In 2006 and 2008, our community scientists surveyed nearly 1,000 culverts and bridges in the Ashuelot River watershed to determine where fish passage is most impacted by roads. More recently, Harris Center interns and undergraduate researchers expanded these efforts into the Contoocook watershed, with special focus on road-stream crossings adjacent to Harris Center-conserved lands. These data are used by Trout Unlimited, the Cheshire County Conservation District, New Hampshire Fish and Game, and other partners to prioritize sites for stream restoration. In 2015, restoration work began on one of our highest-priority sites; by August 2016, a new, fish-friendly crossing on Hale Hill Road in Swanzey had reconnected more than 20 miles of stream habitat in Falls Brook and the Ashuelot River for wild brook trout and aquatic wildlife!
Norway Pond Studies
Since 2017, the Harris Center has been collaborating with the Norway Pond Commission on a series of research intiatives focused on the ecology of Norway Pond in Hancock. In 2018, Harris Center interns collected and analyzed tree cores for a study of tree establishment and growth in the conserved lands adjacent to the pond. In 2019, Harris Center staff and community volunteers piloted a volunteer cyanobacteria monitoring project. Each spring, the Harris Center hosts a one-day symposium where findings from these and other projects — including water quality and paleolimnology studies — are shared with the community.
From 2014 through 2017, under the direction of Dr. Denise Burchsted — a river ecologist and fluvial geomorphologist in the Department of Environmental Studies at Keene State College — a team of KSC researchers studied stream processes on Harris Center lands. Student researchers walked three streams, quantifying the shape of the river channels and collecting water quality data, with the ultimate goal of assessing the impacts of beaver dams on river processes. This research also included the installation of ten sets of stream sensors, which recorded water level, temperature, and conductivity multiple times every hour. This study was part of a statewide project funded by the National Science Foundation.
In 2016, a team of graduate students in the Department of Environmental Studies at Antioch University New England assessed relative abundance and distribution of bird species across several habitat types on the Harris Center’s Hiroshi Land. Over the course of three months in late winter and early spring, the students detected 37 species via systematic bird point count sampling.