The Climate Change Leadership Academy Class (2CLA) of 2020 graduated in May amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. We would like to highlight the inspiring climate leaders who attended the leadership academy meetings. In addition, we want to share the projects that leaders designed and plan to launch in order to take meaningful action on climate change mitigation and adaptation in the Upper Valley. Read the first profile, of Tunbridge, VT, artist Cecily Anderson and her Climate Farmer Project.

The next 2CLA graduate we would like to spotlight is Leah Marshall. When asked about her favorite part of 2CLA, Leah mentioned how much she appreciated the first session where participants learned about ways climate change is impacting the Upper Valley, as well as ways to communicate climate science clearly.

For her climate action project, Leah recognized the opportunity to integrate her project with her position working as the Natural Resource Intern at Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park. Marsh-Billing-Rockefeller NHP practices adaptive management using ecologically-minded forestry techniques, it is the only National Historical Park that is actively forested. She wanted to tie in the audience at the Park, which includes local Upper Valley residents and visitors or tourists who come to explore Marsh-Billing-Rockefeller NHP. Park visitors are an ideal audience so Leah decided to create a guided hike that explores climate change at the Park. Another goal of Leah’s was to encourage visitors to adventure out on the beautiful carriage roads and trails in Marsh-Billing-Rockefeller NHP.

Leah researched and wrote about how climate change is projected to impact forest diversity and resilience. She believes it is important to highlight forest vulnerability because sometimes the impacts of climate change are not so evident. Indeed, there are no glaciers in the Upper Valley melting. Leah said, “People don’t necessarily think about the whole ecosystem impacts of climate change.” She set out to share specific examples of how climate change has impacted forest health, specifically in Marsh-Billing-Rockefeller NHP forests. For example, the range of the white oaks may shift because changing conditions are less favorable as well as sugar maple which then impact animal habitat, food sources, and local economies.

In addition to her research about forest health, Leah interviewed the superintendent of the Marsh-Billing-Rockefeller NHP to gain more information. The booklet she designed is similar to a junior ranger booklet that includes a hiking map and readings for each of the stops. There are 10 stops along the route. Leah planned the Climate Change Hike to be a self-guided experience, so her project was not dramatically changed by the COVID-19 pandemic. The hike is designed for a junior ranger education level and can be done while socially distancing, but all are welcome to take part in the self-guided climate change hike. Booklets are available in the map boxes in the front of the Carriage Barn Visitor Center.

Leah is now pursuing a graduate degree at Northern Arizona University studying environmental science and conducting paleoclimate research.