Strategic Plan 2015-2020

NOTE: In 2017, the Vermont Monitoring Cooperative became the Forest Ecosystem Monitoring Cooperative. The plan here will be updated in 2017 to reflect the regional expansion of the VMC, in the meantime, the text of the plan is left to reference the VMC

Goals of the Vermont Monitoring Cooperative

Goal 1 To promote the efficient COORDINATION of multidisciplinary environmental monitoring and research activities among Federal, State and private sector agencies and institutions with common interests in the long-term understanding, management or protection of forested ecosystems
FPR Commissioner, Michael Snyder, speaking at the 2013 VMC Annual Conference. Figure 7. FPR Commissioner, Michael Snyder, speaking at the 2013 VMC Annual Conference.
Audience listening to keynote speaker, Jon Erickson’s, presentation at the 2013 VMC Annual Conference. Figure 8. Audience listening to keynote speaker, Jon Erickson’s, presentation at the 2013 VMC Annual Conference.

For 25 years the VMC has filled an essential niche by providing long-term, reliable and professional coordination of monitoring and research activities in Vermont across federal, state and private-sector agencies, organizations and institutions. No other entity in Vermont has shown the commitment and desire or has maintained the necessary funding to perform this service over so many years. In today’s funding environment it is more important than ever to minimize duplication and try to leverage available funding to provide the data and information necessary to inform policy and management decisions affecting Vermont’s forested landscape. Through its annual meeting, website, workshops, newsletters and other information outlets, VMC consistently provides important information about Vermont’s forested landscape to land/resource managers, decision-makers, cooperators/researchers and the public.

Objective 1.1Provide regular opportunities for networking across disciplines and organizations
ACTIVITY 1.1.1Regularly convene environmental professionals at an annual meeting
Deliverable: Expanded/shared VMC annual conferences with a target of 200 attendees, 50 presenters and 3 structured networking sessions
ACTIVITY 1.1.2Provide VMC database training workshops to expand the use and contribution of data
Deliverable: Mobile training workshops offered at least twice a year at partnering institutions
ACTIVITY 1.1.3Expand circulation of newsletters via collaboration with partnering organizations
Deliverable: Development, deployment and continued support of ecoNEWS VT with collaborators
ACTIVITY 1.1.4Improve appeal and functionality of VMC website and database
Deliverable: New website and database deployment in 2014


Objective 1.2Coordinate efforts around high priority issues to produce integrated products
ACTIVITY 1.2.1Conduct mini-grant competitions to support high priority research, monitoring, integration and synthesis efforts*
Deliverable: Development of a Request for Proposals guided by the VMC Scientific Advisory Committee*
ACTIVITY 1.2.2Identify and engage partners for integrated analyses around high priority issues
Deliverable: Collaborator-led integration projects

*Activities may be dependent on securing additional sources of funding.


Objective 1.3Provide a forum to inform future activities among partners
ACTIVITY 1.3.1Convene collaborators to reevaluate the VMC strategic plan, identify gaps, strengths and weaknesses in collective VMC efforts on a regular basis
Deliverables: Yearly internal strategic plan review and action plan, summarized in yearly reports to Northeastern Area 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
ACTIVITY 1.3.2Provide a forum for multidisciplinary groups to identify emerging needs and work on proposals for external funding.
Deliverable: Facilitated working groups at VMC Annual Conferences


Goal 2To promote an improved understanding of trends and relationship in the physical, chemical and biological components of the forested ecosystems through DATA ANALYSIS AND SYNTHESIS
VMC data are available for reference, reuse or incorporation into new research and monitoring activities Figure 9. VMC data are available for reference, reuse or incorporation into new research and monitoring activities.
Working with partners, key data are archived beyond the life of individual projects. Figure 10. Working with partners, key data are archived beyond the life of individual projects.

Our cooperators and stakeholders alike have universally said that post-collection data analyses, synthesis and reporting are value-added services that the VMC might provide that would allow them to do their jobs better. Local NA State and Private Forestry partners have echoed these sentiments as a way to demonstrate the need and value of continuing federal funding for the VMC. It was also suggested that comparing VMC data to other sites in the region (i.e. Hubbard Brook, Harvard Forest, etc.) would give a broader context and application to VMC data and at the same time possibly help raise regional and national visibility for the organization.

The VMC has 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). However, VMC has not been consistent in allocating staff time and resources for these ventures.

The 2009 Vermont’s Changing Forests (VMC, 2009) report may present an effective model for producing some future reports. 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.

Objective 2.1Facilitate the development and distribution of VMC data syntheses
ACTIVITY 2.1.1Convene collaborators to participate in a VMC data synthesis and analysis of long-term trends in environmental conditions every 5 years*
Deliverable: VMC synthesis report funded in the 2016 VMC budget for 2017 distribution

*Activities may be dependent on securing additional sources of funding.


Goal 3To conduct LONG-TERM MONITORING in order to report on current forest ecosystem health and emerging threats
Meteorological monitoring equipment installed on Diamond Island in Lake Champlain. Figure 10. Meteorological monitoring equipment installed on Diamond Island in Lake Champlain.
Measuring the diameter of trees on permanent forest health monitoring plots. Figure 12. 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. Long-term environmental monitoring has been a hallmark of the VMC for the past 25 years. No other environmental entity or organization in Vermont has made the commitment to or had the history and continued funding to support monitoring and research projects over this duration.

These long-term data records have allowed our cooperators to detect changes in trends for bird, amphibian and reptile populations, changes is forest tree species distributions and growth rates and to 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 Vermont 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.

It is imperative that these long-term records continue, and without an LTER or major Experimental Forest in VT, the VMC and its infrastructure are the logical choice to provide support for and coordination of these important data collections and also provide secure archiving and widespread distribution of the data.

Objective 3.1Maintain long-term monitoring activities
ACTIVITY 3.1.1Continue to supply granting money for monitoring and research projects
Deliverable: Consistent funding of long-term monitoring efforts in yearly VMC budgets, including the application for external funding from appropriate granting agencies (see the list in the introduction)
ACTIVITY 3.1.2Support and tracking of on-going research projects
Deliverable: VMC Database and web portal
ACTIVITY 3.1.3Maintain integrity of long-term research sites
Deliverables: Ongoing monitoring and permitting for use of intensive locations
ACTIVITY 3.1.4Document impact (outcomes) of VMC related activities for funding justification
Deliverable: Yearly summary of products and outcomes in the VMC annual report


Objective 3.2Monitor and report on current environmental conditions and potential threats
ACTIVITY 3.2.1Summarize current conditions for all VMC long-term datasets into a yearly annual report
Deliverable: VMC annual reports


Connections to Partnering Organizations

The Vermont Monitoring Cooperative is designed to service the needs of a wide array of partners, and the table below (summarize how each activity meets the various goals and objectives of major partners and contributors to the VMC. The partnering organization’s strategies, goals and activities are identified by numbers or letters, and are defined in Appendix D.

Goal 1. To promote the efficient COORDINATION of multidisciplinary environmental monitoring and research activities among Federal, State and private sector agencies and institutions with common interests in the long-term understanding, management or protection of forested ecosystems
Objective Activity Deliverable Alignment with Partners
1.1 Provide regular opportunities for networking across disciplines and organizations1.1.1 Regularly convene environmental professionals at an annual meeting Expanded/shared VMC annual conferences with a target of 200 attendees, 50 presenters and 3 structured networking sessions FPR: 2.1.7, 4.1, 4.1.30, 4.2, 4.2.33
NA: I, J
DEC: 3, 6
F+W: 8
GMNF: 18, 19, 20
1.1.2 Provide VMC database training workshops to expand the use and contribution of data Mobile training workshops offered at least twice a year at partnering institutions FPR: 1.2.3, 2.1, 2.1.6, 2.1.7, 2.3.13, 3.4.24, 3.5.26, 3.5.28, 4.1, 4.1.30, 4.2, 4.2.33
NA: C, D, H, I, J
DEC: 1, 3, 6
F+W: 1, 2, 5
GMNF: 5, 15, 18, 19
1.1.3 Expand circulation of newsletters via collaboration with partnering organizations Development, deployment and continued support of ecoNEWS VT with collaborators FPR: 2.1.7, 4.1, 4.1.30, 4.2, 4.2.33
NA: C, D, H, I
DEC: 1, 3, 6
F+W: 1, 4, 5
GMNF: 18, 19
1.1.4 Improve appeal and functionality of VMC website and database New website and database deployment in 2014 FPR: 1.2.3, 2.1, 2.1.6, 2.1.7, 2.3.13, 3.4.24, 3.5.26, 3.5.28, 4.1, 4.1.30, 4.2, 4.2.33
NA: C, D, H, I, J
DEC: 1, 3, 6
F+W: 1, 2, 5
GMNF: 5, 15, 18, 19
1.2 Coordinate efforts around high priority issues to produce integrated products 1.2.1 Conduct mini-grant competitions to support high priority research, monitoring, integration and synthesis efforts Development of a Request for Proposals guided by the VMC Scientific Advisory Committee (May be dependent on additional funds) FPR: 2.1.7, 2.3.13, 3.4.24, 3.5.26, 3.5.28, 4.5.47 NA: C, D, F, H, I, J
DEC: 1, 3, 5, 6
F+W: 2, 5
GMNF: 9, 18, 19, 20
1.2.2 Identify and engage partners for integrated analyses around high priority issues Collaborator-led integration projects FPR: 2.1, 2.1.6, 2.1.7, 3.2.21, 3.4, 3.4.24, 3.5.26, 3.5.28, 4.1, 4.1.30, 4.2, 4.2.33
NA: C, D, F, H, I, J
DEC: 1, 3, 4, 6
F+W: 1, 2, 5
GMNF: 9, 18, 19
1.3 Provide a forum to inform future activities among partners 1.3.1 Convene collaborators to reevaluate the VMC strategic plan, identify gaps, strengths and weaknesses in collective VMC efforts on a regular basis Yearly internal strategic plan review and action plan, summarized in yearly reports to Northeastern Area 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
FPR: 1.2.3, 2.1.6, 2.1.7, 2.3.13, 3.4.24, 3.5.26, 3.5.28
NA: C, D, F, H, I, J
DEC: 1, 3, 6
F+W: 5, 7
GMNF: 18
1.3.2 Provide a forum for multidisciplinary groups to identify emerging needs and work on proposals for external funding Facilitated working groups at VMC Annual Conferences FPR: 1.2.3, 2.1.6, 2.1.7, 2.3.13, 3.1.15, 3.4.24, 3.5.26, 3.5.28, 4.1, 4.2, 4.5
NA: C, D, H, I, J
DEC: 1, 3, 5, 6
F+W: 3, 4, 5, 8
GMNF: 18, 19


Goal 2. To promote an improved understanding of trends and relationship in the physical, chemical and biological components of the forested ecosystems through DATA ANALYSIS AND SYNTHESIS
Objective Activity Deliverable Alignment with Partners
2.1 Facilitate the development and distribution of VMC data syntheses 2.1.1 Convene collaborators to participate in a VMC data synthesis and analysis of long-term trends in environmental conditions every 5 years VMC synthesis report funded in the 2016 VMC budget for 2017 distribution FPR: 1.2, 2.1.6, 2.1.7, 2.3.13, 3.4.24, 3.5.26, 3.5.28, 4.1, 4.1.30, 4.2
NA: A, B, C, D, F, H, I, J
DEC: 1, 3, 6
F+W: 1, 2, 5
GMNF: 18, 19


Goal 3. To conduct LONG-TERM MONITORING in order to report on current forest ecosystem health and emerging threats
Objective Activity Deliverable Alignment with Partners
3.1 Maintain long-term monitoring activities 3.1.1 Continue to supply granting money for monitoring and research projects Consistent funding of long-term monitoring efforts in yearly VMC budgets, including the application for external funding from appropriate granting agencies FPR: 1.2.3, 2.1.6, 2.1.7, 2.3.13, 3.4.24, 3.5.26, 3.5.28
NA: A, C, D, F, H, J
DEC: 1, 3, 6
F+W: 1, 2, 5
GMNF: 5, 15, 18, 19
3.1.2 Support and tracking of on-going research projects VMC Database and web portal FPR: 1.2.3, 2.1.6, 2.1.7, 2.3.13, 3.4.24, 3.5.26, 3.5.28, 4.1, 4.1.30, 4.2.33
NA: A, B, C, D, G, H, I, J
DEC: 1, 3, 6
F+W: 1, 2, 5
GMNF: 18, 19
3.1.3 Maintain integrity of long-term research sites Deliverables: Ongoing monitoring and permitting for use of intensive locations FPR: 2.1.6, 2.1.7, 2.3.13, 3.1.15, 3.4.24, 3.5.26, 3.5.28, 4.1.30, 4.5.47
NA: B, C, D, F, G, I
DEC: 1, 3, 6
F+W: 1, 2, 5
GMNF: 5, 15, 18, 19
3.1.4 Document impact (outcomes) of VMC related activities for funding justification Yearly summary of products and outcomes in the VMC annual report FPR: 1.2.3, 2.1.6, 2.1.7, 2.3.13, 3.2.21, 3.4.24, 3.5.26, 3.5.28, 4.1.30, 4.2.33
NA: A, B, C, D, F, H, I
DEC: 1, 3, 6
F+W: 1, 2, 5
GMNF: 5, 9, 15, 18, 19
3.2 Monitor and report on current environmental conditions and potential threats 3.2.1 Summarize current conditions for all VMC long-term datasets into a yearly annual report VMC annual reports FPR: 1.2.3, 2.1.6, 2.1.7, 2.3.13, 3.2.21, 3.4.24, 3.5.26, 3.5.28, 4.1.30, 4.2.33
NA: A, B, C, D, F, H, I
DEC: 1, 3, 6
F+W:1, 2, 5
GMNF: 5, 9, 15, 18, 19