The 21st Century Field Naturalist Symposium

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UVM Alumni House Pavilion

61 Summit Street

Burlington, VT 05401

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The 21st Century Field Naturalist Symposium:

Uniting Science, Culture, and Conservation

What skills do Field Naturalists and Ecological Planners need to solve the conservation challenges of today and of the future? What current issues in conservation are we uniquely positioned to address?

Field Naturalists, Ecological Planners, and conservation professionals near and far are converging to connect, collaborate, and celebrate. Friday features presentations and problem-solving around modern conservation topics, including the past and future role of the Field Naturalist and Ecological Planning Programs. The gathering continues with Friday afternoon field excursions and Saturday festivities to honor retiring Professor Deane Wang.

Friday, May 5th


(UVM Alumni House Pavilion, 61 Summit Street, Burlington)

8:00 - Connections: Coffee, refreshments, and networking.

8:30 - Welcome Presentations: Renowned faculty and alum from the Field Naturalist community will ground us in the FNEP world of science, storytelling, and resource management with a look at what matters most to this community then and now.

9:15 - Notes from the Field: Fast-paced presentations about relevant, challenging, or outside-the-box conservation topics from around New England.

10:20 - Conservation Working Groups: Focused problem-solving sessions tackling a range of current challenges presented by regional conservation leaders.

12:15 - Lunch (Provided)


1:15 - 5:00 - Field Excursions: Afternoon group outings to spectacular local natural areas.

(Departing from The Aiken Center, UVM, 81 Carrigan Drive, Burlington)

Saturday, May 6th

2:00 - 6:00 The Deane Wang Volleyball Tournament and Barbecue

(At The Coach Barn, Shelburne Farms, 1611 Harbor Road, Shelburne)

Join us in celebrating departing Professor Deane Wang with a volleyball tournament, lawn games, and barbecue. Come prepared to join a volleyball team according to your philosophical orientation: positivist, constructivist,
nihilist, or naturalist.

Grillable items, buns and utensils will be provided. Please bring a potluck side dish to share. We are also looking for local volunteers to bring grills and yard games to this event; please let us know if you can help.

To honor Professor Wang's career at UVM we will be collecting notes and photos from students past and present to compile in a scrapbook and photo slideshow. If you have photos or words you would like to share, please send them to by Friday, April 28 with "Deane Wang" in the subject line. Contributions are welcomed especially from those who are not able to attend the event!

Symposium Abstracts:

Notes from the Field

Rose Paul & Gus Goodwin (The Nature Conservancy - Vermont) - Prior to the arrival of Dutch Elm Disease, the American elm was once the biggest, most abundant, and longest lived tree on our northern floodplains. Now, it rarely survives to maturity, leaving an important ecological niche unfilled. The Nature Conservancy, along with the US Forest Service, is working to change that. Thousands of experimental elms, containing the genetics from over 80 survivor elms are being planted in floodplains across northern Vermont and New Hampshire. It's an ambitious project whose goals include improving floodplain function, enhancing resilience of floodplain forests through restoration of native diversity, and the return of a beloved species. Our question: How can we scale-up the spread of these trees throughout the landscape so they can spread their cool genes around?

Jens Hilke (Vermont Dept. of Fish and Wildlife) - Understanding of what habitat connectivity means has changed significantly in recent years. Vermont’s Fish & Wildlife Department and Agency of Transportation have partnered together on projects to mitigate the impacts of roads on wildlife for several decades. Our early efforts at structural connectivity modeling and facilitating wildlife movement focused on linear pathways and forest block to forest block connections where they were bisected by a road. Since then, both organizations have joined the Staying Connected Initiative, a multi-scaled, multifaceted approach to connecting habitat across the Northern Appalachian Acadian ecoregion. Now, partners in conservation science, land protection, road barrier mitigation, policy advocacy and public outreach are coordinated across the region, able to leverage their work and find new efficiencies. New conservation science from the Nature Conservancy and Vermont Agency of Natural Resources BioFinder has further fueled a change in perspective as the importance of connecting to both riparian areas and areas of diversity in the physical landscape are more clear as a strategy for climate resilience. Recent field work focuses on functional connectivity, relying on roadside tracking and camera traps at bridges and culverts to better understand where in actuality various species cross under or over roads. Today, our view of habitat connectivity is shaped by these ideas and shows an interconnected network of lands and waters across the region.

Teage O'Connor (Crow's Path)- When Crow's Path opened its doors in 2010, our mission read: "To connect people of all ages to the natural world through hands on experiences." But over the years our organization has evolved, morphed, and adapted as we've hit different road blocks, discovered new challenges, and confronted assumptions and dogmas in the Nature Connection movement. As we enter adolescence, our mission might better read: "To connect people to wildness." Journey through the inner workings of a nature connection program trying to ward off the tide of dogma and find wildness in a domestic world.

Keith Thompson (Vermont Dept. of Forests, Parks & Recreation)- The Current Use program has been around for almost 40 years. Currently, nearly 15,000 landowners with nearly 2,000,000 acres of forestland are enrolled in the program. This is half of the eligible land in the state. Landowners get a significant tax benefit and all of them have a forest management plan that they need to adhere to. With such a large portion of the state in the program it presents great opportunities while posing some challenges to conservation in the state. This discussion will introduce the intent, mechanics, and requirements of the program to help people understand what program considerations may be important when advancing conservation efforts in Vermont.

Conservation Working Groups

Tom Rogers (Vermont Dept. of Fish & Wildlife) - The North American Wildlife Model of Wildlife Conservation has provided the operational foundation for state and federal fish and wildlife agencies for more than a century. While the model has been held up as a paragon of conservation success since its creation, some suggest that it has been inconsistently applied and may be too narrowly focused. The Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department has explored the applicability of the model and has proposed revisions. This working group session will be used to solicit feedback on our model and to discuss how it might be used to address 21st Century conservation challenges.

Charlie Hohn (Vermont Dept. of Environmental Conservation) - Wetlands are crucial both for their biodiversity and for their many economic benefits. However, they can be hard to consistently monitor. The Vermont Wetlands Program has developed a rapid wetland quality assessment that requires minimal training as well as a more detailed releve-based plot method and a regionally-used qualitative condition ranking technique to calculate disturbance in each plot based on plant species. We are currently in the process of updating our protocol and reaching out to others who may be interested in using similar methodology for data compatibility purposes. This working group session will be used to solicit feedback on our methodology and how it might be used throughout the state.

Alicia Daniel (Burlington Parks, Recreation & Waterfront) & Sean Beckett (PLACE Program) - The Master Naturalist BTV Program, based on the FNEP layer cake approach, cultivates a close-knit team of naturalist experts through professional training and volunteer projects in conservation. The program acts as a brain trust of Burlington citizens trained to solve local ecological issues and serve as conservation educators in Burlington schools and communities. After a successful inaugural season, the program is now looking ahead at future challenges and opportunities. How can the Master Naturalist BTV Program attract and serve a broader audience that better represents the city’s diverse population? How can this program be adapted and replicated in other communities in Vermont and elsewhere? This working group will envision and design a Master Naturalist Program 2.0 for Burlington and beyond.

Liz Thompson (Vermont Land Trust), Eric Sorenson (Vermont Dept. of Fish and Wildlife), Bob Zaino (Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife) - We would like to discuss two main topics that have arisen as we are revising the book, Wetland, Woodland, Wildland. 1. The paleoecological literature shows that as climate changes, species ranges shift mostly independently, so that the species assemblages we see today will not be the species assemblages of the future. In light of this knowledge, how do we plan for conservation? Are natural communities helpful? 2. Even if we can figure out the science, how do we achieve conservation of an ecologically functional landscape? What are the societal constraints? Are there techniques we haven’t thought of?

Jane Lazorchak & Jens Hilke (Vermont Dept. of Fish and Wildlife) - Vermont is second to only Alaska in the number of its residents that participate in wildlife-based recreation such as bird-watching, hunting and fishing. But Vermont is not immune to changing demographics. Hunting is on a decline across the country and Vermonters choose to experience nature more now on mountain bikes, backcountry skis and hiking than by carrying a gun or a pair of binoculars. Furthermore, Vermont residents are aging, and by 2030, ¼ of Vermonters will be 65 years old or older. These changing demographics present opportunities but also come with challenges. Funding for Fish and Wildlife Agencies charged with protecting all of the state's wildlife, fish and plants for the benefit of Vermonters has been on the backs of hunters, trappers and anglers since their inception. As participation in those activities decrease so does funding. Will other outdoor enthusiasts step up and pay? What is the best way to do that and how do Fish and Wildlife Agencies evolve with these changing demographics to represent all Vermonters?

Field Excursions

Pease Mountain: Finding Inner Pease: Mt. Philo has an attractive and often overlooked little brother. This will be a mostly off-trail exploration at the base of rocky cliffs and across limestone ledges, so please bring sturdy shoes and an adventurous spirit. We will look specifically for wildlife sign and spring ephemerals.

LaPlatte River Birding: Tired of looking at the same old backyard birds? Let's go where the water flows to find other nifty birds. We'll poke around 1-2 streamside trail systems in Shelburne, so wear boots or sandals that can get wet.

Carse Natural Area: UVM's new Carse Natural Area is a treasure trove of natural and cultural mysteries. A rich mesic hillside slopes into a storied cattail marsh. And as we move from upland to wetland, we traverse a 250-year timeline of Hinesburg agricultural history. Bring your muck boots, binoculars, and detective goggles for this adventure in Vermont landscape forensics.

Seepage Forests in Milton Town Forest: Come explore the ecology and early season botany of one of Vermont's "new" natural communities: the Seepage Forest. We'll head to two small Seepage Forest sites at the Milton Town Forest, and share observations from the field about patterns and processes that distinguish this community from other forested wetlands.


Guests to the UVM Alumni House may park in the house lot, located off of Maple Street just below the corner of Maple and Summit Streets, and behind Grasse Mount (yellow brick building), located next door and accessed from Summit Street just off of Main Street. Please do not park in any “Residents Only” areas. As parking is limited in the Alumni House area, guests are encouraged to instead park in the Jeffords Lot and walk 10 minutes to the Alumni House.

Suggested donation: $20 (cash or check accepted at the door).

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Date and Time


UVM Alumni House Pavilion

61 Summit Street

Burlington, VT 05401

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