate all of these amazing speakers who contributed to our workshop!
In summary, our past meeting was a great success, with 27 attendees during the first day, and 36 attendees during the workshop. Due to the joint nature of the overall conference, several of our attendees were new to NW PARC. We received a large number of fantastic donations to our silent auction, which generated proceeds that helped defray travel costs for our speakers!