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Coldwater Stream Refugia Project Team Organizes Community Forum

Thursday, November 30, 2023
Vermont stream

More than 120 researchers, resource managers, and stakeholders participated in the inaugural Coldwater Stream Habitat Community Forum on Thursday, November 16th, via Zoom. Organized by the NE CASC Coldwater Stream Refugia Project Team–a multi-institutional collaboration that brings together representatives of the USGS Eastern Ecological Science Center and Conte Fish Research Center, USFS, Mass Wildlife, UMass Amherst, the University of Pittsburgh, and Walker Environmental Research–the three-hour virtual event laid the foundation for a community dedicated to expanding understanding of current and future coldwater stream habitat in the northeastern United States. This community will play a key role in helping advance the new 3-year NE CASC project, "Beyond Temperature-Only Coldwater Climate Refugia: Integration of Process-Guided Deep Learning Models for Flow and Temperature into Assessments for Coldwater Streams".

The forum focused on answering three central questions: 

  • What is being done to address climate change threats to coldwater stream habitat?
  • What more should be done to address these threats? 
  • What are the barriers to this work? 

To begin exploring these topics, several researchers and managers delivered lightning talks that helped frame breakout group discussions. Ultimately, two main conclusions emerged from those sessions: First, collaboration with researchers and managers investigating flood resilience, water quality, and climate change is vital. Second, effective education and outreach initiatives will be necessary to protect intact habitats, fill information gaps, and improve management strategies. To conclude the plenary discussion regarding breakout group findings, Coldwater Stream Refugia Project Team members Jenn Fair and Ben Letcher–both scientists at the USGS Conte Fish Research Center–called attention to two useful resources for the community: the Interactive Catchment Explorer and the Flow Photo Explorer

Forum participants represented a wide array of organizations, including federal and state agencies, regional NGOs, and academic institutions. Importantly, this organizational breadth was amplified by a high degree of geographical diversity among attendees, who came from 17 states: Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Virginia, Colorado, Florida, Wisconsin, and Illinois. 

“Thanks to an awesome turnout from long-time and new partners as well as the terrific efforts of our organizational team, this forum was a huge success,” said Fair. “We very much appreciate everyone's time and effort, and we are especially thankful for the support of the USGS Northeast Climate Adaptation Science Center and the USGS Eastern Ecological Center”.

Forum organizers are now planning next steps in capitalizing on the momentum established by the forum. In addition to sharing supplemental materials related to the forum with attendees, they are also considering several strategies for growing the nascent but already substantial community into a truly regional-scale entity. “A regional effort will support all the impressive coldwater stream habitat work already happening in the Northeast. While we have already begun discussing the possibility of providing centralized data collection methods and sharing to model prediction validation, we will definitely look to the community for further guidance on this topic. It’s very exciting to have so many people interested in this topic–and in connecting with one another.” 

The Coldwater Project team invites all interested individuals to participate in the Coldwater Stream Habitat Community. To receive more information about getting involved, please complete this questionnaire