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September 2016

Trees inspire community, regardless of whether they grow in forests that span hundreds of acres or simply form a graceful green arch over city streets. From mapping natural resources stewardship in New York City to collaboration among scientists and managers in Pennsylvania to students pursuing science and nature in Philadelphia, this month’s featured scientist,  product, research and partnership all demonstrate the power of community.

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Featured Scientist

Lindsay Campbell

Lindsay Campbell

In 2002, a 1-year fellowship brought Lindsay Campbell to New York City and the U.S. Forest Service to explore how hundreds of living memorials created following 9/11 contribute to community resilience. Fourteen years later, Campbell is still in New York City doing research that explores how people use, value, care for, and understand nature.

The unique mission of the New York City Urban Field Station – both to conduct research and convert knowledge into useful tools – has been one of the reasons Campbell has stayed. As a scientist in an Urban Field Station, Campbell tries to bridge the gap between research and the organizations that either have specific research needs or use science tools in land management. Along the way, she has gained deep respect for local stewardship organizations. “Their care of street trees, small parks, waterfronts, wetlands, and forested areas plays an important role in the ecosystem,” Campbell said.

Campbell’s childhood in Michigan and Ohio helped shape her perspective on the relationship between people and urban natural resources. In Shaker Heights, Ohio, she observed the importance of strong urban planning principles, including the provision of parkland and urban tree canopy. “It showed me how the built environment can shape community, and the idea has stuck with me,” Campbell said. “In all my work, I always come back to cities, people, the environment, and how they relate.”   

At the same time that she was earning an undergraduate degree from Princeton, launching a career as a Forest Service scientist,  and then earning a Ph.D from Rutgers, Campbell was also a world class fencer; she was ranked third in the country in 2011 and was a five-time member of the U.S. National Team. “It’s a beautiful sport,” Campbell said. “It’s been a privilege to get to compete and travel for my sport.” After 13 years, she is now retired from world cup competition and contemplating continuing at the national level.

This year, Campbell is circling back to living memorials, the subject that first drew her to the U.S. Forest Service and the New York City area. Along with New York City Team Leader Erika Svendsen and colleague Heather McMillen, Campbell has revisited 35 sites that she first visited in 2002 to discover how many still exist, and if so whether the mission and focus of living memorial sites have shifted over time.

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Featured Product

Stewardship mapping and assessment project: a framework for understanding community-based environmental stewardship

Maps of Community Gardens, GreenStreets & parks and stewardship organizations in New York City area.

In cities maintaining urban forests, individuals and organizations that take on urban natural resource stewardship projects can constitute an amazing resource. Research by the Forest Service and partners is helping cities better understand the breadth of that resource, as well as giving them insight into what makes volunteer stewards tick.
The Stewardship Mapping and Assessment Project (STEW-MAP) is a U.S. Forest Service national research program designed to answer specific questions: Who are the active environmental stewardship groups in my area and where, why, and how are they caring for the land? Published earlier this year, NRS General Technical Report 156 serves as a guide for anyone who wants to implement a STEW-MAP project in their own city. The report presents a brief introduction to STEW-MAP and offers guidance on how to implement STEW-MAP locally. Authors also provide research findings and public applications from the cities that have completed STEW-MAP projects to date.

Initially a New York City project, STEW-MAP has grown into a multi-city research program. To date, the project has been replicated by Forest Service researchers in Baltimore, the Chicago region, and Seattle. Studies are under way in Los Angeles and Philadelphia. Other cities, including San Juan, Puerto Rico, and Boston, are also interested in conducting STEW-MAP studies. The original New York City STEW-MAP was developed by a team of Forest Service and university researchers working with dozens of municipal agencies and citywide environmental nonprofits that identified a need to create a common database and map. A new New York City STEW-MAP effort will begin in 2017 and will allow researchers to better understand how stewardship evolves and changes over time.

“Long-term community-based natural resource stewardship can help cities support and maintain their investment in street trees and parks,” said Erika Svendsen, a research social scientist with the New York City Urban Field Station and one of the creators of STEW-MAP. “STEW-MAP databases and interactive maps illustrate where and how hundreds of civic environmental stewardship groups are working throughout a city or region, which helps everyone invested in these lands see where stewardship is or is not taking place.”

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Featured Research

Community of Forestry Practitioners in Pennsylvania and Beyond

Need captionThe hundreds of thousands of acres of verdant mixed-hardwood forests that make up the Allegheny National Forest as well as state, industrial and private forest lands define northwestern Pennsylvania.  However, in the 1960s and 1970s, a forest restoration crisis across the region led to fears that this forest type could be significantly reduced or lost forever.  In 1967, forest managers made a plea to U.S. Forest Service scientists to focus research attention on these regeneration difficulties.  This was the beginning of a researcher-manager partnership that not only stopped the restoration crisis, but nearly 50 years later continues to efficiently address emerging problems and nip them in the bud.

The Community of Forestry Practitioners’ close collaboration between researchers and managers in addressing the restoration crisis is a model for how applied science works best.  Pennsylvania forest managers had theories about the causes of restoration failure and these became the hypotheses for early studies that looked at impacts of soils, vegetation, overstory species and browsing by white-tailed deer on regeneration.  “As answers began to emerge, the researchers began annual training sessions to share research results with practitioners,” said Susan Stout, a research forester and project leader with the Northern Research Station.  Over time, an informal community of forestry practitioners in Pennsylvania evolved and expanded.  It now includes scientists and managers in Ohio, West Virginia, Maryland and beyond.        

The training sessions — offered in all these states — provide a context for managers and researchers to meet face-to-face, build relationships and exchange information using a common vocabulary and shared understanding of common silviculture practices. SILVAH, a systematic approach to inventory, analysis and silviculture prescriptions, is a cornerstone of the training and its long-term success. 

“As people come to the area, they attend a training session, begin using research results, and get to know managers and researchers from other areas who are already in the community,” said Stout.  “Managers benefit from early access to research results and a consistent framework for explaining their activities to stakeholders.  Researchers gain the advantage of hundreds of eyes observing and reporting changes in the forest, and access to study sites and in-kind services that can’t be beat.”

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Featured Partnership

Overbrook Environmental Education Center

Students and teachers from Overbrook Environmental Center stand in front of a colorful mural.

A meeting between Sheree Johnson, Civil Rights Director of the U.S. Forest Service’s Northern Research Station and Jerome Shabazz, Executive Director of the Overbrook Environmental Education Center at a community event in Philadelphia 5 years ago turned out to be fortuitous for both the Forest Service and the Overbrook Center. The meeting ultimately resulted in formation of a partnership that is transferring science knowledge to students, encouraging interests in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), and increasing awareness of possible careers with the U. S. Forest Service. 

The Overbrook Environmental Education Center established in 1998 was created by Shabazz and his wife, Gloria, with a goal of contributing to the improvement of the environment, education and public health for local inner city residents. The Northern Research Station’s partnership with the environmental education center is providing a context for youth to explore environmental issues in their neighborhood and learn how they can contribute to solutions through events, site improvements and learning modules.

Over the course of the partnership, the Northern Research Station has contributed to the installation of a community greenhouse to provide fresh produce to the neighborhood, a rain garden to prevent rain water from entering the sewer system, and solar powered trash bins to reduce the volume of trash going into landfills. Research station scientists have given presentations on topics such as: “What is a watershed,” “Water – A Renewable Resource,” and “How the landscape can act as a filter.” Sarah Low, Coordinator for the Northern Research Station’s Philadelphia Field Station recently served as a guest on a one hour radio show to raise awareness about sustainable living.

At least 750 students have been reached through events and career fairs sponsored by the partnership. Eight scientists from the Northern Research Station have been actively involved in sharing their science knowledge with students. “We are expanding and enhancing our partnership with the Overbrook Environmental Learning Center by engaging additional individuals and organizations,” said Johnson. “Our goal is to continue what has proven to be a successful forum for 'Science Leaders Growing Future Science Leaders'.”

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