Calumet Stewardship Initiative

Northwest Indiana Restoration Monitoring Inventory (NIRMI)

The Northwest Indiana Restoration Monitoring Inventory (NIRMI) seeks to facilitate and administer the long-term monitoring of ecological restorations in the greater Calumet Region of northwest Indiana, northeast Illinois, and southwest Michigan.  We fuse standardized techniques for monitoring ecosystems (e.g. sampling and identification of plant species) with data management and statistical evaluation to compose and maintain a web-based, open-access, real-time inventory of restoration progress in the Calumet region. NIRMI brings together academic standards of research with contemporary ecological techniques and concerns, while training future scientists in critical skills for the evaluation and understanding of restorations.

NIRMI currently monitors 40 sites in Lake, Porter, LaPorte, and Newton counties in Indiana, and Cook County, Illinois. The region's biodiversity is due in part to the fact that the south shore of Lake Michigan is a meeting point for several North American ecosystem types. Here many species are near the edge of their distribution ranges. The geological history of this area also allows a great variety of habitat types to exist in a relatively small area. These plant and fungal communities range from active sand dunes, dune-swale, savanna, mature oak woodland, wet prairie, and several types of wetlands. The dune region holds a special place in the history of American ecology since it was here that Henry Chandler Cowles studied the vegetation changes in habitats across time and pioneered the theory of ecological succession.

Ecological restoration projects are vital to the future of our natural world, but are usually limited in funding and resources. Land managers are therefore generally required to focus on direct restoration activities (planting seeds, prescribed burning, clearing invasives, etc.) rather than scientific surveys and assessments. NIRMI fills these neglected roles by:

  • providing quantitative long-term data collection,
  • consolidating data from various sites,
  • disseminating this information to the public.

We help land managers by providing repeated surveys of the vegetation at their sites. This type of monitoring requires special expertise, and can be expensive or impractical for many projects to do in-house. We also provide reports and tools for interpretation of the data that we collect, rather than simply providing a species list. The long-term nature of our project also allows restorationists to observe changes and trends occurring at their sites, and adjust management practices accordingly. Since we specialize in collecting and consolidating data, we can provide more complex analyses than most projects are able to produce on their own.

NIRMI helps researchers by publicly sharing our data on this website. Our regional focus makes it easy to get data from multiple projects in one place, rather than tracking each restoration down separately. Perhaps most importantly, our consistent methodology (in compliance with the National Vegetation Classification Standard) allows meaningful comparisons to be made among a variety of sites.

We also play a role in education by training and employing students from regional universities. NIRMI was created because these needs were not being met in the greater Chicago Region. We have been expanding in scope since our inception in 2010, and will be adding yet more new sites in the next growing year.

NIRMI consists of a core team of ecological and environmental scientists that serve various roles, as well as student stewards and interns, advisors, and a network of conservation-minded organizations and regional academic institutions situated in the south-shore coastal region of Lake Michigan. NIRMI has trained and employed students from four local universities (Calumet College of St. Joseph, Indiana University Northwest, Purdue University Calumet, and Valparaiso University) over the field seasons of 2010 through 2012. In 2010 and 2011, GLISTEN supported at least two of our interns. In 2011 we had one volunteer intern and an additional botanist.

Contact information: Peter Avis (219) 980-6717 or by email at nirmi@iun.org                                                                                                                

 

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