The Vegetation Panel March Meeting 2020 Updates – In under 800 words

Every year the Vegetation Panel tries to plan a face-to-face meeting in the early springtime to discuss Panel business, accomplishments since their last meeting, and goals they hope to make progress on before the next meeting. This year, the Panel planned to meet in Chapel Hill, North Carolina at the North Carolina Botanical Garden for two days to carry out their usual business. Unfortunately, the meeting dates coincided with the COVID-19 outbreak in the US so we had to quickly adapt and make other arrangements so we could still achieve the meeting’s objectives.

In lieu of a physical meeting, the Vegetation Panel planned to carry out the meeting in a virtual space. From the safety of their homes all across the North America, Panel members participated in virtual sessions over two days. Below are the basic updates from each section of the Panel, in under 800 words! If you’re a stickler for details, check out the link at the bottom of the page to access the full notes.

Peer Review Board Updates: 236 words

Two Regional Editor Meetings took place this year, the Washington Wetlands meeting (remote) and the Appalachian and North Atlantic Coastal Forest meeting (face-to-face).

Generally, the goal is to have three Regional Editor Meeting per year. These can be a combination of face-to-face meetings and remote meetings. Remote meetings require more preparation in order to be successful, while face-to-face meetings can be more expensive. Next steps would be to prioritize future Regional Editor Meetings and determine which can be done remotely.

In the next year three Regional Editor Meetings are expected to take place: A Northeast meeting with partners in Quebec, CA; a Sagebrush meeting; and a Rocky Mountain Woodland Review meeting.

Editorial reviews go through a more informal process, usually via email. It’s difficult to keep track of workflow via email, the group is open to exploring other options.

Five Year Alliance Review:

Currently in year one of five. Since January 2019 12% of alliances have been formally adjusted (estimated 15-20% including informal adjustments).

State Partners and the USNVC:

It’s important for state partners to be informed of significant proposed changes to the USNVC in their areas so they have the option to formally submit changes to the USNVC. Some sort of alert process (regional alerts, USNVC News Email Campaign) and strong data management tools will facilitate this important relationship between regional editors, state vegetation ecologists, and the USNVC.

Peer Review Goals: 3 Regional Editor meetings a year, improve editorial review process, and improve communication with state partners.


Communications Plan: 169 words

A strong communications plan ensures communication among both internal and external partners is efficient and effective. During this Communications Planning Workshop the Vegetation Panel first worked as a whole to brainstorm key objectives, audiences, and key messages for a communications plan. After this brainstorming session, interested members participated in a second breakout session dedicated to further developing the plan.

Key Objectives

  • Obtain more resources to support the USNVC
  • Facilitate widespread adoption of the USNVC and its approaches
  • Maintain a common language for efficient interoperability
  • Facilitate widespread engagement in the ongoing development of the USNVC

Audiences (Internal & External)

  • Internal: FGDC subcommittee, USFS, ESA, and other federal agencies
  • External: wildlife biologists, foresters, rangeland managers, wetland scientists/regulators, biodiversity specialists, remote sense specialists, watershed managers, USNVC external partners, state partners, academics, professional societies, regional groups

Key Messages

  • Usability: Efficient, Practical, widespread utility
  • Stability: defensible and well-founded
  • Dynamism: updates are made periodically
  • Engaging: takes on an inclusive and collaborative approach


Goals: piece together a communications plan and determine the best action plan to achieve effective, efficient, and widespread communication to a variety of audiences.


Data Management: 251 words

One of the Vegetation Panel’s founding goals is to provide plot-based descriptions and having a type description that points to plot is foundational to the Vegetation Panel’s mission. VegBank is the tool by which this goal is achieved. VegBank has been operating on outdated software but recently underwent a NCEAS Security Assessment which was successful in improving VegBank’s functionality.


VegBank was assessed and revamped by NCEAS. The developers are now very familiar with VegBank and more work can be done. The big questions here are how do we prioritize the work that needs to be done and how do we procure funding?

Vegetation Plot Template and the R Interface

Michael Lee is making progress in making progress in uploading data from the vegetation plot template to VegBank. A process needs to be created to encourage use of the Vegetation Plot Template and make it easier to submit completed plot template data for uploading to VegBank.

The development of an R interface would allow users to bypass the web interface and download VegBank data directly to R for analysis. Development of an R interface would allow VegBank to connect with a new set of users.

Goals: Explore and prioritize VegBank improvements and upgrades; identify funding sources to meet VegBank’s needs; revise the author guide to emphasize plot data submission via the Vegetation Plot Template; continue work on VegBank data uploading mechanics; continue to explore the R interface option for users; continue to be a part of the global data repository conversation and explore the Vegetation Panel’s options for further involvement.


Nomenclature Task Group: 139 Words

There’s an ad-hoc group tasked with the job of standardizing terminology for naming classes of the USNVC (mid and lower levels, primarily lower levels). This work will address inconsistencies in nomenclature and make the USNVC easier to use among the user community. At completion, this group will produce an updated nomenclature guide.

This group is in the beginning stages of their work, if you’re on the Vegetation Panel and are interested in joining this effort contact Jack Triepke.

Toward the end of the revision process Regional Editors will be pulled in to make sure the revisions that impact their regions make sense. Finally, the revised nomenclature guide will go to the Panel for review, and upon approval the guide will be implemented under the guidance of the Editor-in-Chief.

Goals: Complete revisions to the Nomenclature Guide by the end of 2020.


The Panel did an amazing job adapting to our online work-space and were able to complete almost all of the sessions we had planned for the face-to-face meeting. They set up action items and goals that have set them up for a productive rest of the year, no matter the conditions!

Full notes:

Veg Panel Day One Notes- March 17, 2020

Veg Panel Day Two Notes- March 18, 2020

Data Management Breakout Session Notes