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The University of Massachusetts Amherst

2018 Fellows Retreat in White Mountains, New Hampshire

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Thirteen NE CASC Graduate and Postdoctoral Research Fellows gathered at the foot of the White Mountains in New Hampshire to explore ways to co-produce actionable climate adaptation science.  This year’s retreat, held May 14-17, was hosted by NE CASC PIs Tony D’Amato, University of Minnesota, and Keith Nislow, UMass Amherst and US Forest Service.  

Jamie Mosel provides a few takeaways from her experience in an ECCF blog here.

Since the first retreat on Plum Island, MA in 2013, the NE CASC has assembled the fellows annually throughout our region.  This year’s retreat, in northern New Hampshire, featured typical spring conditions of the north woods: a day of rain, a day of sun, and black flies dropping by for dinner.   While visiting the ecological research stations Bartlett Experimental Forest and Hubbard Brook Ecosystem Study, the NE CASC Fellows heard from stakeholders and scientists who have long-term adaptation research and management initiatives that address climate impacts in a high-elevation forested ecosystem. Although the focus was on forested montane ecosystems, we examined watershed-wide issues applicable to our entire region while drawing from our climate adaptation science expertise. Presenters included Forest Service researchers, state wildlife biologists, federal lands managers, and NGO science-to-translation outreach specialists.  

One of the objectives of the retreat was to discuss how to work across disciplines to develop research projects that directly answer natural resource management questions.  On the first day, we visited sites in the White Mountain National Forest to hear from our PIs and Fellows who have established strong working relationships in our region. Tony D’Amato explained some of the climate impacts to boreal forests, the history of management in the region, and some of the changes we are seeing to the ecotones on the mountainsides.  Toni Lyn Morelli, Alexej Siren, Bill DeLuca and Jill Kilborn (NH Fish and Game) highlighted the scientific collaborations that address predator/prey interactions, bird migration, and the design of landscape-scale conservation and adaptation measures to address climate change.  Later at the Bartlett Experimental Forest, we were joined by Christine Costello (USFS) and Mike Snyder (VT Commissioner of Vermont Forests, Parks and Recreation) to learn about experimental forestry and the application of climate adaptation science.  Mike joined us for dinner and shared his career story.  Hearing about the trajectories that got him to be appointed Commissioner was a highlight of the retreat!    

“As a fellows retreat, hearing a real-life story of someone's journey — pluses and minuses — is always useful and encouraging. Shows the importance of networking and chasing after what you want.”


Day two’s activities involved field trips and discussions illustrating how climate science can inform decisions made by stakeholders, including resources managers, and how the questions resource managers ask can drive the direction of actionable research. Fellows heard from John Campbell (USFS) who has been leading long-term ecological studies at Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest.  John outlined what goes into large-scale, long-term studies and the insights these investigations yield.  Andy Coulter from the White Mountain National Forest shared his experiences in addressing information needs and navigating new tools to make management decisions easier.  One of those tools, the Spatial Hydro-Ecological Decision System (SHEDS) Interactive Catchment Explorer, was demonstrated by Jason Coombs, a researcher from UMass Amherst.   Scott Schwenk (USFWS) and Bill DeLuca shared insights on the collaborative process in building informational networks and conservation designs.  Anthea 

Lavallee (Hubbard Brook Research Foundation) and Jen Hushaw (Manomet) shared effective ways of engaging with stakeholders, and how NGOs create successful outreach and scientist-stakeholder relationships. In an interactive group exercise, the Fellows explored the nuances of management choices driving climate science needs in a source-to-sea conservation and adaptation management scenario to give context to the watershed-wide research needs and adaptation decisions.  Interactions with these experts as well as the day’s activities has inspired Fellows to incorporate new and interesting directions in their own research.



“(The source-to-sea scenario and role-playings) allowed us to get creative and have fun while also giving us the deepest and most honest glimpse into the management world, namely the struggle of having to accommodate so many different groups.”

The Fellows stayed at Hubbard Brook Research Station housing units on Mirror Lake.  Following dinner each night, they practiced sharing their research for different types of listeners.  The activity challenged Fellows to explain their research concisely and tailored for a specific audience type.  Through the academic year, we had been discussing how to make their research resonate with the audience, reducing the use of jargon, and making their research story specific (what species do you work with? where do you do your work?) as well as broad (what is the overarching issue?).  For the speed talk activity, the Fellows pulled generic audience types from a hat (for example, a senator, a school teacher, an academic from a very different discipline), and, thinking on their feet, tailored their pitch.   In under three minutes, the Fellow explained the topic of their research, why it matters, and what the potential benefits of solving the issue are.  Then we guessed what audience they were presenting to and provided feedback on the presentation.  As expected Fellows said they found these stressful, but very useful.  It “allowed us to get creative and go unrehearsed. Lightened up the whole thing, which can be daunting.”