AUNE Hike up Monadnock Highlights MERE’s Work

The hiking group - students, faculty and staff.

The hiking group – students, faculty and staff.

When Peter Palmiotto, core faculty member in AUNE’s Department of Environmental Studies, led a hike up Mount Monadnock this week, it was a first ascent for Steve Jones, AUNE’s new president.

It also gave Palmiotto the perfect opportunity to talk about the Monadnock Ecological Research and Education (MERE) project right where it all happens—on top of the 3,165-foot mountain.

Ten people joined the hike, including MERE’s current Summit Stewards, AUNE students Marilyn Castriotta, Tim Demers, Andrea Wilkins, and Hana Kiewicz-Schlansker. The Summit Stewardship program was first started four years ago to educate hikers about alpine ecosystems and softening their impact on fragile alpine vegetation. The stewards spend weekends and busy hiking days on the mountain, talking to people about how to leave no trace on the delicate crevice communities and about the resources the mountain provides.

Peter Palmiotto, ES faculty; Steve Jones, AUNE president; and Tim Demers, student and Summit Steward, on the top.

Peter Palmiotto, ES faculty; Steve Jones, AUNE president; and Tim Demers, student and Summit Steward, on the top.

On the summit, the group met Lee Willette, volunteer coordinator for Monadnock State

Park, who guided the group down off-the-beaten-track trails and provided interesting stories about the mountain and its history.

What is MERE?
MERE’s purpose is to promote informed use and appreciation of the mountain through ecological research, monitoring, and educational outreach.  It works with partners that include the Monadnock State Parkthe Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Foreststhe Monadnock Advisory Commission, and the Town of Jaffrey.

In 2006, when Palmiotto and his graduate students were first planning MERE, they found very little data about the ecology of the mountain, even though it is, at the moment, the world’s third most-climbed mountain. MERE was formed the next year to do long-term ecological research on the mountain, particularly on forest dynamics as the climate changes.

Andrea Wilkins, Summit Steward, gives her talk about taking care of the Monadnock summit.

Andrea Wilkins, Summit Steward, gives her talk about taking care of the Monadnock summit.

MERE has established ten transects on the mountain between 1,800 and 3,000 feet, and another twelve transects from the mountain’s bald summit down to the 3,000-foot altitude.  These permanent research plots allow MERE researchers to establish and monitor baseline ecological data and to measure changes in the forest over time.  Much of the research is aimed at crevice communities, small vegetated areas on the rocky summit.

AUNE’s graduate students have been involved with the research, as well as students from Keene High School and Keene State College.

AUNE’s Department of Environmental Studies is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, with a series of events throughout the year that includes the Northeast Alpine Stewardship Gathering, hosted by MERE Nov. 1-3.