By Ted Watt
Building our new living environmental education center on Hampshire College land brings us even more in-depth opportunities to partner with Hampshire College faculty, students and staff. Over the years we have enjoyed the contributions of many Hampshire College interns and work-study students on children’s programming, welcoming visitors, caring for live animals, and maintaining our trails and gardens. At our old site, the Hitchcock Center supported a number of Division III projects (which are similar to a Masters thesis), including a comprehensive invasive plant inventory and management plan, and the development and implementation of a natural exhibit plan. The Hitchcock Center has benefitted tremendously from these cooperative relationships while giving students hands-on experiences.
This past fall I assisted in a course taught by associate professor Sarah Partan entitled The Hampshire Woods: Creating a Long-term Database of Animal Biodiversity. The course was a natural history exploration of all types of animal life on the campus. Students went on exploratory walks, choosing sit spots to observe nature with a quiet, unobtrusive presence. Students also collected data on animal sightings from all different areas of campus. And they explored different means of recording these sightings so that people would be able to access this data in the future.
I lead several nature walks with the students, helping them gain skills at identifying birds, and gathering data about red-backed salamander populations. I attended the end-of-semester student presentations about the animal life they had found in the Hampshire Woods. They also recommended two different online nature observation recording sites, iNaturalist and Anecdata, and demonstrated some of their capacities to record and retrieve data. Students from the class will be coming to the Center on Saturday, March 25 at 10 am to share their findings and help us learn about logging online nature sightings data. Please join us!
We are excited for the many years ahead as we expand and deepen our partnership with Hampshire College. We are currently awaiting a funding decision from the National Science Foundation on a grant application in partnership with Dr. Timothy Zimmerman for a project entitled “Smart and Connected Citizen Science.” As well, we are working on plans to jointly develop an interpretive and accessible nature trail system; implement a long-term red-backed salamander population study; and expand our intern program for more direct Hampshire College placements.
We are grateful for the visionary leadership of Hampshire College President Jonathan Lash and the incredible support we have felt from the entire Hampshire community as we transition to our new home.
Ted Watt is a highly skilled naturalist and Hitchcock educator who helps children and adults understand the unique habitats and ecosystems of New England through hands-on instruction and mentorship.
Great work, Ted! Good to think of the inspiring interchanges you and the Hampshire students are having!
Thanks for your vote of confidence! I am very excited about this partnership. On Saturday 4 of the students and their professor presented their work from last fall’s observations and data log-ins. We had an audience of 14 from the wider community. The presentation was very good and the exchange was lively. We learned how to enter observations into iNaturalist. Then we went out and looked for species and entered the sightings! It was super!!!
Hope you are doing GREAT!!!