Stewardship Science

What is W&W Stewardship Science?

The W&W Stewardship Science Manual and associated resources, below, provide an accessible, step-by-step approach to monitoring forests that landowners can use to track changes in their woods over time. Stewardship Science also connects people to a central database so that they can be an integral part of a larger regional effort.

Results from this straightforward “citizen-science” forest monitoring program can inform landowners about the long-term impacts and effectiveness of management practices including: 

  • Promoting certain forest characteristics
  • Enhancing ecosystem services, such as carbon sequestration and water production
  • Managing for timber, biomass production, or wilderness qualities 

By combining the data gathered across the region, W&W Stewardship Science also promotes a better understanding of long-term vegetation changes in protected wildlands and woodlands and the effects of different management practices on forests across New England.

How to Get Started: 

If you have access to forested land and at least one intern, staff member, or landowner available and interested in installing long-term measurement plots, consider starting a study. Whether you install one or 100 plots, our manual contains step-by-step instructions, including how much time is involved and what basic equipment you will need. The database includes basic graphing and analysis tools for your convenience.  Please use the hands-on resources, below, and watch this site for instructional videos, currently under development. 

Resources: 

Our project goals:

  • Engage land trusts, conservation commissions, landowners, academic institutions, timber companies, teachers, and others in systematic data collection on conserved lands.
  • Connect forest practitioners and conservation groups to long-term scientific data that can inform future management decisions locally and across the region.
  • Use a consistent and straightforward data collection protocol at each site throughout New England.
  • Create an online database for participants to enter and share their data and to access other groups’ data for comparison and collaboration. 

Why is Long-Term Monitoring Important?

We are living in an age of great environmental change marked by a warming climate, accelerated extinction rates, widespread species invasions, forest fragmentation from roads and development, and other environmental degradation from human activity. Forests provide us with clean water and flood resilience, shade our streets, mitigate global warming by sequestering carbon, fuel our economies, and offer places for healthy outdoor recreation and spiritual renewal. To understand how our woodlands are changing as a result of human activity and natural forces, and to enact thoughtful management plans that prevent undesirable changes and encourage desirable ones, we need a method of obtaining reliable information about forest change. 

Long-term monitoring, if done carefully, provides reliable knowledge and fascinating insights. Casual observation, which is often fallible, does not.

Contact Information

Highstead coordinates W&W Stewardship Science in collaboration with scientists from the Harvard Forest, Brandeis University, the University of Maine, and the University of Massachusetts. For more information: contact Highstead Ecologist Ed Faison, or Emily Silver, University of Maine School of Forest Resources. 

All of our data are available for public use contingent upon our Terms of Use. 

Become a Stewardship Science Regional Representative

If you are an ecologist or scientist, you can become a regional representative to assist other study participants. Duties are flexible depending on your preference, but can include:

  • Answering e-mails for project questions
  • Assisting study leader with field methodology
  • When feasible, traveling to a new project for on-site assistance

This can be a particularly fruitful project for an academic institution that would like to be part of meaningful, local conservation and to set up projects for students over time. Please contact: Ed Faison for further information.