The development and maturation of new digital technologies have great potential to improve the public’s understanding of natural history and ecology. For the past four years, faculty and students at Wilkes University in Wilkes-Barre, PA have engaged in a Podcast Trail Guide initiative. Students have created image-enhance podcast series for selected trails in northeastern Pennsylvania. In 2010 and 2011, undergraduate biology majors created a podcast trail guide for Nuangola Bog, which is a cranberry peat bog owned by Wilkes University in central Luzerne County, immediately south of Lake Nuangola. Podcast episodes were created using GarageBand for the Macintosh and uploaded to the Wilkes University’s iTunesU website (http://itunes.wilkes.edu). Unlike other digital trail guides, this one was not based on previously developed paper-based guides. Therefore, the students involved in this project had to create their own narrations from scratch, and present them in a podcast environment with photos and other illustrations that they prepared as well.
This guide consists of fifteen episodes, each lasting 45-100 seconds, covering a diversity of topics including lake formation and ecology, plants and animals of the bog, and human impacts. Each episode consists of spoken narration and digital images pertaining to the topic under discussion, and will be linked to a station marker at the site. The podcasts are made available free of charge at Wilkes’s iTunesU website. The effectiveness of the podcast series will be assessed among bog visitors using an online feedback system. We seek to initiate a collaborative of podcast trail guide creators, and welcome partners.