All about the weather

Dummerston Conservation Commission offers education series on Vermonters’ favorite discussion topic

DUMMERSTON — The Dummerston Conservation Commission recently announced its annual Winter Education Series, and this year, it's all about the weather.

Commission Chair Mary Ellen Copeland told The Commons she and her colleagues have developed the series for about four years, and they select themes by considering what's current, of interest, and of most value to residents' lives.

“We tried to identify something the community wants to know about and needs to know about,” Copeland said.

Programs are held every Wednesday in February from 10 a.m. to noon at the Evening Star Grange.

The series begins Feb. 7 with Vermont Public Radio meteorologist Mark Breen's presentation, “Understanding the Weather.”

“The local climate, as well as the Earth's climate, is an enormous challenge to understand, and one with which scientists are still wrestling,” the news release says.

Breen, a meteorologist for more than 35 years at the Fairbanks Museum and Planetarium, will discuss “the fundamental pieces of climate, and share his thoughts on what we know, what we don't know, and how that can help with decision-making,” according to the news release. Breen will also answer audience members' questions.

Practical steps

Vern Grubinger leads the second program, “Climate Change and Our Food System,” on Feb. 14. Grubinger, UVM Plant and Berry Specialist, will share research on practical actions that consumers, farmers, and food-related business owners can take to address climate change.

Grubinger also will offer examples of climate change adaptation and mitigation practiced by local farmers.

On Feb. 21, River Management Engineer with the Vermont Department of Conservation Todd Menees will present, “The Effects of Human Interactions on Water Systems.”

Attendees will learn how major weather events and anthropogenic factors such as stream channelization, logging, and clearing land for sheep affect the geology and ecology of a region.

Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department Biologist Tom Rogers will discuss “Wildlife in a Changing Climate” on Feb. 28. “From warmer, wetter winters to increasingly severe storms, wildlife faces a variety of challenges from a changing climate,” says the news release.

Rogers will talk about some actions locals can take to help conserve biodiversity in Vermont in the face of these new threats.

“Some people asked us why we don't call the series 'climate change,'” Copeland said. “Not everyone is ready to go there. We can educate people without promoting a political [stance].”

Starting the series with Breen was intentional, Copeland said.

Giving attendees a sort of “Weather-101” with a well-known radio commentator will give the programs focus and “get people out and develop their interest,” she said.

The other presenters, Copeland noted, are well-known in their fields, “and we want people to know them as they know Mark.”

Experts in the field

Many commission members know Grubinger because he is a Dummerston resident. The commission found Menees and Rogers through officials with the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources, Copeland said.

“They helped us find the best people” in their respective areas of expertise, she said.

“We find experts in the field so the community can make good decisions,” Copeland said. “We really want people to know what they're talking about so we have a well-educated populace.”

Admission to the series helps educate the next generation of residents. That money goes to fund the environmental education program at the Dummerston School, led by instructors from the Bonnyvale Environmental Education Center. “It's very hands-on,” Copeland said. “We want the kids to have that advantage.”

Those who cannot afford the entrance fee need not worry. “Nobody is turned away,” Copeland said.

Those who cannot make it to the Grange on a Wednesday morning need not worry. Brattleboro Community Television will record the series for future broadcast, and makes it available for viewing on the commission's website at

If the weather gets in the way of the weather programs, they will be postponed but not cancelled, Copeland said. She advised prospective attendees to tune in to local radio stations or check the commission's website.

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