CRSF Continues NSF EPSCoR INSPIRES Project into Year 3; Awarded Supplemental Funding

The Center for Research on Sustainable Forests (CRSF) is pleased to announce ongoing support for the INSPIRES EPSCoR RII Track-2 (Award #1920908; Leveraging Intelligent Informatics and Smart Data for Improved Understanding of Northern Forest Ecosystem Resiliency) project. INSPIRES is a multi-jurisdictional effort across Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont led by project investigator Dr. Aaron Weiskittel of the University of Maine’s CRSF. INSPIRES encompasses over 60 participants and spans a range of disciplines including data science, ecology, STEM education, electrical and computer engineering, and communications across the University of Maine, University of Vermont, University of New Hampshire, and Dartmouth College.

Undeterred by roadblocks from COVID-19, INSPIRES team members have been successful in developing strategies to enhance team building and support interjurisdictional research collaboration (details of years 1 and 2 are available at Looking forward, the project teams aim to visit field research sites, deploy wireless sensors for climate data acquisition across the three jurisdictions, target remote sensing acquisitions, model parameterization and calibration for predicting regional forest dynamics, and refine mentoring and student participation. Project leaders will continue to engage stakeholders and partners to gain input and feedback on research objectives, to identify opportunities for leveraging existing long-term data collections, and to develop collaborative relationships around the INSPIRES themes.

“Despite all the challenges created by the ongoing global pandemic, the INSPIRES team has remained dedicated to the cause and found very creative ways to continue collaboration. The project largely remains on schedule with many exciting outcomes planned in the coming months, such as continued interactions with high school science teachers and students from across the region,” commented project lead Dr. Weiskittel.

A parallel and highly related scientific complement to the project is gaining understanding of the transitional forest response to unique stressors when species are primarily at the southern extent of their biological ranges, rather than at their northern extent (an integral part of the original INSPIRES northern forest research). With $599,999 in new supplemental funding from NSF, the INSPIRES team is now building a strategic partnership to focus on this aspect by collaborating with the Alabama Agricultural & Mechanical University (AAMU), an Historically Black College and University (HBCU). This partnership will add a diversified perspective as well as specific scientific expertise and talent to the multi-university, multi-state endeavor.

AAMU has strong expertise and experience in the areas specifically related to INSPIRES, particularly forest ecology, ecological modelling, geoinformatics, and biometrics. It is also home to long-term ecological research sites that will provide invaluable data and insight on species spatial distribution in this hyper-diverse temperate forest; on the recruitment, survival, and mortality of trees over time; on the impacts of climate change and non-native invasive pathogens; and on implications for sustainable forest management and conservation for the next century. It is also the only professionally accredited forestry program at an HBCU in the US.

“We are excited by the opportunities that this collaboration brings to our students and potential integration of our research with northern forests. Through this program, our students will spend time in very different ecosystems and environments, and have exposure to broad areas of education and research beyond their foundational experiences at AAMU. The expertise that Dr. Weiskittel and his colleagues bring to our long-term ForestGeo plot will assist us in building a strong, integrated forest research program with the Paint Rock Valley,” noted AAMU’s project lead Dr. Dawn Lemke.

This new collaboration is designed to mutually benefit both AAMU and the original INSPIRES partners, research collaboration opportunities, student exchange experiences, and hands-on learning opportunities across two transitional forest ecosystems. The partnership idea was facilitated by former AAMU faculty member Dr. Luben Dimov, who is now a Senior Lecturer and member of the Forestry Program in the Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources at the University of Vermont.

For more information on the INSPIRES project, contact Dr. Aaron Weiskittel, Director, Center for Research on Sustainable Forests,, or visit the INSPIRES webpage on the New England Sustainability Consortium website.