Use of citizen-scientists to collect data on natural resources is gaining credibility globally and is now considered a valuable tool in the conservation tool box. We conducted town-wide vernal pool inventories using citizen-scientists in four New England towns (USA) using voluntary best development practices (BDPs) for vernal pools. We tested the efficacy of using citizen-scientists to collect field data on vernal pools using published BDP guidelines. Steps included pool mapping and inventory, training of citizen-scientists, vernal pool field assessments, and guiding town development of local conservation strategies using data provided by the project. Potential vernal pools were remotely identified and photointerpreted. Partnerships among the University of Maine, the towns, and non-governmental organizations were forged to implement the project in spring 2003. Local coordinators in each town recruited volunteer citizen-scientists to conduct ground assessments. Volunteer training sessions were held prior to and during the field season. Fifty-two citizen-scientists surveyed and assessed 262 vernal pools. Quality control tests in the field confirmed that citizen-scientist data on amphibian egg mass counts were not significantly different from data gathered by biologists. Each pool was given a conservation priority rating based on the BDP assessment. Data were entered into a Geographic Information System database and delivered to each town. All towns initiated conservation plans and are developing conservation mechanisms to protect pools recognized as having conservation priority. Town strategies ranged from amending existing ordinances to improve wetland protection to incorporation of vernal pool resources into larger biodiversity mapping and planning projects. These four case studies illustrate that vernal pool conservation initiatives can be developed in local communities using the skills of trained citizen-scientists to collect accurate data. Communities are then better able to incorporate pool conservation strategies into the local planning and regulatory processes.
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