For release Tuesday, May 33, 2023

Media Contacts:
Michael Hallworth, PhD
Data Scientist

Emily Anderson
Communications Director

Kent McFarland, M.S.
VAL Director

Photos and graphics for this story are available for reporters.

New Report Examines Vermont Biodiversity Big Data

Subtitle here

HARTFORD, VT—The Vermont Center for Ecostudies (VCE) released a report today showcasing the power of community science for documenting Vermont’s biodiversity. The report marks the 10th Anniversary of the Vermont Atlas of Life, an ambitious project that aims to discover, document and map all of Vermont’s biodiversity. The report uses nearly 8 million observations from almost 12,000 species reported from across the state to help establish a biodiversity baseline for Vermont, critical for understanding and measuring biodiversity changes in the future caused by landscape alteration and climate change.

“Using the vast amounts of species observations, we’re able to identify biodiversity hotspots and areas that harbor unique communities found nowhere else in Vermont. We’re also able to predict where they might be in 50 or even 100 years as the climate changes,” says Dr. Michael Hallworth, a data scientist at VCE and lead author of the report.

The Vermont Atlas of Life (VAL) couples the power of volunteer community science with traditional biodiversity research and monitoring to quantify species diversity now and into the future. VAL joins others across the globe in curating species occurrence records at the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF), an international network funded by the world’s governments and aimed at providing anyone, anywhere, open access to biodiversity data.

“We have centuries of open access weather data that has allowed us to monitor and understand climate change; we need the same for biodiversity data,” says Kent McFarland, Director of VAL.

Although these species occurrence records are derived from many sources–from historical museum specimens to field observations–over 95% are submitted by community scientists through VAL-supported platforms like Vermont eBird, iNaturalist, and eButterfly.

“Vermonters have risen to the conservation challenge: our volunteer community scientists lead the nation with more field observations per capita than any other state,” says McFarland. “All of these data are curated at GBIF and searchable using the VAL Data Explorer on our website at”

These data provide the basis for many quantitative studies that can inform effective regional and global conservation decisions. In this report, the scientists draw upon this treasure trove of biodiversity data to better understand how many species there are and where they occur in the state. They also couple the occurrence records with climate and other environmental data to generate species distribution models, which allow inferences about what species may occur in areas of the state that are not well sampled. These models are essential for assessing conservation status and extinction risk, tracking population change, and guiding conservation efforts.

“The findings presented in this report allow us to see Vermont’s landscape in new ways. We’ve identified potential biodiversity hotspots, and made predictions about future impacts of climate change on the state’s biodiversity,” concluded Hallworth. “Together, this information will help target land conservation efforts, and much more.”