Photo by Noah Shatzer

South Mountain Research Corps (SMRC) and Science Summit Update

“No matter where you go, there you are.”

Buckaroo Bonzai

I’m writing to introduce myself to the partners and friends of the South Mountain Partnership. I’m honored to have been selected to manage and facilitate Year 2 of the South Mountain Research Corps (SMRC) and Science Summit Pilot, a collaborative research program that supports academic institutions and the existing and emerging natural and cultural resource conservation efforts throughout the South Mountain landscape of portions of Adams, Cumberland, Franklin, and York counties in Pennsylvania. I take great and personal satisfaction into this new position: my father’s family has resided in this landscape since sometime in the 18th century, and I feel deeply connected and rooted here.  I look forward to making a positive difference to the pursuit of science in the public interest in a place I’ve known and loved my whole life.

By way of background, I’m an archaeologist, preservation professional, writer and editor (BA Penn State, MA University of Montana). I have forty years of experience at a long list of federal and state agencies, some of them in the Northern Rockies, and some here in Pennsylvania and the surrounding Mid-Atlantic states. My profession has allowed me to conduct and publish research and to work with life science and geo science professionals for decades. It’s also allowed me to work with and mentor several generations of young professionals working in the various National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) professions as land and resource managers, project managers and planners. My new role with the Partnership will allow me to continue that work here in South Mountain country.

My goals as the facilitator and manager of the SMRC include:

  • Supporting and fostering academic research in the life sciences, earth sciences, and cultural/historical disciplines in the South Mountain Conservation Landscape.
  • The facilitation of a second South Mountain Science Summit in 2022.
  • The growth and expansion of a comprehensive regional research catalog.

To date, I’ve begun reaching out to a variety of departments at our regional universities and to the landowners, land managers and planners in the Partnership to establish our research needs and to match those needs to academic institutions, faculty, and students with the appropriate expertise and interest. I expect the partnerships that emerge from this process to blossom into cutting edge work that will help guide the management of the many natural and cultural resources found in the South Mountain Conservation Landscape. I also expect these partnerships to produce a new cadre of students and young professionals who will have long and successful careers in land and resource management.

As this outreach has begun, I’ve also started to identify possible venues and dates for a one-day Science Summit to be held in the spring of 2022, I’m looking into various on-line repositories of regional research to link with our research catalog, and I’m assisting the SMRC steering committee to establish methods and guidelines for appointing, retaining and rotating committee membership. While my work at the Partnership has just started, it’s been just as gratifying and interesting as I expected. Many thanks to Katie Hess and the steering committee members for giving me the chance to make a difference.

As our work proceeds, I’ll try to keep all the Partnership’s members and friends up to speed with the SMRC efforts through the newsletter and occasional email blasts. In the interim, any suggestions you have to help nurture collaboration between universities and the Partnership and to produce quality research in our region would be most welcome. You can reach me at southmountainscience@gmail.com . I look forward to hearing from you!

Joe Baker

Boiling Springs, PA

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