The New York Natural Heritage Program

Matthew Schlesinger, Ph.D.

Chief Zoologist
New York Natural Heritage Program
Adjunct Assistant Professor
SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry
625 Broadway, 5th Floor
Albany, NY 12233-4757
office: (518) 402-8939

Projects

New Data and Tools to Improve Energy Siting for Biodiversity Conservation; NYSERDA Project 20803

With support from NYSERDA, scientists from The Nature Conservancy, The New York Natural Heritage Program, and The Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology are working together on a project to protect New York State’s biodiversity heritage while still advancing statewide energy development and policy goals. Using geographic information system (GIS) technology, the project will identify and map important ecological resources, such as sensitive habitats, large forest blocks, and migration routes. This will be the first aggregation of such data in New York and is expected to be useful to a variety of entities and will serve multiple functions, including helping decision makers balance environmental concerns with energy infrastructure siting.

Biodiversity and ecological potential of Plum Island, New York

Citation: Schlesinger, M.D., A.L. Feldmann, and S.M. Young. 2012. Biodiversity and ecological potential of Plum Island, New York. New York Natural Heritage Program, Albany, New York.

In this report we document the historical and current known biodiversity, including natural communities and plant and animal species, of Plum Island, New York. We also note potentially undiscovered rare species and the potential of the island to support additional species with management and restoration. We draw from published literature, museum specimens, recent surveys, and expert opinion to form a comprehensive ecological picture of the history of the island’s biodiversity and its current status.

For more information, presentations, documents, and other downloads, please go here.

PATHWAYS: Wildlife Habitat Connectivity in the Changing Climate of the Hudson Valley

Citation: Howard, T.G. and M.D. Schlesinger. 2012. PATHWAYS: Wildlife habitat connectivity in the changing climate of the Hudson Valley. New York Natural Heritage Program, Albany, New York. 143 pages.

This project, funded by State Wildlife Grants with match funding from the Hudson River Estuary Program and Cornell University, seeks to determine the current and potential future habitat connectivity for 25 Species of Greatest Conservation Need in the Hudson Valley. Using advanced modeling techniques in a Geographic Information System, we use climatic, geological, and land cover data to determine how connected the landscape is for these 25 species, under current climatic conditions and with potential future changes in climate. Results from this are helping us understand priority locations for conservation in the Hudson Valley.

For more information about this project please go here.

Vulnerability of at-risk species to climate change in New York

Citation: Schlesinger, M.D., J.D. Corser, K.A. Perkins, and E.L. White. 2011. Vulnerability of at-risk species to climate change in New York. New York Natural Heritage Program, Albany, NY.

Vulnerability assessments are rapidly becoming an essential tool in climate change adaptation planning. As states revise their Wildlife Action Plans, the need to integrate climate change considerations drives the adoption of vulnerability assessments as critical components. To help meet this need for New York, we calculated the relative vulnerability of 119 of New York’s Species of Greatest Conservation Need (SGCN) using NatureServe’s Climate Change Vulnerability Index (CCVI). Funding was provided to the New York Natural Heritage Program by New York State Wildlife Grants in cooperation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Division of Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration.

For more information, presentations, documents, and other downloads, please go here.

New York State Freshwater Conservation Blueprint Project, Phases I and II: Freshwater Systems, Species, and Viability Metrics

Citation: White, E.L., J.J. Schmid, T.G. Howard, M.D. Schlesinger, and A.L. Feldmann. 2011. New York State freshwater conservation blueprint project, phases I and II: Freshwater systems, species, and viability metrics. New York Natural Heritage Program, The Nature Conservancy. Albany, NY. 85 pp. plus appendix.

The project goal was to develop GIS datasets that identify the locations and status of critical freshwater targets (habitats and species) in New York. The focus of the effort was rivers, streams, and lakes, and specific targets included freshwater and migratory fish, mussels, and other aquatic Species of Greatest Conservation Need (SGCNs) which may serve as indicators of river and stream health.

For more information about this project please go here.

Distribution and Status of the Odonates of New York

Citation: White, E.L., J.D. Corser, M.D. Schlesinger. 2010. Distribution and Status of the Odonates of New York. New York Natural Heritage Program, Albany, New York.

The New York Dragonfly and Damselfly Survey (NYDDS) began in 2005, spanned five field seasons through 2009, and relied heavily on citizen scientists to help collect data over a large geographic area. Its primary goal was to document the current distribution of all odonate species in New York State. Survey efforts were directed toward under-surveyed regions, areas with potential high diversity, and locations with potential for harboring Species of Greatest Conservation Need (SGCN).

Our five-year sampling effort yielded many important finds. Most notable were five species added to the list of known odonates for the state, bringing the cumulative total to 194 species, one of the highest diversities of any U.S. state. Participants visited over 2,170 survey sites statewide and a total of 4,383 surveys were conducted, including repeat visits. We confirmed over 18,000 individual species records based on our verification protocol. NYDDS yielded 1,111 new county records beyond these preexisting data. Each county’s documented richness increased by 18 species on average, and we documented at least 75 species in two-thirds of New Yorks’ 62 counties. A list was compiled for each county as well as a distributional map and phenology chart for all 194 species and full species accounts are included for all 48 SGCN.

For more information, presentations, documents, and other downloads, please go here.