Wildlands & Woodlands Website

Highstead works to inspire curiosity and build knowledge about plants and wooded landscapes in order to enhance life, preserve nature, and advance sound stewardship practices.

Ecological Observations and Monitoring at Highstead

Ecology Research > Long-term Ecological Monitoring and Observation > Ecological Observations and Monitoring

Long-term ecological monitoring and observations are a cornerstone of Highstead’s ecological research program. We conduct a suite of monitoring projects on our 100+ acre preserve on a range of organisms. Data gathered provide invaluable information on species population and environmental trends both at Highstead and in the broader landscape.

large research installation

Kalmia Sprouting

Interns in Phragmites


Deer Exclosure

Ed Mounts Gamecam


Permanent Forest Plots

One hundred permanent forest plots were established in Highstead’s woodland in 2004 and are resampled every 5 years. All trees are measured and identified, and all shrubs and herbs are recorded and their percent covers estimated.

Click here to see a forest community map of the property

Click here to read about vegetation changes at Highstead between 2004 and 2009

Kalmia latifolia sprouting

Kalmia latifolia (mountain laurel) is in decline in Highstead’s oak forest. Kalmia sprouts are monitored in (1) different landscape positions and (2) in areas protected and exposed to deer browsing to determine what factors are responsible for the decline of this dominant shrub.

Phragmites Removal and Monitoring

To restore and maintain the aesthetics and native vegetation of its pond, Highstead initiated a multi-year control plan to eradicate and prevent the reinvasion of Phragmites australis. A three-year mechanical and chemical treatment regime followed by ongoing treatment of re-sprouts is slated to begin in winter 2013. Vegetation monitoring began in the summer of 2012 and will continue annually for the duration of the Phragmites control project, and periodically thereafter.



Since 1997, local volunteers have monitored bird populations in Highstead's meadows and since 2005 in Highstead’s woodlands in coordination with the CT DEP. Bobolinks have been a focal species in the meadow surveys, and data show populations at Highstead have generally remained stable. One woodland bird, the wood thrush, has declined sharply over the past 5 years.

Deer Exclosures

Deer exclosures exclude deer from a portion of the forest enabling comparison of vegetation protected and exposed to deer browsing. Two large deer exclosures are monitored at Highstead: one built in 1998 in the Red Maple-White Ash Forest and the second built in 2007 in the Oak Forest. Click here to see recent results from the Red-Maple-White Ash Exclosure.

Game Cameras

Highstead has two game cameras installed on its property to monitor the occurrence of wildlife species in its two major forest types.  Animals detected include deer, coyote, raccoon, wild turkey, and gray squirrel.  Click here to view images.