A spotted salamander makes its way across North Lincoln Street in Keene, NH (photo © Brett Amy Thelen)

Community Science

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Uniting People & Science for Conservation

The Harris Center's community science programs train volunteers to gather ecological data aimed at protecting and restoring wildlife — and wild places — in southwest New Hampshire.

Two hands holding a Jefferson salamander (photo © Tyler Hogan)

Salamander Crossing Brigades

On the first warm rainy nights of spring, thousands of amphibians migrate from woods to wetlands in a natural phenomenon known as “Big Night.” It’s a perilous journey, especially when they must cross busy roads to reach their breeding pools. To reduce the risk of roadkill, we train community scientists to serve on Salamander Crossing Brigades at amphibian road crossings throughout the Monadnock Region.

Join the Brigades
Vernal pool volunteer training in Rindge, NH (photo © Brett Amy Thelen)

Vernal Pool Project

Vernal pools are temporary woodland ponds that serve as important amphibian breeding habitat. Because they’re small and seasonal, they’re especially vulnerable to development. We can protect these sensitive ecosystems, but only if we know where they are! Our Vernal Pool Project volunteers find and record data on vernal pools, with special focus on public and conserved lands.

Search for vernal pools
A nighthawk sits on a rooftop in Keene, NH.  (photo © Brett Amy Thelen)

Project Nighthawk

Common Nighthawks (Chordeiles minor) were once, well, common in New Hampshire – particularly in cities, where they nested on gravel roofs and hunted insects attracted to street lights. Over the past twenty years, however, nesting nighthawks have disappeared from all but a few New Hampshire towns. In partnership with New Hampshire Audubon, the Harris Center coordinates volunteer monitoring of the state-endangered Common Nighthawk in Keene, one of the last places in the Granite State where this acrobatic insectivore still breeds.

Look for nighthawks
A volunteer crew mugs for the camera during a stream restoration workday in Swanzey, NH. (photo © Emily Lord/The Stewardship Network: New England))

Stream Connectivity

In partnership with The Nature Conservancy and Trout Unlimited, our community scientists surveyed nearly 1,000 local culverts and bridges to determine where fish movement is most impacted by roads. Now, a team of conservation partners are using these data to prioritize sites for stream restoration.

Wade in
A redbacked salamander peers into the depths of your soul. (photo © Dave Huth)


The Harris Center maintains a series of study plots as part of SPARCnet, a regional research effort aimed at understanding the effects of climate change on woodland salamanders. With the help of students and community scientists, we survey the plots for salamanders each spring and fall.

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Contact Us

For more information on these and other community science projects or to volunteer, please contact Science Director Brett Amy Thelen by email.