Citizen Science for
Creating a Climate Beacon by Mapping with Communities at Cove Mountain
Creating a Climate Beacon by Mapping with Communities at Cove Mountain Preserve
Preston Welker, 2019 (updated Jan. 2022)
Cove Mountain Preserve located at the heart of the Kittatinny Ridge. Image © Matt Kane/TNC
“The Kittatinny Ridge: 185 Miles. 360,000 acres. 80% forest and shrub habitat. 7 important mammal areas. Global important bird area.”
–Kittatinny Ridge Coalition
–Kittatinny Ridge Coalition
As our climate warms, local ecosystems change, causing wildlife to migrate in search of suitable habitat. Recent research by The Nature Conservancy has identified Pennsylvania’s Kittatinny Ridge as a key connector between climate resilient lands. This 185 mile-long forested ridge provides a migration corridor that enables species to safely move between climate resilient habitat areas. While helping to sustain biodiversity, these forests also sequester carbon meaning that conserving the Kittatinny Ridge can help meet carbon-reduction goals.
However, the Kittatinny Coalition describes that only 40% of forests along the ridge are conserved and the remaining acres face pressures of logging and development. To generate awareness and support for conserving the Kittatinny Ridge, The Nature Conservancy collaborated with local communities through citizen science mapping to create the climate resilience beacon of Cove Mountain Preserve.
This map, created by Dan Majka, models the migration of mammals, birds, and amphibians in response to climate change. The white oval illustrates the key location of the Kittatinny Ridge. Map © Dan Majka/TNC (source). Adapted for print by Nicholas Rapp & Preston Welker.
Today, Cove Mountain Preserve provides a living classroom at the heart of the Kittatinny Ridge for people from all walks of life. Located just fifteen minutes from Pennsylvania’s capital, landowners, donors, students, and policymakers can learn about the greater climate resilience effort through interpretive signage and guided hikes. However, when purchased by The Nature Conservancy in 2017, the preserve had a number of conservation challenges. The original 350 acres were largely overgrown with the invasive plant “mile-a-minute” (Persicaria perfoliata) and contained a maze of logging roads that had been used for decades as informal trails by the neighboring community. In order to facilitate sustainable public access, these land management challenges required creative solutions.
The goal was to establish maintained trails that enhanced recreation opportunities, showcased the preserve’s four forest-types, and also allowed extensive habitat restoration efforts to progress undisturbed. To develop this management plan in a way that also delivered benefits to the community, The Nature Conservancy invited community members to participate in a citizen science mapping project.
Citizen science involves rigorous research conducted in collaboration with everyday people. Scientific studies have long shown that including local people and their knowledge in management planning helps increase conservation durability and system resilience. At Cove Mountain Preserve, The Nature Conservancy partnered with community volunteers. After learning how to use mapping applications on tablets, citizen scientists could navigate the field and translate their local knowledge into geospatial data.