Anne Whitfield has drawn on her interests in nature and sketching to create a fun way to educate adults and children about Ohio's native and invasive species.

She earned a Girl Scout Gold Award in May for her project of researching, drawing and publishing a coloring book called "Natural Balance," featuring images of a dozen species in Ohio.

The intricate drawings depict native species that are threatened and the invasive species that imperil them.

The Gold Award is the highest award a Girl Scout can achieve. It is the equivalent of an Eagle Scout award for Boy Scouts.

Whitfield, 18, will be a freshman this fall at Miami University in Oxford, where she will study zoology with a minor in botany.

The Grandview Heights resident has been a Girl Scout since fourth grade. She was a member of Troop 50555 until she was a ninth-grader, when it disbanded due to dwindling membership.

She remained involved as a Juliette, which is a way for Scouts to continue in the program when a troop is not available in their area.

Whitfield created most of the drawings in the book, but Grandview Heights High School students Bella Donoghue and Eric Yeager each contributed a drawing.

"I wanted to find a fun and entertaining way to present information about native and invasive species," Whitfield said.

"Adult coloring books are so popular these days," she said. "Using that as the format was a way to use 'a spoonful of sugar' to give people information they may not want to read about."

Each entry gives the common and scientific names for the species, whether it is a threatened or endangered native species or an invader, and the type of setting where it typically is found.

"For the native species, I tried to give some information about how they are threatened to give people an idea of steps we can take to protect the species," Whitfield said.

In some cases, humans are posing a threat, she said.

For example, Whitfield said, the massasauga is a type of rattlesnake that thrives in wetlands and swamps.

"So many of those sites are being converted into sites for housing developments or strip malls and they push them (the snakes) out," she said. "They don't have anywhere else to go, so their numbers are decreasing."

Invasive species can be sneaky in how they make their way to Ohio, Whitfield said.

"Finding out how some of them travel was really interesting," she said.

The round goby is a fish from the Black and Caspian seas that eats the eggs of native fish.

"They came over to our country in the ballast waters of ships," Whitfield said.

"It's something we don't think about, and would be hard for you to check and prevent."

Zebra mussels began invading the Great Lakes in the 1980s and can attach themselves to boats.

The mussels eat the same type of food that native mussels consume, and when they overpopulate an area, the decreased food supply threatens the homegrown species, Whitfield said.

"They'll even attach themselves to other mussels," she said, suffocating the native mussels and preventing them from reproducing.

"It's mussels against mussels," she said.

The coloring book's title reflects the importance of restoring the environment's natural balance, Whitfield said.

"When an invasive species comes in, it disrupts the natural balance of things," she said. "Native species have natural predators. They've co-evolved with the other species. But an animal or plant that's invasive upsets that balance. They don't have a yin for their yang."

Whitfield distributed 500 copies of her coloring book to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and the Grange Insurance Audubon Center, 505 W. Whittier St. at Scioto Audubon Metro Park.

"I love the idea of the coloring book," said Eric Sagasser, an ODNR naturalist at Boch Hollow State Nature Preserve in Logan.

"Anne's found a creative take and a fun way to help raise awareness about the importance of protecting our native species. Awareness is what it's all about."

The department has offered the coloring books at its outreach efforts at events, including Lilyfest, held July 12-14 at Bishop Educational Gardens in Hocking Hills State Park, he said.

"They've been popular with both adults and children," Sagasser said.

The coloring book also is available in PDF form at the Girl Scouts of Ohio's Heartland website, tinyurl.com/whitfieldbook.

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