Pooling resources

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Science  02 Oct 2015:
Vol. 350, Issue 6256, pp. 26-28
DOI: 10.1126/science.350.6256.26

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As a kid growing up in rural Rhode Island, Aram Calhoun ran the frog patrol. When she caught neighborhood boys throwing frogs into traffic, she'd chase the offenders and beat them up. Then she'd persuade her adversaries to become allies. "I recruited two of the worst ones to my team," the ecologist recalls. "We'd go find frogs and save them." These days, Calhoun takes a similar though less pugilistic approach to her work. But the University of Maine, Orono (UMO), academic is tackling a more difficult task than persuading kids to stop squashing frogs. She's leading an innovative effort here to overcome two of the tougher challenges in conservation biology in the United States: protecting small, ephemeral waterbodies called vernal pools that are critical to the survival of many amphibians and other organisms, and making conservation work on privately held lands. And now her work in two Maine communities is on the verge of setting a precedent for how local communities can work with developers and private landowners to protect sensitive ecosystems—instead of fighting. "I'll admit I was a little skeptical" about Calhoun's effort, says Ruth Ladd of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Concord, Massachusetts, a federal agency that plays a major role in protecting wetlands and has been monitoring Calhoun's work. But she has been "tenacious. … As complicated as things were, she always behaved as if it could be done."

  • * in Topsham, Maine. Jill Adams is a freelance writer in Albany.

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