The 2018-2020 Forest Ecosystem Monitoring Cooperative Strategic Plan guides the work of the Cooperative staff to meet big-picture goals of the Cooperative’s governing bodies. This plan is an update of the Vermont Monitoring Cooperative Strategic Plan first drafted in 2014, intended to address the transition of the VMC to the FEMC and a regional monitoring cooperative model.

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The Forest Ecosystem Monitoring Cooperative Mission

The mission of the Forest Ecosystem Monitoring Cooperative is to serve the northeast temperate forest region through improved understanding of long-term trends, annual conditions, and interdisciplinary relationships of the physical, chemical, and biological components of forested ecosystems.

The FEMC also promotes the efficient coordination of multi-disciplinary environmental monitoring and research activities among federal, state, university, and private-sector agencies with common interests in the long-term health, management, and protection of forested ecosystems.

Goals of the Forest Ecosystem Monitoring Cooperative

To contribute to the efficient COORDINATION of multidisciplinary environmental monitoring and research activities among existing efforts and institutions with common interests in the long-term understanding, management or protection of forested ecosystems

Figure 5. Panel presentation at the 2016 Conference
Figure 5. Working group session on earthworm identification at the 2016 Conference

FEMC fills an essential niche by providing long-term, reliable and professional coordination of monitoring and research activities in the region across federal, state and private-sector agencies, organizations and institutions. This role at the regional scale builds upon 26 years of success in Vermont in maintaining this focus and funding to perform this service. In today’s funding environment it is more important than ever to minimize duplication of effort and to leverage available funding to provide the data and information necessary to inform policy and management decisions affecting the forested landscapes of our region. Through its annual conferences, archive, website, workshops and other information outlets, FEMC consistently provides important information about forest ecosystems to land and resource managers, decision-makers, cooperators, researchers and the public.

Objective 1.1

Provide regular opportunities for networking across disciplines and organizations

Regularly convene environmental professionals at an annual meeting
Deliverable: Expanded FEMC annual conferences with a target of 200 attendees, 50 presenters and 3 structured networking sessions
Provide FEMC database training workshops to expand the use and contribution of data
Deliverable: Mobile training workshops offered at least twice a year at partnering institutions
Maintain multiple outlets for disseminating information to collaborators and stakeholders
Deliverable: Development, deployment and continued support of social media, listserv and ecoNEWS VT
Maintain a committee structure that enables networking and collaboration across organizations and disciplines
Deliverable: Functioning Committees directly involved in the project work and governance of the FEMC

Objective 1.2

Coordinate efforts around high priority issues to produce integrated products

Conduct mini-grant competitions to support high priority research, monitoring, integration and synthesis efforts*
Deliverable: Development of a Request for Proposals, with selection guided by the FEMC Steering and State Partnership Committees

*Activities may be dependent on securing additional sources of funding.
Identify and engage partners for integrated analyses around high priority issues
Deliverable: Completion of state partnership sprint projects and regional work plan items; Development of funding proposals with partners

Objective 1.3

Provide a forum to inform future activities among partners

Convene collaborators to reevaluate the FEMC strategic plan, identify gaps, strengths and weaknesses in collective FEMC efforts on a regular basis
Deliverables: Yearly internal strategic plan review and action plan, summarized in yearly reports to Eastern Region State and Private Forestry; Preliminary Strategic Plan internal review in 2017; Reconvene the Strategic Planning Committee for renewal and update of the Strategic Plan in 2020
Provide a forum for multidisciplinary groups to identify emerging needs and work on proposals for external funding.
Deliverable: Facilitated working groups at FEMC Annual Conferences

To promote an improved understanding of trends and relationships in the physical, chemical and biological components of the forested ecosystems through DATA ANALYSIS AND SYNTHESIS

Figure 7. VMC data are available for reference, reuse or incorporation into new research and monitoring activities.
Figure 6 . Working with partners, key data are archived beyond the life of individual projects.

FEMC cooperators and stakeholders have repeatedly identified the value added by FEMC through post-collection data analyses, synthesis and reporting, and that these services allow them to do their jobs better. FEMC has allocated increasing amounts of staff time and resources for these ventures, both to do novel analysis and to develop tools and products that enable people to access and understand information better.

As the VMC, this organization periodically produced integrated data summaries or synthesis reports, including a Data Integration Pilot Project (Martin et al., 1994), an Ecological Data Integration (Martin, 1998) project, a study of atmospheric mercury in Vermont and New England (Burkins et al., 2009), and a synthesis of the first 20 years of VMC monitoring data (VMC, 2009). Beginning in 2014, VMC/FEMC staff have produced yearly long-term monitoring updates summarizing trends in key long-term datasets for Vermont (Pontius et al. 2014, Duncan et al. 2015, Duncan et al. 2016, Duncan et al. 2017) and, more recently, the region (Kosiba et al. 2017). The 2009 Vermont’s Changing Forests (VMC, 2009) report may present a model for producing future synthesis and integration reports at a regional scale. During this endeavor the VMC acted as the coordinating organization that brought together like-minded cooperators interested in working on the report, and paid for some of their time to do data analyses and integration, and actual writing of chapters for the report.

FEMC also continues to expand its role in producing data portals, online data integration and discovery tools, and other products that provide both information and context as well as access to raw data. Some examples include the Vermont Forest Indicators Dashboard3 and the Northeastern Forest Health Atlas4. This collection of tools and products represent a significant offering for partners in the region for going beyond data access and providing tools for integration and understanding.

Objective 2.1

Facilitate the development and distribution of FEMC data syntheses

Convene collaborators to participate in reporting and explaining long-term trends in environmental conditions
Deliverable: FEMC long-term monitoring updates; Vermont Forest Indicators Dashboard
Promote FEMC project reports and findings developed through state and regional work to other stakeholders in the region
Deliverable: Presentations at regional conferences/meetings on products developed by the FEMC

Objective 2.2

Provide state-of-the-art tools for preserving, accessing and exploring data

Maintain and improve the FEMC archive as a regional resource for archiving environmental data
Deliverable: New users and datasets added to the archive; Additional functionality and features added to the archive.
Promote affordable FEMC web, data and analytical services to partners
Deliverable: Development of customized online and offline data products for partners

To conduct LONG-TERM MONITORING in order to report on current forest ecosystem health and emerging threats

Figure 8 . Meteorological monitoring at the FEMC forest canopy environmental monitoring tower
Figure 9. Measuring the diameter of trees on permanent forest health monitoring plots.

The Vermont Monitoring Cooperative was founded on the premise that a commitment to long-term environmental monitoring and research is essential to collecting baseline data needed to detect changes in conditions and trends and help identify new threats to our forested ecosystems. The Forest Ecosystem Monitoring Cooperative carries this commitment forward. Long-term environmental monitoring has been a hallmark of the VMC and FEMC for 27 years. VMC and FEMC have maintained a significant commitment to and history of continued support for monitoring and research projects over this duration.

These long-term data records have allowed our cooperators to detect changes in trends of bird, amphibian and reptile populations, identify changes in forest tree species distributions and growth rates and track changes in water chemistry of our lakes and streams. From these data, researchers were able to show that much of Vermont’s air pollution (sulfate, nitrate and mercury) was transported to the region on air masses originating in the mid-west and south, and these pollutants could even be traced back to specific sources at mid-western coal-fired electrical generating plants.

The lack of an LTER or major experimental forest in Vermont makes it imperative for these long-term records to continue, to match what is collected in other states in the region. The FEMC and its infrastructure are the logical choice to support and coordinate these important data collections in Vermont, as well as providing secure archiving and widespread distribution of the data.

Objective 3.1

Maintain long-term monitoring activities

Continue to supply granting money for monitoring projects
Deliverable: Consistent funding of long-term monitoring efforts in yearly FEMC budgets; Application for external funding from appropriate granting agencies
Support and tracking of on-going monitoring and research projects
Deliverable: Regular updates to key datasets in FEMC data archive
Maintain integrity of long-term research sites
Deliverables: Ongoing monitoring and permitting for use of intensive locations
Document impact (outcomes) of FEMC related activities for funding justification
Deliverable: Yearly summary of products and outcomes provided to the Cooperative through Annual Conference and reporting

Objective 3.2

Monitor and report on current environmental conditions and potential threats

Summarize current conditions for key FEMC long-term datasets into yearly long-term monitoring updates
Deliverable: FEMC long-term monitoring updates
Provide online tools, dashboards and collections around key topics and locations
Deliverable: Online tools for interpreting data and accessing information
Previous Strategic Plans
  • Online PDF Vermont Monitoring Cooperative Strategic Plan 2015-2020