The Help the Hellbender team, led by Dr. Rod Williams, professor of wildlife science, has been honored by the Hoosier Outdoor Writers group with its 2022 Bayou Bill Conservation Award.
The annual conservation award is given in memory of the legendary Crothersville, Indiana, outdoor writer Bayou Bill Scifres, who was a founding member of HOW in 1969, and had his outdoors column published in The Indianapolis Star newspaper for 50 years.
“The Hoosier Outdoor Writers group was introduced to Dr. Rod Williams in 2019 when he came to our annual conference and talked to us about his work with hellbenders and the Help the Hellbenders program,” Tom Berg, Executive Director of HOW, explained. “Our members were very interested in learning more about hellbender conservation and restoration, and also about his involvement with captive breeding and propagation efforts across the state. It was interesting to us to hear that Purdue University, the Indiana Department of Natural Resources and other groups were working together on management plans to re-introduce and re-populate hellbenders throughout much of their historical range. This is exactly the type of conservation story that our members like to hear and relate to their audiences. It also aligns very well with our strong belief in the conservation of Indiana’s natural resources, so choosing Dr. Williams and the “Help the Hellbenders” program for this award was an easy task.”
For much of the last 16 years, Williams and his team have been researching eastern hellbenders, spearheading regional conservation efforts and advancing hellbender captive propagation, or the rearing of this ancient animal in captivity and their eventual return to the wild.
After five years of breeding efforts, Williams’ partners at the Mesker Park Zoo in Evansville, Indiana, successfully bred eastern hellbenders naturally in captivity in October 2020, signifying the culmination of a long and collaborative effort to breed the species and restore this endangered species to its native environment.
Williams’ hellbender lab is actively collaborating with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, Indiana Division of Fish and Wildlife and The Nature Conservancy as well as several other partners across 13 states on a number of conservation projects and educational opportunities for teachers and children, farmers and more.
For full article with additional photos view: Help the Hellbender Program Receives Hoosier Outdoor Writers Conservation Award.
Help the Hellbender website
Help the Hellbender Facebook page
Ask the Expert: Learn All About Hellbenders and Take a Tour, Subscribe Purdue Extension – Forestry & Natural Resources (FNR) YouTube Channel
Ask the Expert video: Help the Hellbender – Dr. Stephen Spear of The Wilds, Purdue Extension – FNR YouTube Channel
Ask the Expert video: Live with Mesker Park Zoo and Botanical Gardens – Hellbenders, Purdue Extension – FNR YouTube Channel
A Moment in the Wild video: Hellbender Hide, Purdue Extension – FNR YouTube Channel
A Moment in the Wild video: Release Moment of Hellbenders,
How Anglers and Paddlers Can Help the Hellbender video, Purdue Extension – FNR YouTube Channel
Eastern Hellbender ID Video, Purdue Extension – FNR YouTube Channel
Hellbenders Rock!, The Education Store, Purdue Extension’s resource center
Help the Hellbender, North America’s Giant Salamander, The Education Store
How Our Zoos Help Hellbenders, The Education Store
The Nature of Teaching: Adaptations for Aquatic Amphibians, The Education Store
Healthy Water, Happy Home – Lesson Plan, The Education Store
FNR Assists in First Natural Breeding of Eastern Hellbender in Captivity, Purdue FNR News & Stories
Wendy Mayer, FNR Communications Coordinator
Purdue University Department of Forestry and Natural Resources