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Harris Center plans 50th anniversary projects

Published: 7/7/2020 10:55:59 AM

As the Harris Center for Conservation Education celebrates its 50th Anniversary Year and faces the environmental needs and challenges of a changing region and world, it is fundraising for a newly created 50th Anniversary Fund which is already enabling the nonprofit to embark on several new projects. The fund will seed innovative educational and conservation research projects for years to come, as well as provide for caretaking of the land and trails on its 24,000-acre SuperSanctuary, spanning eight Monadnock region towns.

The first newly funded project is the installation of a local receiving station for radio-tracking birds, bats, butterflies, and dragonflies, to which small radio transmitters (nanotags) have been attached. This project is being done in collaboration with NH Fish and Game, NH Audubon, and conservation partners in five other states. Migration data will be collected whenever tagged birds, bats, and insects fly overhead at the Harris Center receiving station, to be installed on its conserved land in Stoddard. This station will be one of 50 installed throughout New England as part of the cutting-edge Motus wildlife tracking network (, contributing to an international migration dataset. The Harris Center station will also provide educational opportunities for participants in its programs.

The second initiative already supported by the 50th Fund is a turtle habitat and nest monitoring project for high school students, in collaboration with the Army Corps of Engineers at MacDowell Dam, NH Fish and Game wildlife biologists, and ConVal High School 10th grade honors biology students and teachers. In the 2020/21 school year, students will be directly involved in monitoring a habitat restoration project on Army Corps land for turtle nests, and in piloting a headstarting program for turtle eggs and hatchlings, whereby painted and snapping turtle hatchlings will be reared in their classroom and then released into the wild. As NH Fish and Game further develops this program for critically endangered turtles, this project will help pave the way for student involvement in turtle conservation.

A third 50th Fund project is the publication of a 365-page nature-phenology calendar as part of the Harris Center’s education outreach. Through photos and text, local birder and naturalist Francie Von Mertens tracks the days and seasons in the natural world, observed in backyards and beyond. A small, spiral-bound desktop calendar, one page and one day at a time, will offer insights into the wild world: plants and their pollinator partners, trees and their fungi partners, learning birdsong, porcupine courtship, and much more. This perpetual calendar will be available in early fall.

A Broad-winged Hawk tracking project, in collaboration with Hawk Mountain Sanctuary in Pennsylvania, is the fourth project poised to launch thanks to the 50th Fund. In this project, satellite transmitters will be attached to one or more Broad-winged Hawks on Harris Center lands in the summer of 2021 in order to study the movement ecology of this iconic species. The data collected will help determine conservation priorities as well as in understanding successful hawk nesting and migration habitats and will be shared by Harris Center teacher-naturalists with local students.

These are just the first of many projects the Harris Center expects to fund through the establishment of its 50th Anniversary Fund, which will also be used to ensure careful long-term stewardship and management of its 24,000-acre SuperSanctuary lands and public trails. More information can be found at:

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