Ice Storm Experiment Practitioner Meeting

December 19, 2016
Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest
North Woodstock, VT

What are the practical applications and potential blind spots of a new experimental manipulation at Hubbard Brook?

Executive Summary

On December 19, 2016, the Hubbard Brook Research Foundation convened a group of forest practitioners, stakeholders, and scientists for a roundtable dialogue and field trip about the Hubbard Brook Ice Storm Experiment. Unlike many scientist–stakeholder meetings, this event was convened early on in the research process to allow time for project leaders to modify their research and/or communication plans based on stakeholder feedback. The overall goals of the meeting were to provide an opportunity for practitioners and stakeholders to learn about and witness the ice storm research as it is in progress, for scientists to learn about what aspects of the research are most relevant beyond the scientific community, and to share different perspectives on and concerns about ice storms.

The meeting revealed strong general interest in ice storms and in Hubbard Brook research. Practitioners and stakeholders emphasized that one of the most relevant outcomes of the project is quantifying the amount of coarse woody debris relative to the amount of ice. This information will be valuable for emergency managers and land managers in making rapid damage estimates, for preparing responses, and for assessing fuel loading in forests after a storm. Participants also noted that walking around in the ice storm experiment plots gave them a deeper, visual sense for the differences in impact between a ¼-inch and ½-inch ice storm. One participant expressed great surprise during the field trip when he observed that the damaged trees didn’t fail where he would have predicted them to based on his training and experience. He was excited to follow up with the scientists to learn more about the tree damage. Finally, participants reminded the project leaders of the importance of safety messaging in public communications about ice storms. Ice storms are deadly, not just during the storms, but also after as people try to clear downed or bent trees and other debris.

As outcomes of this roundtable, the Ice Storm Experiment team will continue their research as planned, including measurements and documentation of coarse woody debris and tree damage with practitioner and stakeholder audiences in mind. Toward the end of the project, the team will prepare outreach materials and presentations for audiences identified during the meeting, including state agencies who coordinate emergency response, professional groups of arborists and consulting foresters, and electric utility providers.