VCE trains naturalists

NORWICH - Welcome to the world of ecology with the Vermont Center For Eco Studies (VCE) based in Norwich, a non-profit organization consisting of six biologists dedicated to the study of wildlife both locally throughout New England, and as far away as the Caribbean.

VCE is an independent research group dedicated to the understanding and conservation of wildlife. They study ponds, wetlands, and other natural habitats to study birds, insects, mammals and other forms of wildlife. Their findings inform scientists and policy makers about sound conservation goals and practices.

What makes VCE even more interesting, however, are the programs they offer to volunteers, recruiting and training folks as amateur naturalists to assist in conducting field studies of all kinds. The main objective is to not only broaden their testing capacity, but to also help educate the public and create a group of "community scientists." Currently, 10 VCE eco-projects include the contributions of over 1,000 volunteer naturalists in 13 states, as well as five countries including the United States.

Some of VCE's current science projects include a "vernal pool" mapping project revolving around salamanders and wood frogs, a "mountain bird" watch involving the survey of special bird species and a field ornithology opportunity in conjunction with the Montshire Museum of Science, which offers lectures and field trips to regional bird locations. The bird experience in particular is quite in depth, as the volunteers learn about bird biology, behavior and communication, migration, breeding and conservation.

Other "citizen science" programs include "Vermont eBird" in which naturalists report bird sightings through an online checklist, a forest-bird monitoring program, a loon watch and a one-day census of Vermont-breeding loons and a long-term tracking program of interior forest songbirds.

Many of the programs mentioned are suitable for beginning naturalists. To learn more about VCE or to participate in one of their programs, call 802-649-1431 or visit online at www.vtecostudies.org.

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