Hellbender Habitat Analysis and Educational Outreach in the Cross Creek WatershedProject led by Franciscan University of Steubenville
About the project.
The Hellbender salamander, also known as the ‘snot otter,’ is a near-threatened amphibian that lives in the Cross Creek watershed in Jefferson and Harrison counties. The declining snot otter population impacts other animals across the food chain and has a negative impact on overall biodiversity.
Funds from this Cause Connector pilot project helped local students and researchers at the Franciscan University of Steubenville take important steps toward the conservation of the species, in partnership with the Jefferson County Soil and Water Conservation District and the Ohio Hellbender Partnership.
FAO staff comments.
Hands-on educational outreach programs are tremendously impactful for students of all ages to put what they learn into action. The Hellbender habitat analysis and conservation project allowed students in the Jefferson and Harrison County communities to engage in hands-on educational enrichment while also providing a valuable service to a threatened Appalachian animal.
Success since funding.
The funds from this project enabled the purchase of imaging equipment, which helped researchers gather baseline population and habitat assessment data. With this data, researchers determined where to place ‘Hellbender boxes,’ also funded through the project, which provide suitable breeding habitats for the salamanders to facilitate the species’ recovery.
Additionally, local university students were able to develop a much stronger understanding of watersheds and the forces at work within them.
“I have a chance to save a species,” said one involved student. “If these areas are protected and the population rebounds, I could take my kids to see these snot otters in their native habitat.”
In addition to its impact on university students, the grant also promoted the development of educational materials, which have helped about 50 local middle and high schoolers learn about environmental restoration. As the project continues into the future, building upon the foundation made possible by this funding, even more students will experience this impact.