The Mount Mansfield Science and Stewardship Center

Summit of Mt. Mansfield, including a proposed site of a Mount Mansfield Science and Stewardship Center. Photo: Rick Paradis Proposed site of the Mount Mansfield Science and Stewardship Center with Vermont’s highest peak in the background.
Promoting healthy mountain ecosystems

Mission

The Mansfield Center’s mission is to promote the health of northeastern mountain ecosystems by catalyzing collaborative science and stewardship on Mount Mansfield. The foundation for this work consists of: a uniquely situated field station; a long-term scientific record spanning air, forest, soil, water, and wildlife; a tradition of information sharing and regional networking; and a commitment to science-based environmental policy and natural resource management.

Field workers on Mt. Mansfield Photo: K.P. McFarland

Background and Vision

A group of organizations from the public and private sectors has launched an effort to establish a hub of mountain science and stewardship in the Mount Mansfield Summit Station, which is located on a forested Vermont ridge at an elevation of 3,850 feet.

Group touring the proposed site of a Mount Mansfield Science and Stewardship Center. Photo: K.P. McFarland

Cooperators in the enterprise include: the University of Vermont Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources, the Vermont Center for Ecostudies, the Vermont Monitoring Cooperative, the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation, and Stowe Mountain Resort. The partnering institutions envision a community of scholars, educators, and natural resource managers working alongside students and visitors to understand and sustain the vitality of mountain ecosystems.

Goals

  • To advance interdisciplinary research and long-term monitoring of mountain ecosystems and changes affecting mountain flora and fauna.
  • To develop, implement, and demonstrate stewardship actions that will lead to improved conservation of mountain environments from a local to global scale.
  • To provide place-based education and outreach on mountain ecology, conservation issues, and stewardship.
Field work along the Long Trail Photo: K.P. McFarland

Science and Stewardship Approach

Aerial view along the spine of Mt. Mansfield Photo: John Compton
  • Measure natural variability and effects of human activity on mountain ecosystems, from northern hardwoods to the alpine zone.
  • Quantify and model processes that sustain ecosystem function and services.
  • Evaluate the capacity of populations and natural communities to resist, recover from, and adapt to climate change and other anthropogenic stressors.
  • Integrate scientific findings into environmental policy and natural resource management.
  • Provide learning experiences that prepare students and young professionals for careers as environmental scientists and decision-makers.

A detailed framework for science and stewardship programs is available here (101 KB pdf).

Facility, site, and research history

The front door of the proposed Center Photo: K.P. McFarland

The Mansfield Center will occupy a 1.5-story, 64 ft x 40 ft building situated on a forested ridge one mile south of Vermont's highest peak (4,393 ft). The surrounding 45,000 acres of wild and managed land have been the subject of scientific study for many decades, with continuous and coordinated investigations of air, water, soil, flora, and fauna dating back to 1991.

Google Earth snapshot of Mt. Mansfield

As the only field station in eastern North America located in a high-elevation spruce-fir forest, the Center will promote interdisciplinary studies of woodland and alpine ecosystems across the northern Appalachian and Adirondack ecoregions.

A more complete description of the science and stewardship assets on Mount Mansfield is available here (583 KB pdf).

To explore Mount Mansfield with Google Maps, click here.

Map of historical and current ecological monitoring taking place on Mt. Mansfield Map of historical and current ecological monitoring taking place on Mt. Mansfield

Services

The Mansfield Center will provide the following services to natural resource agencies, universities, non-governmental organizations, policy makers, and professionals working in the fields of forestry, recreation, wildlife, air and water quality, environmental engineering, and natural areas stewardship.

A recent survey of prospective Mansfield Center users revealed a strong interest in these services among scientists, educators, and natural resource professionals. Survey results, summarized in this report, are being used to plan Mansfield Center facilities and programs.

  • Leadership and coordination for collaborative projects
  • Affordable and convenient access to a high-elevation field site
  • Secure lodging, meeting, laboratory, and storage spaces
  • Opportunity to connect with other mountain scientists and stewards
  • Computing and communication infrastructure
  • Science-based guidance on policy and management issues

In addition, the Center will offer educational exhibits and programs to mountain visitors and to residents of the surrounding towns.

Mansfield Center Timeline

Oct 2012

Convened a planning workshop with founding partners and other interested parties

Feb 2013

Produced an assessment of legal, technical, operational, and economic feasibility

Sep 2013

Developed guidelines to minimize impacts from use of the facility and surroundings

Oct 2013

Created an organizing framework for science, stewardship, and education programs

May 2014

Drafted a business plan that includes industry and financial analyses, as well as strategies to manage, staff, operate, and market the services of the Mansfield Center

July 2014

Presented and solicited feedback on the main elements of the program and business plans at the Global Fair and Workshop for Mountain Observatories

Dec 2014

Organized a VMC workshop to identify stewardship opportunities, information gaps, and infrastructure/service requirements of prospective users

April 2016

Will host a research and strategic planning conference, including a site visit and external review by the Organization of Biological Field Stations Organizational Development Committee

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