What We Do

Inventory

The PNHP inventory staff includes field biologists with a wide range of taxonomic expertise in plants, animals, and natural communities. We conduct field surveys throughout the state, primarily for species and habitats of concern, those considered rare, threatened, or endangered at the global or state level. We document the location, population size, and habitat conditions, as well as existing and potential threats to the species of concern. The results of our surveys inform the long-range planning and environmental permitting processes. The County Natural Heritage Inventories are the most publicly accessible summaries of our survey work. 

Information Management

Our Conservation Information Management team works with Natural Heritage ecologists, botanists, and zoologists to compile, map, manage, analyze, and distribute Natural Heritage data. In addition to managing the Natural Heritage Biodiversity Database, we also help to develop the tools and administer the procedures used by all Pennsylvania Natural Heritage Program staff. Our Information Management team members are experienced in database management and GIS, and have strong backgrounds in the natural sciences or environmental studies. Our data supports conservation, research, acquisition and policy work, and informs development and management decisions.

Monitoring

Beginning in 2010, PNHP initiated a long-term vegetation monitoring program focusing on change in rare plants and plant communities across the state. The initial focus of PNHP monitoring activities was plant community composition and distribution of rare plant species within bog and fen ecosystems, which are thought to be highly vulnerable to global climate change. Other ongoing monitoring projects involve northern water shrew, northeastern bulrush, and barrens communities where fire and other vegetation control activities are required to maintain open conditions. PNHP also provides information and guidance on management activities that impact species of special concern. Information from our monitoring work is available for land management and policy decisions throughout the commonwealth.

Classification and Assessment

PNHP scientists conduct assessment and classification projects for rare species and habitats across the commonwealth. These projects have included river floodplains, wet thickets, forested seeps, fens, bogs, other peatland communities, and vernal pool ecosystems. We work with state and federal agencies and non-profit partners to provide scientific expertise and capacity to carry out assessment, statistical modeling, and ecological restoration projects throughout Pennsylvania and surrounding states. We have recently updated the wetland portion of the Pennsylvania Plant Community Classification, the Terrestrial and Palustrine Plant Communities of Pennsylvania, and developed the Aquatic Community Classification, a system to classify aquatic animal communities and identify areas of ecological significance based on community types and landscape indicators of high quality waters.

Conservation Planning

The PNHP Conservation Planning staff collaborates with many partners to put our information to work in conserving Pennsylvania’s biodiversity. We provide current, reliable, objective information to help guide environmental decisions. Our biologists have experience with many kinds of projects, including commercial and residential development, transportation infrastructure, energy extraction, flood control and stormwater management, greenway planning, and ecological restoration. Through our inventory fieldwork and ecological databases, PNHP develops Natural Heritage Areas data, which is the main source of biodiversity information in Pennsylvania. This information helps to inform the citizens of the commonwealth about Pennsylvania’s rich living heritage and provides a tool to use in planning the future of their communities.