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VINS announces new research initiatives

QUECHEE— The Vermont Institute of Natural Science (VINS) is proud to announce that it is developing a series of new research projects. As stewards of its 47-acre Nature Center in Quechee, and 327 acres of managed forest at Old Pepper Place Nature Reserve in Washington, Vermont, VINS is in a unique position to observe and record natural trends through time, taking advantage of both the expansive space and combination of distinctive microenvironments present. Furthermore, the VINS Forest Canopy Walk provides countless opportunities to study the vertical continuum of habitats via unprecedented access to the subtly different layers of the forest canopy.

Current and future research projects represent the fulfillment of an important aspect of VINS’ work, noted Executive Director Charles F. Rattigan. “Research has always been an important part of the VINS mission, and we are pleased to add these new research projects to our selection.  The current moment of environmental distress makes now the time to undertake this work,” Rattigan added. “The timing is based on the challenges that we face as a society to more actively protect the natural world.”

Key to the selection of projects is the involvement of all in research. “These projects are driven by various citizen science research, and this fits with our mission of environmental education and encouraging people to care for the environment by actively engaging discovery and sharing observations,” Rattigan said. In addition to the participation of community members, the research fulfills VINS’ commitment to environmental protection by generating data that will be useful for conservation work, both now and in the future.

“The more long-term data we can generate, the more we can discover about how things are interconnected,” VINS Research Coordinator Jim Armbruster said. “When we determine how things are interconnected, we can work on better approaches to protect the nature of our region.”

As VINS undertakes in-depth research projects on its two properties, the goal is to generate ecological data at both locations. Current long-term projects include: VINS Breeding Bird Survey (begun June 2020); Project NestWatch and Project FeederWatch; Monarch Watch; Dragonfly Detectives (in conjunction with Black River Action Team); and ongoing monitoring of its weather station, game cameras, and forest and turtle activity on its campus. The data will be recorded in a VINS archive and shared with the public and researchers through citizen science projects such as iNaturalist and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s eBird, NestWatch and FeederWatch programs. VINS also collaborates with other organizations that share a similar mission to generate useful data.

One collaborative project entails lake monitoring at Lake Pinneo in Quechee, in cooperation with the Vermont Dept. of Environmental Conservation. This project combines citizen science with public health and safety, with Armbruster monitoring weekly for potentially toxic cyanobacteria blooms in the water. Projects such as this one are, Armbruster said, “a great way to get the word out that VINS is involved in research and monitoring projects like this that have a direct benefit to our local community.” Future projects will include a regional firefly study in partnership with Mass. Audubon as well as crayfish research with the White River Partnership.

The unifying goal of these diverse projects is gaining accurate, local knowledge in order to more effectively protect the environment of the  region.

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