Data Led Conservation Management on Private Land
High Acres Nature Area is a 250-acre conservation site that is owned and managed by Waste Management in Fairport, NY. This site has several different forms of habitat ranging from grasslands, wooded regions, and wetlands. The High Acres Nature Area has been in partnership with RIT since 2011, allowing environmental science students to get hands-on experience, while providing Waste Management with data to aid in the management plans of their conservation site. The main focus of this year's capstone is vegetation monitoring, hydrological assessment, and implementing new wildlife monitoring techniques. Our vegetation monitoring has included surveys to assess the health of the ecosystems and manage spread of invasive species, through manual extraction of invasive vegetation. Hydrology plays an essential role in wetland health; this year's capstone group installed several new water loggers into existing wells, monitored groundwater and surface water flow, and analyzed the changes this year compared to the last several years. Our wildlife assessments included installing several new trail cameras creating a wildlife net to capture wildlife activity at all times of day as well as weather conditions. Monitoring is also conducted in person. All of this data goes into refining and updating management plans, as well as certification processes such as the Wildlife Habitat Council; this has been a certified wildlife refuge since 2006, by the Wildlife Habitat Council, which has been monitoring the progress of the conservation projects in High Acres. Being able to implement new monitoring techniques, and being able to compare it to the last decade of data collection enables strong conservation management plans to be created, and the partnership between RIT and Waste Management continues to grow.