Before the start of the school year, Northwood School hosted two training workshops for teachers for AIM High! Collaborative, a program of the Adirondack Inventory & Monitoring (AIM) Camera Trap Network, led by Dr. Paul Jensen, SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, and Jill Walker, Director, Advanced STEM Research Program at Northwood School. The project has been made possible by the support of the Henry Uihlein II and Mildred A. Uihlein Foundation, and the Edward E. Ford Foundation. In total, 21 public and private school teachers from 15 area schools participated and learned to use trail cameras to conduct wildlife surveys and collect climate data with their students.
"We made significant progress this summer expanding our network of partners to survey wildlife populations throughout northern New York, of which high school teachers and their students are a critical component," states Jill Walker. "High school partners are in a unique position to conduct surveys on their campuses and nearby private lands that are close to hamlets and villages – lands that play an important role in conserving wildlife populations in Adirondack Park and other areas."
In addition to high school partners, the AIM Camera Trap Network also relies on a coalition of citizen scientists that includes faculty and students from area universities and biological field stations, and others from environmental organizations to conduct surveys in Adirondack Park, Tug Hill, and the St. Lawrence Valley. Over the past year, the project has obtained grants to purchase survey equipment for participants to use free of charge and provide training.
"We were able to provide each participant with the necessary equipment to set up three camera trap stations with their students, a value of about $750 per teacher," states Walker. "We were able to get the cameras at a discounted price, and the snow stake material was provided by the manufacturer, Versatex, and local distributor Allerdice Ace Building Supply of Saratoga Springs, allowing us to stretch our budget to include as many teachers as possible."
The objectives of the projects are:
• To create a network of partners to inventory and monitor wildlife species and collect environmental data using camera traps and focusing on species most impacted by climate change.
• To share data with natural resource agencies and local scientists to conserve and protect wildlife and address large-scale ecological questions.
• To provide educational and training opportunities for students, allowing them to learn about the region's natural history and receive valuable training in field-biology techniques, data analysis, scientific writing, and public speaking. This will help them decide on future career decisions and give them real-world experience.
"Feedback from the teachers has been very positive - they are excited about getting their students involved and are looking forward to collaborating on lesson plans that will complement the fieldwork," states Jensen. "We will continue to work with them throughout the school year and plan to host a symposium next spring that will bring university and high school students together and provide an opportunity for them to present results to their peers."