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Purdue Extension Helps Indiana State Parks Teach Families to Improve Water Quality to Protect Wildlife

The Eastern Hellbender is a rapidly declining species throughout the eastern U.S. Government agencies and universities have spent considerable funding to recover the species. The primary cause of decline is poor water quality, which affects all members of the public. Purdue Extension trained 60 Indiana Department of Natural Resources state park naturalists in presenting the program, Hellbender Conservation: Saving the Slimy Salamander. These naturalists then presented this program 18 times at their state parks throughout the year. State park visitors of all ages attended the programs. State park naturalists administered pre- and post-knowledge surveys to all families attending.

These state park programs reached about 125 families with a minimum estimated attendance of 298 individuals. On pre/post scores, there was an average knowledge gain of 157.2%. Topics assessed were “hellbender habitat and biology,” “hellbender adaptations,” how water quality and human actions affect amphibians and other aquatic life (“amphibians and water pollution,” “threats to aquatic ecosystems,” “reasons for hellbender decline”) and “what you can do to help hellbenders,” focusing on simple actions the public can take to protect water quality and improve habitat for hellbenders and other aquatic organisms. By partnering with the state parks, Purdue Extension leverages the ability to share information and actions for improving water quality and habitat for hellbenders, other amphibians and aquatic life across Indiana.

The “Farmers Helping Hellbenders” project, led by Dr. Rod Williams and Purdue Extension wildlife specialist/Help the Hellbender project coordinator Nick Burgmeier, is among the projects set to receive funding through the RCCP Classic fund, which uses NRCS contracts and easements with producers, landowners and communities in collaboration with project partners. Don't miss the March 31 deadline for the first round of Farmers Helping Hellbenders Program RCPP funding cycle.

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