Treading Lightly

Understanding and Preserving the Natural Side of the Cedar Point Site

Tread lightly. That's the goal for the construction and operation of the new Marine Education Center facility scheduled to open fall 2014 at the Cedar Point site. Great care has been taken in the design of the new facility to have minimal impact on the surrounding environment. “We want the new facility to demonstrate that with thoughtful planning and environmentally conscious design goals we can build a beautiful and functional education facility with minimal environmental disturbance of the site during both construction and operation.” says MEC Director Chris Snyder.

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A curious young Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes) gets a closer look at the trail camera
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True to their goals, the MEC is implementing their “tread lightly” philosophy at the site before the first shovel of dirt is displaced. The Marine Education Center is documenting the current inventory of flora and fauna at the site of the future new building complex before construction starts. The site is a deciduous forest mixed with evergreens and populated with fox, opossum, raccoon, snake, deer, river otter just to name a few. MEC personnel are Lcataloging populations of grasses, flowers, ferns, fungi, birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians.

Team members visit the site several times each week at different times of the day. The team is focused on using non-invasive techniques for gathering information about the current population. The least invasive and most productive technique is a quiet approach where bird species and other animals are cataloged by visual or even audible observation.

To assist with capturing the more elusive Cedar Point inhabitants, the MEC has installed trail cameras for documenting animal families and populations. Cameras are located where animal activity is observed. Images can be captured for cataloging animals 24 hours a day. There are plans for a nest camera to observe barred owls, bald eagles, and ospreys as they raise their young on the site.

With this valuable information documented on pre-construction indigenous populations, scientists have a baseline to measure and understand any disruptions in the flora and fauna at the Cedar Point site.

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Cottonmouth (Agkistrodon piscivorus piscivorus) is caught by the trail camera looking for dinner options.
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MEC observers have been working at the site for several months and they are still surprised by what they see. Amazing amazing images have been caught on camera. One frequent observer said “The site has an entrenched population of pit vipers (poisonous snakes) and when the staff downloads the data from the wildlife cam and sees a sizeable water moccasin, it’s exciting and alarming at the same time. We are all over the site and rarely encounter a pit viper, but we know they are there.”

He continued, “Current populations of red foxes and pileated woodpeckers may see the most impact because they are naturally skittish. We expect that while they may move during construction, the design of the facility will accommodate their return when construction is completed.”

Lee Trebotich (graduate student) checking for proper installation of trail camera.

Lee Trebotich checking for proper installation of trail camera.
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It is not only good stewardship to disturb this environment as little as possible, it will be good for business. The staff of the MEC plans to market opportunities for adults and young people to study this unique coastal habitat, offering environmental classes, providing opportunities for bird watching, bird banding, and other coastal nature studies to generate revenues. By taking extra care now, the staff instructors will be able to refer to the pre-planning and care taken in pre-construction and operation as part of the curriculum. Pointing to this process as an example of being good stewards of our fragile coastal environments.

Racoon crossing a muddy spot on a log
Racoon crossing a muddy spot on a log
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Two gray squirrels
Two gray squirrels
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Virginia opossum
Great horned owl