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Summer Research Project 2019

  • Title: Advancing Wildlands and Woodlands through Collaborative Conservation
  • Group Project Leader: David Foster
  • Mentors: David Foster; Brian Hall; Emily Johnson
  • Collaborators: David Foster; Brian Hall; Hannah Robbins
  • Project Description:

    Wildlands and Woodlands (W&W) is a bold regional vision and rapidly growing initiative that inspires regional planning and conservation to ensure a sustainable future. W&W envisions New England in 2060 as a mosaic of woodlands sustainably managed for timber and other resources, wildlands set aside from active management to allow natural processes to shape the land and waters, and lands devoted to local and sustainable agriculture, all integrated with thriving rural and urban communities. The W&W vision was launched in part to address the fact that suburban sprawl and haphazard development are converting land that provides natural resources and sustains local economies at a rate of 24,000 acres a year. The W&W vision, which developed from, and is supported by, the work of Harvard Forest scientists collaborating with conservationists at the Highstead Foundation and other partners, calls for the permanent conservation of 70 percent of New England’s land base as forest and 7 percent as farmland, free from development by 2060. Since its inception in 2010, an increasing numbers of landowners, conservation organizations, and public agencies have embraced this vision.
    The Kestrel Land Trust and members in a newly-forming partnership are exploring how to apply and advance the W&W Vision to the Connecticut Valley of Massachusetts as part of an effort to ensure that this diverse region remains a beautiful and vibrant place to live. The valley, also known as the Pioneer Valley, is known for its fertile farm soils, diverse forests, small villages, and large cities and accomplished academic centers (Smith, Amherst, Mount Holyoke, and Hampire Colleges, and the University of Massachusetts) thus serves as a useful pilot project in fitting the holistic approach to land protection and development advocated in Wildlands and Woodlands to specific landscapes.
    This summer two students will work closely with Harvard Forest scientists, Kestrel Land Trust staff, and key partners from the agricultural, planning, building, and governmental sectors to strengthen the partnership by developing needed information on the region’s physical, biological, and social characteristics, landcover, planning efforts, and opportunities and challenges to the agricultural, forestry, recreational, conservation, and housing sectors. We are looking for two students who will work collaboratively and individually (approximately 30:70, respectively) on two different facets of the project. Both positions will be based at the Harvard Forest, but with engagement with individuals, landscapes, and groups across the Pioneer Valley. Each student will be responsible for creating a final report and slide show summarizing their efforts and present their projects to the partners and other summer interns.
    The two projects emphasize different background so please identify which one you are applying for.

    Position 1) Natural resources, agriculture and conservation
    This position will be focussed on using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to provide insights on the region’s conservation history, recent landcover changes, population and potential future changes, and--working with experts--help identify areas most suitable for forests, farms, and responsible development.
    - An interest in land protection;
    - Experience with or a strong motivation to learn GIS;
    - Analytical skills;
    - Collaborative inclinations and interpersonal communications skills;
    - A valid driver’s license

    Position 2) Regional planning and economics
    This position will focus on using planning documents from community to regional scales and social, demographic amd economic data to summarize existing frameworks for action and to provide detailed characterization of the valley’s economic, demographic, and cultural variation. The student will be involved in developing a coordinated regional plan for the valley.
    - Experience or coursework in regional planning;
    - Interest in land protection, agriculture, and urban issues;
    - Writing, editing, and problem-solving skills;
    - Collaborative inclinations and interpersonal communications skills;
    - A valid driver’s license

  • Readings:

    2017. Wildlands, Woodlands, Farmlands and Communities. Broadening the Vision for New England


    2014. The Wildlands and Woodlands Initiative of the Harvard Forest, Harvard University. In: Levitt, J. N., Conservation Catalysts: The Academy as Nature's Agent, Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, Cambridge, MA.

  • Research Category: Regional Studies, Group Projects, Conservation and Management