Energy and environment; birds of a feather.

At the start of September the New Hampshire Office of Energy and Planning (NH OEP) released the State’s 10 year Energy Strategy. Mandated by the State legislature in 2013, the Strategy examines New Hampshire’s past and current trends in energy resources, demand, and generation to establish a forecast for what the state’s energy needs will be in 2025. That forecast was then compared with the ideal future energy landscape for New Hampshire, built from projected trends in international politics, economics, and environmental conditions. The Energy Strategy presents recommendations as to what needs to be done to steer New Hampshire towards its ideal future energy scenario in the coming decade.

As an intern working with the Energy Strategy team at OEP this past summer, I had the opportunity to contribute to the research, writing, and public input process that went into producing the Strategy. Issues of energy are closely tied to issues of environment, especially in a setting such as New Hampshire where forests, streams, lakes and mountains are central to communities’ cultural identity. Those natural resources are often implicated with the many facets of energy, and require careful consideration throughout the policy process. While issues of energy are not specifically within my research focus, they’re certainly within the same scope of climate adaptation and forward-looking policy that inform my work. This is especially evident in the Renewable Energy and Fuel Diversity chapter of the Strategy, where issues of emissions, nonrenewable resources, and need for resiliency to fluctuating global conditions drive the recommended policy actions. Graduate coursework I have under my belt, such as Environmental Law and Policy, are directly relevant to the work I was handed at OEP. I was able to synthesize discussion on New Hampshire’s renewable portfolio standard and energy facility siting laws, and in turn make contributions to the policy recommendations being made in the Strategy.  It was fulfilling to experience these concepts taking place outside the pages of a textbook, and to connect the dots from classroom to on-the-ground needs. It was also refreshing to spend time in the ‘big city’ of Concord this summer, while still returning to my little mountain town of Plymouth each day.

Energy needs in New Hampshire are clearly unique, even among New England states. The Strategy often refers to the State as being “at the end of an energy pipeline”, characterizing the fact that New Hampshire currently depends almost completely on resources outside its borders to heat, propel, and light our communities. At the end of such a “pipeline”, we are prone to price and availability fluctuations that are often caused by economic and politic conditions elsewhere in the nation and globe. Those fluctuations where painfully clear this past winter, when natural gas and heating oil prices rose dramatically. One option for avoiding such conditions in the future is to reduce the State’s dependence on outside energy sources by expanding utilization of those available here. This could include solar, wind, biomass (timber), hydroelectric, and geothermal resources. Where New Hampshire sets itself apart in the region, is in navigating the energy facility siting processes. Community concerns over viewsheds, environmental impacts, and private property are deeply held and demand careful consideration. Thus far those concerns have slowed development of in-state energy production more so than other New England states. The Strategy acknowledges the need for effective community support, and makes recommendations such as community-owned energy projects and use of reclaimed ‘brownfields’ in energy facility siting.

In addition to work on the Strategy, I had the opportunity to attend a range of interagency committee meetings, hearings, and state government events while at OEP. Particularly memorable of these was the New England Governor’s and Eastern Canadian Province Premier Summit Conference. The event is held annually around New England and Eastern Canada, and was hosted in New Hampshire at the Mount Washington Hotel for the summer of 2014. Being an appointee of the Governor’s office, the OEP director Meredith Hatfield works closely with Gov. Maggie Hassan’s office. As the OEP intern, I was put to work with the governor’s staff for the three-day weekend event in the North Country. I fulfilled various informational tasks throughout the conference, all amid squads of bodyguards, media teams, fine cheeses, and other items that accompany events for key political figures. The Summit concluded with a the passing of six resolutions on shared issues of clean energy, transportation, climate change, and security among the six New England states and the five Eastern Canadian provinces.

Returning to my coursework and research at PSU this fall I bring with me valuable newly acquired experiences. Key among those was simply observing the state’s interlocking parts move in addressing emerging needs in energy.  Research at PSU’s Center for the Environment is often centered on the concept of interconnection among environment, economy, and community. This same interconnection was echoed in working on New Hampshire’s Energy Strategy, and has reaffirmed my excitement to pursue such work now at the CFE and in post-graduate paths.

Author: Jonathon Loos

Es&P M.S. candidate 2015

Attention: Stream Crossing Ahead!

Culverts are everywhere. Before this summer, I could drive along without really noticing them. Now, I’m a bit obsessed with them. Why?

For my summer “Part-time, temporary” work, I don waist-high waders and go hunting for where stream systems meet roadways! You see, not all culverts are being inventoried. Some culverts, like driveway culverts, let stormwater flow from one point to another, but stream crossing culverts or bridges allow the waterways to continue underneath the roadways.

 Each day in the field is an adventure.

 My partner and I battle the insects, heat, rain, and poison ivy to locate, inventory, and assess the stream crossings. We have some idea of where they should be, but some scouting is necessary. Sometimes the weather even cooperates to give us beautiful New England summer days!

Culverts come in all shapes and sizes. So, we never really know what to expect. For instance, this is a picture of a stone box culvert installed in June 1800 that is still functioning!

Along the way, we interact with the public to explain the need for our work. Why should they care if the culverts don’t allow organism passage or are undersized? Well, small streams or rivers can carry the load of water after major storms. If the culverts are too small, the powerful moving water can do quite a bit of damage.

YouTube Preview Image

The video is of a roadway as it collapses in Freeport, Maine in 2008.

This link provides pictures of the aftermath of a summer storm in Winchester which flooded the Ashuelot River, destroying a section of Old Westport Road.

Preferably, major road blow outs like Old Westport Road can be prevented. My work is part of a state-wide initiative by New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (DES), New Hampshire Geological Survey (NHGS) and New Hampshire Department of Transportation (DOT)  to collect data on stream crossings. The intention is to locate and prioritize crossings that should be replaced or repaired.

During our assessment, we must be observant for local wildlife. Can you spot the amphibian?

One interesting part of the work pertains to data collection methodology. Previous work has relied on cameras, GPS units, and waterproof data collection paper. We are in the process of testing a new, IPad-driven data method. The IPad, protected by an expensive case and equipped with ARCGIS Online Data Collection App, seeks to combine the camera, GPS, and paper needs into one piece of equipment. Ideally, this app would sync all the data collected as points in an online database that DES, DOT, and regional planning commissions could access. For me, this means less time in the office doing data entry. Although the IPad seems perfect, we have had quite a few struggles with the syncing process. As with all methods, pros and cons exist. For instance, we had to delete all our data points in order to sync with the online database. We haven’t lost any data collected on paper! Once the issues are resolved, this method could be quite effective, though.

I am incredibly grateful for this opportunity to work with the Rockingham Planning Commission. The field work on stream crossing assessments has been quite insightful regarding infrastructure needs! If you have any questions, please email me at


Splash! Into Science

Happy summer everyone!

As it is nearing the end of July, (time is rushing by!), and we are all busy working and playing, I would like to share with you a camp that was a combination of work and play for me down in Keene, NH.

I worked with Doug Earick to develop a curriculum for a science camp for middleschoolers. I lead the Splash! Into Science kids camp at Keene State University from July 14th-18th with Steve Hale as a helpful guide. The camp was overflowing with fun water games and learning activities. We spent the week trying to develop answers to the question, “What’s in the Water?”

The first task of ours was to create our own rules and contract:

…With these self-made rules and thoughts of respect, we went on to start our week of water fun!

This picture is one of the very first activities the kids did to answer the question of the week…

Aside from our overarching question, there were additional questions pondered…

“What types of equipment does a hydrologist use?”

“What is data?”

“What is stream discharge?”

“What is water conductivity?”

We went down to the river to talk about what may be in the water…

And while we examined the river and searched for what may be in the water, low and behold, there was not one, but two shopping carts in the river!

We had fun playing drip, drip, drop outside

…And Will drenched Steve in the final round.

We played ultimate Frisbee, and connected it to water with how much we sweat when we played ;) as well as the need for water bottles, and one camper even noted,

“It’s like the teams are waste particles in the water, and the other team is trying to stop the particles from flowing through.”

We made discharge measurements and calculations, where we timed tennis balls and grape fruits as they floated down the river.


We made, the colorful and charged “Ion Soup”






The m&m’s represented different elements which when stirred together, changed the make up of the conductivity of water.



By the end of the week, when asked the question, “What’s in the water?”, in addition to shopping carts and grape fruits, the kids also wrote in their journals about how you could find metals, animal waste, bugs, fish, animals, trash, dirt, sediments, a slew of elements such as iron, copper, zinc, fluoride, phosphorous, and wrote about conductivity and positively and negatively charged particles.

Below is the last journal entry from one of the student’s, answering our question of the week, “What’s in the water?”

“Our water is full of deposited things. Some that may have been man-made or natural, with positive and negative charges which make up the conductivity of the water. The rocks and minerals give us some minerals we need. Shopping carts are also found in some places.

I will leave you with this joke from a good CFE friend,

“What did the sea say to the shore?”

…”Nothing, it just waved.” :)

Have a great rest of your summer! And feel free to chat with me at any time about camp, or anything else water related or not!




















There is more here than meats the eye

Another rad grad blog you say?… please, spare me! (This is the third so far, so we shouldn’t have hit such a tender spot quite yet)…

But, this one is a little off of the beaten path that leads to Boyd 218…This one leads to Meredith Village Savings Bank, where the Center for Rural Partnerships is found in the upstairs floor.

The Center for Rural Partnerships consists of a team headed by Dr. Ben Amsden, with myself (Jess Wilhelm), Taylor Dillingham, Marylynn Cote, and Rachelle Lyons “ordered” to prepare a report about the meat production, processing and market demand in New Hampshire, and the possible application of a state level meat processing certification program.

Have you heard of a state level certification program? ..gnaw…me neither.

But, now, thanks to a few newspaper articles, an article about our survey made it across the country! And now, people all the way in San Francisco have herd about our study here at PSU (The steaks have been raised!)

Check out these links:–Local-Meat

The Center for Rural Partnerships at Plymouth State University conducted a survey of meat processors, producers and purchasers in New Hampshire in the beginning of 2014. The purpose of the survey was to learn whether there is market receptivity to a state level meat processing certification in New Hampshire. The New Hampshire Department of Agriculture helped fund the project with the study aim of gathering feedback and opinions that allow for more in depth understanding about the best practices for processing meat. Surveys were developed with all three major stakeholders in mind: meat producers, processors, and purchasers, in an effort to understand all needs.

Surveys were sent to seventy-eight meat producers and twenty-six meat processors in each of the seven regions of New Hampshire, which include the Great North Woods, White Mountains, Dartmouth Lakes Sunapee, Lakes Region, Monadnock Region, Merrimack Valley Region, and Seacoast Region.

Twenty-six meat producers completed a three-page survey for a 33% response rate. Fourteen processors completed a separate five-page survey with a response rate of 54%. An additional phone survey was conducted for meat purchasers. The survey found that meat processors and producers in New Hampshire are interested in the development of a state level meat certification program. In fact, of the twenty-six producer survey respondents, eighteen (69%) indicated that they are interested in a State Inspection Program in New Hampshire as an alternative to a USDA Inspection Program. Of the fourteen processor survey respondents, six (42%) indicated that they are interested in a state inspection program as well.  (Job well done CRP meat team!)

The goal of a state inspection program is to expand market opportunities for small meat producers and processors, strengthen state and local economics, and increase consumer access to local meat products. A state inspected program may expand the opportunities for local producers and processors to sell their meat to consumers. Our study found that there is interest in both meat producers and processors of New Hampshire for a state-inspected processing plan. Further studies will allow for more information about the needs of farmers in the area, as well as the consumer demand for local meat.

This thread may have a tendon-cy to prompt some questions, statements, opinions…If you have any beef with this blog, please leave a message!

Until we meat again…

Jess :)

Ambassadors United! Grassland Bird Advocates Talk Future and Outreach

A cool rainy day was well-spent indoors this weekend at the Grafton County UNH Cooperative Extension office for a discussion on grassland-nesting birds, hosted by myself and other experts on the subject as part of my graduate research.  My research, a partnership with the Vermont Center for Ecostudies and New Hampshire Audubon, is an extensive outreach program to maximize quality habitat for grassland birds on privately-owned lands.

Last summer, a team of citizen scientists and I surveyed open fields for grassland birds, including the bubbly Bobolink, throughout the Upper Connecticut River Valley.  The survey was a success and now we know more about where these sensitive birds are nesting.  The good news is that grassland birds are back on the map, but the bad is they still need immediate conservation action if they are to remain a unique component of the Upper Valley’s heritage.

Conserving grassland birds requires providing habitat for nesting and allowing birds to complete their nesting cycle.  Most species build their nests right on the ground, and the idea of waiting to mow fields until August when they are done nesting can be a tough sell to landowners, especially to farmers who need fresh green grass for livestock feed; depending on the type, later cut grasses can be dry, tough and have little nutritional value.  Perhaps the most important piece of my project is cultivating trust within the local community and establishing groups who are willing to grow grass and Bobolinks.  Since last summer’s survey, I’ve built relationships with some of the owners of the fields we searched and many of them were invited to the meeting on Saturday.

The meeting aimed to create a network of folks in the Upper Valley who could serve as local advisors in grassland bird nesting behavior and conservation.  So, if a landowner would like to manage their fields for grassland birds, there will be a neighbor or friend nearby who knows where to start.  After a presentation on my project and some training in bird-friendly grassland management practices, the floor was opened to discussion in forming the “ambassador” group.Great questions and ideas were presented by the attendees, who included retired and active farmers, the landlord of a nice big hayfield, and freelance science journalist Madeline Bodin from Andover, Vermont.  The nesting and habitat requirements of American Kestrels was a hot topic, as were federal payment incentive programs for landowners who practice delayed hay cutting.

We decided by the end of our fruitful discussion that the VCE could develop an online clearinghouse where ambassadors can communicate with each other, ask questions, and post relevant information about grassland birds.  Ambassadors could continue monitoring known breeding bird sites in their areas and help willing landowners enact bird-friendly management.  These are the very beginning steps towards maintaining a long-term, open dialogue supporting the success of all kinds of landowners, and maintaining viable populations of grassland birds in the Upper Valley.  Let’s keep moving!

Community inputs into land conservation


Map of proposed land conservation project in central New Hampshire by The Conservation Fund. Over 5,000 acres of forests and wetlands surrounding the Beebe River will be protected.

I haven’t seen the inside of an elementary school in years until Melanie and I volunteered as scribes for The Conservation Fund (TCF) at the Holderness Central School last Wednesday. The two of us, Melanie and Jamie, along with June from the Center for the Environment volunteered to help TCF in its efforts to assess community interests in a local land conservation project and to learn more about the conservation process. TCF is a national non-profit land trust with over 7 million acres protected in 50 states.  They act as a sort of broker, purchasing tracts of land for protection from development and for multiple-use purposes, then partnering with other organizations who will may hold the conservation easements.  TCF frequently utilizes Community Forums to engage public participation and foster local support for their work.

With staff from the Squam Lakes Conservation Society (SLCS), we helped TCF in its efforts to assess community views regarding the recent purchase of the Beebe River Tract, over 5,000 acres abutting the White Mountain National Forest (WMNF) in the Towns of Campton and Sandwich.  SLCS was particularly interested in co-hosting the event because the Tract fills a large gap in protected lands just beyond the Squam Lake watershed.  

As scribes we were responsible for listening to and recording the responses of local residents to questions asked by the Forum’s facilitator, Nancy Bell.  With over 20 years of experience, Nancy is TCF’s Vermont Representative and has helped protect at least 500,000 acres in the Northeast – certainly no small feat!  Each question for the residents was designed to stimulate conversation about the personal connections that each person has or would like to have with the Beebe River Tract, and to gain insight into their ideas for the future management of the property.  For example, the first question poignantly asked, “What do you love about these lands?”

Listening to the opinions of people who are interested in the conservation and management of the Beebe River Tract was very enlightening.  At our table, there were interesting comments on wildlife corridors, hiking trail development, remote fly-fishing, and invasive plant and insect species management.  One surprising issue was a disagreement over whether the land should be included as part of the WMNF.  Some were in support of it becoming part of a larger natural resource, while others objected to its integration on the fact that it could be used for multiple purposes and possibly logged in the future.  A suggested compromise was the designation of wilderness areas where no logging and only light recreation would be allowed. 

Discussions like these provide an important insight on how people feel about available natural resources, recreational opportunities, and management practices.  All in all, acting as scribes for TCF was a great experience to see how land conservation works on the ground and how land trusts incorporate community input.

Walking across NH lakes

As a first year master’s student at the Center for the Environment, I began this February, with my advisor, Dr. Lisa Doner, the field work for my master’s project. My project involves temperature and water quality monitoring with sediment analyses in two local lakes: Ossipee Lake (Ossipee, NH) and Squam Lake (Holderness, NH). Our goals for field work were to establish a mooring, with temperature monitors and sediment taps, and collect water samples in each lake. The temperature monitors are placed every meter on the rope, recording temperature every 15 minutes, so we will get a full profile of the thermal state of the lake and be able to observe stratification and turnover events. Since lakes in central New Hampshire develop a thick layer of ice, usually in January, it was easiest to set-up our mooring in the winter time because we could work from a flat, solid surface rather than on a rocking boat. So we waited until mid-February when the ice conditions were deemed safe enough to make a trek across the ice to the deepest point in each lake.

Our first field trip was to Squam Lake on a rather cold day right before a large snow storm moved in. The deep spot in Squam is not far off shore from the Rockywold Deephaven Camps (RDC) in Holderness. The people at RDC were very nice and allowed us to use their camp as an access point to our site. Since we didn’t have exact coordinates for the deepest point in the lake, we first had to explore the water depths in the area by drilling holes in the ice and sending down a measuring tape with an anchor attached. After five attempts we settled for a site that was approximately 90 feet deep. Rushing to beat the snow storm, Lisa, Rachelle (from the Center for Rural Partnerships), and myself took some measurements of temperature and dissolved oxygen and collected water samples before deploying our mooring.

Just a week later, we went back out, but this time to Ossipee Lake. The deepest point in Ossipee Lake is closer to the center of the lake, so we had to walk almost a mile each way with snowshoes in slushy snow to get there. Luckily this time, we had a lovely sunny day in the low forties. Working with the Green Mountain Conservation Group, we had coordinates for the deepest spot and were able to fairly quickly get our water samples and set-up our mooring. However, the walk to our site took over an hour each way.

We’ve been back to Squam twice since setting up our mooring to take a sediment core and more water samples, but the ice has not been safe on Ossipee to return. The ice on both lakes has begun to melt, but it will still be a few more weeks before the lakes are boat navigable. Once ice-out has occurred, I will be heading back to each lake to take more water samples and to take more sediment cores. Our goal is to take weekly water samples during the summer and monthly samples throughout the rest of the year. Ultimately, I hope to use our sampling and sediment analyses to understand both past and current relationships between climate conditions and water quality, comparing trends between both lakes.