Appalachian Trail Mega-Transect

In 1999 Michael Fay pioneered the idea of a Megatransect by traversing 2000 miles of African wilderness providing, at grand scale, the kinds of data that would be collected on transect in a typical ecological study. In the mid-2000's, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy and the National Park Service Appalachian Trail office developed a vision for the Appalachian Trail as a mega-transect.

 

Nearly 2000 people attempted A.T. thru-hikes in 2015. As I write this, in the spring of 2016, nearly 1000 people have already started their thru-hike attempt at Springer Mountain in Georgia. Like Michael Fay's ground-breaking effort, these folks are beating the path northward, covering a 2,190 mile transect across the Eastern U.S.

 

What if each of these thru-hikers was tasked to make notes about a specific aspect of the trail?

 

Some could document phenological observations as they "follow the spring" from Georgia northward. Some could keep their eyes out for invasive plants and report new invasions or the condition of past treated plots. Others could make observations of understory trees - the forests of the future.

 

In 2008, I co-wrote and produced a report, with Caroline DuFour, entitled The Appalachian Trail Mega-Transect. Though there was much enthusiasm for beginning to implement this vision, funding for a cohesive effort hasn't yet manifest.

 

Managing citizen science projects to produce useful data is a true challenge - yet many efforts have been successful. Perhaps the A.T. Mega-Transect will be realized yet!

 

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