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Developing Biometric Equations to Evaluate the Effects of Urban Development on Forest Birds

As conservation biologists work to assess urbanization's impacts on natural resources and environments, it is important that findings are actually utilized by urban decision-makers (e.g. city planners, developers, landscapers, etc). This project proposes that there is a better way to involve these urban land managers with conservation than by merely publishing ecological findings in journals or presenting them at conferences. Synthesizing empirical studies and expert opinions, we are creating a suite of biometric equations that relate several development parameters (including patch size and connectivity, habitat quality, and management) to their impacts on forest bird specialists and generalists in North America. Each equation will have an associated scoring index that shows decision-makers the degree to which their desired development plan impacts forest specialists and generalists across different seasons (breeding, wintering, and migrating seasons). Working with current student Jan Archer, we plan to develop an interactive Web site in order to visually represent different outcomes in real-time for urban planners. The gap between scientific research and day-to-day utility stems from problems of transparency and accessibility. This project aims to bridge this gap by giving urban planners an evaluation tool that integrates ecology with alternative design and management scenarios.

Engaging Residents through Dynamic Educational Signs in Neighborhoods

In "green" communities, one of the primary issues is whether the local residents, over the long term, will understand and take local action to conserve natural resources as originally intended by the developer. Decisions made by homeowners ultimately determine whether a community functions as a "green" community. For example, people determine which light bulbs to purchase, what types of vegetation to plant (e.g., exotics vs. natives), how much water to use, and whether to ameliorate their yards for wildlife. Impacts to the biological integrity of a residential community and how resource efficient it is depends on everyday actions of local homeowners.

Currently, we are implementing this residential environmental education program in several communities in Florida. Full-color exterior graphic panels are being developed and placed into a durable kiosk. To date, we have 28 full-color panels that cover seven themes: Water, Energy, Wildlife, Environmental Landscaping, Insects/Pollinators, Lakes, and Natural/Human History. These kiosks with educational panels are formatted to be easily adapted for new neighborhoods or retrofit established neighborhoods (see example at http://www.wec.ufl.edu/extension/gc/harmony/documents/wildsidewalk.pdf). One idea is have panels that highlight a local "green" yard and home and showcase practices, creating a communication pathway with a local environmental steward.