NHESP Research and Inventory

A major function of the NHESP is to collect information on rare species.

Research Efforts

Information is collected through field surveys, scientific literature reviews, and research by staff biologists and cooperators around the state. Collected information includes abundance, distribution, and conservation needs of rare species and significant natural communities.

A geolocator is placed on a Common Tern to help biologists track its movements.
A geolocator is placed on a Common Tern to help biologists track its movements.

One such example is the yearly census of Piping Plover nests and tern nesting colonies in Massachusetts. This collaborative effort is made possible by the cooperation of many entities. This includes beach managers, other state and federal agencies, conservation organizations, and dedicated volunteers. The census effort generates information about population size, productivity, and predation. Biologists and conservationists use this information to protect and manage the birds.

Taxonomic Research

Other NHESP research includes rare population studies, taxonomic studies, and management experiments. Through small research contracts, the NHESP has sponsored taxonomic work on several rare plants. This includes Nantucket Shadbush, New England Blazing Star, and New England Boneset. These plants are found only in the vacinity of New England. The purpose of taxonomic research is to determine if plants, such as these, are distinct species, varieties with global ranges limited to New England, or if they represent geographic variations of more common, wide-ranging species. The NHESP can then assess the rarity of these plants and determine appropriate conservation priorities.

New England Blazing Star, Special Concern.
New England Blazing Star, Special Concern. Photo by Jennifer Garrett

Small Research Contracts

The NHESP sponsors a Small Research Contract (SRC) program. This program funds research projects during the field season focused on conservation priorities. These projects range from radio telemetry tracking of rare turtles to genetic research on rare plant species.

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