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Laura Shappell, Ph.D.

Laura Shappell, Ph.D.
Wetland Ecologist
New York Natural Heritage Program
625 Broadway, 5th Floor
Albany, NY 12233-4757
phone (518) 402-8931

Ongoing Projects

Supporting actionable decision-making for wetland permitting in New York from urban to rural environments

Wetland Program Development Grant, US EPA

Project Abstract
Our main objective is to support the NYS DEC’s regulatory wetland program’s permitting process. We will accomplish this by developing protocols to evaluate impacts to wetland condition with respect to environmental factors (soils, land cover, slope) in the upland areas adjacent to the wetlands and development patterns (such as distance to the wetland edge). We will collect wetland condition and upland adjacent area data from a full range of urbanization conditions (highly urban to rural) in a new basin and also pool (and assess) data from our previous years of wetland sampling as well as data from wetlands in New York City. This will allow us to meet additional goals of calibrating our metrics for urban environments and evaluating the potential of upland adjacent areas for beneficial functions such as flood and sediment retention. We expect to develop draft rules for conservation action based on these relationships, with guidance for DEC’s regulatory staff based on wetland type that accounts for environmental characteristics and potential cumulative impacts on wetlands from activities conducted in adjacent uplands.

Select Products In Development: NY Rapid Assessment Method (NYRAM 4.2)

[last updated Nov. 2016]

National Wetland Condition Assessment 2016

US Environmental Protection Agency

National Wetland Condition Assessment (NWCA) is a nation-wide effort coordinated by the US EPA to assess our nation's wetland resources. Completed every five years, 2016 was the second year of NWCA sampling, and the first year that NYNHP managed the NWCA sampling in NYS. During the 2016 NWCA sampling effort, we surveyed 14 wetlands located in Erie, Wayne, Cayuga, Lewis, Jefferson, Warren, and Suffolk counties. This effort would not have been possible without our public and private partners, and landowners who granted us permission to sample on their property - thank you!

For more information about this project please visit the NWCA 2016 website.

Previous Projects

New York State Wetland Condition Assessment

Wetland Program Development Grant, US EPA


Shappell, Laura J., Aissa L. Feldmann, Elizabeth A. Spencer, and Timothy G. Howard. 2016. New York State Wetland Condition Assessment. EPA Wetland Program Development Grant. Final Report. New York Natural Heritage Program, Albany, NY.

Project Summary

Wetland ecosystem services such as stormwater management, water quality, and water security, are a function of wetland condition. This project addresses the absence of monitoring protocols for freshwater wetlands in New York State (NYS), a need identified in the New York State Water Quality Monitoring Program Strategy 2005-2014 (June 2006). Our objectives were to: 1) assess the condition of NYS wetlands using a three-level sampling approach, and 2) develop a rapid assessment protocol that effectively quantifies wetland condition. To assess the condition of NYS wetlands remotely (Level 1), we developed a statewide Landscape Condition Assessment (LCA) model that cumulatively depicts anthropogenic stressors across the New York landscape (30 x 30-m resolution). Rapid assessment methods developed for Level 2 quantified anthropogenic stressors using basic air photo interpretation and field surveys. At the finest scale of measurement (Level 3), plot arrays captured vegetation structure and floristic biodiversity. To create an effective but relatively simple Level 2 protocol that could easily be used by others throughout New York, we used data from Levels 1 and 3 to test, refine, and support the Level 2 rapid assessment method (RAM). The end result is a set of robust wetland assessment protocols using a three-level sampling design. This flexible method allows practitioners to select the level of sampling that is most applicable to their project goals and resources.

Project Deliverables

Final report summarizing our findings and methodology may be found here.

Level 1 - Landscape Condition Assessment (LCA)

    The final rasterized model, pictured left, represents cumulative anthropogenic stressors across New York State. Download the model as a GIS layer via our data page:

    Documentation and development of the LCA model is describe in Appendix A of the Final Report. LCA citation: Aissa Feldmann and Tim Howard. 2013. Landscape Condition Assessment (LCA2) for New York. NYNHP, Albany, NY.

Level 2 - New York Rapid Assessment Method (NYRAM)

    NYRAM field manual and field worksheets are included in the report, but updated NYRAM documents are posted above in "Ongoing Projects".