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Researchers in the field

The Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge has supported many research projects in the past, and many researchers do work on refuge lands. Highlights of significant past projects and on-going projects are presented below.

Migratory Bird Stopover Habitat Study
Refuge planners realized that although nesting habitats for a variety of birds could be protected, little was known about equally important stopover habitats for migrant birds in the watershed. A widespread assumption was that migratory birds used the river itself as a corridor, but such use had never been scientifically proven. To better understand how neotropical migrant songbirds use the landscape, a study was designed.

The refuge and the USFWS's Region 5 Migratory Bird Management Program provided funding to Smith College, Northampton, Massachusetts, to conduct the survey, with the assistance of the Manomet Observatory, Manomet, Massachusetts. State-level volunteer recruitment and coordination and data collection was conducted by the Audubon Society of New Hampshire, Connecticut Chapter of The Nature Conservancy, Massachusetts Audubon Society, and Vermont Institute of Natural Science. The Migratory Bird Stopover Survey was assisted by an advisory board with representatives from Connecticut College, U.S. Forest Service, Massachusetts Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, Cornell University, and the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

The study involved choosing similar sites throughout the watershed that represented three locations in the landscape: mainstem riparian forest, forested sites along a major tributary, and upland forested sites. Twelve sites were chosen in each of the four watershed states, for a total of 48 sites. Each site had a transect with many monitoring points established. For three years, on each of five spring migration weekends and one weekend during the nesting season, experienced volunteer birders counted birds at the 48 locations, collecting massive amounts of data on which to base statistically-sound conclusions.

The results are available on the Smith College website:

Canada Warbler Study at the Nulhegan Basin Division, 2002-2004
by Dr. Jameson Chace, Assistant Professor, Salve Regina University, Newport, Rhode Island
The objectives of this study are to establish a long-term population monitoring program for the Canada warbler and to measure habitat-specific estimates of Canada warbler productivity and survivorship in the Nulhegan Basin.

The results are available on the Center for Northern Forest Research website:

Study of Public Use on the Nulhegan Basin Division, on-going
by John B. Davis, formerly of Southern Vermont College
The objective is to establish a long-term monitoring program for vehicular and pedestrian use of the Nulhegan Basin Division.

Effects of Habitat Fragmentation on Carnivore Distribution and Fitness Indicators in Vermont Forests, 2002-2004
by Therese Donovan and Robert Long, Vermont Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit
This research will be used to develop local-scale habitat models for the bobcat, American black bear and fisher. They are also evaluating stress levels by analyzing scat.


Geographic and Seasonal Variation in Mercury Exposure of the Declining Rusty Blackbird
by Samuel T. Edmonds, et al. 2010. The Condor 112(4):789-799.
This wide-ranging study including sampling sites on the Conte Refuge.