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ADK Hero: Dr. Tim Howard

ADK Hero: Dr. Tim Howard

In each issue of Adirondac magazine, we highlight people who go above and beyond in their support for ADK and its mission. The following is from the summer 2023 issue.

By Beth Rowland

Dr. Tim Howard is Director of Science for the New York Natural Heritage Program (NYNHP), a program of the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry based in Albany. The Natural Heritage Program’s mission is to facilitate the conservation of rare animals, rare plants, and significant New York ecosystems. 

It’s in that conservation stewardship role that Tim has provided ecology training for the Summit Stewardship Program since 2007. Together with Steve Young (recently retired botanist from NYNHP), Tim has trained several generations of summit stewards to identify the plants and animals of the alpine zone. Just as importantly, they are taught to see the system as a whole, to look, and to ask questions. 

Under Tim’s guidance, the Summit Stewardship Program has evolved from a seasonal program, where educators would also provide updates to NYNHP on selected plant species, to a year-round program that assists with and conducts its own robust science.  

As noted elsewhere in this issue of Adirondac, the photographic monitoring system that commenced in 1999 has clarified the interplay among hikers and vegetation growth, while promoting education and trail maintenance. Continued refinements in photopoint monitoring made as recently as 2021 and 2022 under Tim’s tutelage have made it an even more important tool in evaluating management strategies and judging their success, as has his assistance in the development of plant population monitoring protocol, first begun back in 2006. 

Central to today’s ADK’s Summit Stewardship Program are the lessons learned from photopoint monitoring: that education is the means to best protect fragile alpine natural communities, beginning with trained summit stewards who then share that knowledge with visitors who, while they may love the outdoors, are often unaware of their impact on the natural alpine communities under their feet. 

And why does alpine stewardship even matter in the first place?   

Tim says, “The High Peaks are part of what makes the Adirondacks so special. But the plants and animals living in the alpine zone are especially sensitive to the recreational pressures we put on them. Active outreach and education support these special natural communities so they will be intact for future generations, all while enriching the lives of those contacted. This is why alpine stewardship matters.”  

Those who have worked with Tim ­appreciate both his personal and professional ­qualities. 

A man talking to a group

ADK Deputy Director Julia Goren first worked with Tim in 2006 and 2007 to develop the plant monitoring protocol and says, “Tim personifies great science: observation, curiosity, the willingness to tinker, and that thing that only great minds have—the ability to discard a theory or a method when it doesn’t work and start fresh. He’s a great speaker, writer, educator, and teacher—generous with time and clear in his communication. And, he is fun and a nice person. Basically, in my professional career, there are few people I’m more fortunate to have spent time learning from than Tim.” 

Kayla White, ADK stewardship manager, says “Tim Howard has been one of the NYNHP staff we’ve had the joy of working with. Our partnership with Tim on long-term monitoring projects in the alpine zone has been instrumental in furthering our understanding of this special and beloved ecosystem.” 

“Tim is also a kind, humble, hardworking person,” she continues. “My favorite times are when we get to go into the field together. I’ve learned so much from him and look forward to continuing this rewarding collaboration.” 

And so does the rest of ADK, Kayla. We couldn’t have said it better.

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