• VCE Bids Farewell to Founding Executive Director

    Chris Rimmer holds a Bicknell’s Thrush during a bird banding trip on Mount Mansfield on May 20, 2016. © Kent McFarland

    Hartford, VT – The Vermont Center for Ecostudies (VCE) formally announced today the upcoming retirement of their co-founder and Executive Director, Chris Rimmer. VCE’s leadership team is currently preparing for the transition, as Rimmer expects to officially step down from his position Oct. 1, 2022.

    Rimmer is a well-known figure in Vermont’s conservation community. Along with co-founders Kent McFarland, Rosalind Renfrew, and Steve Faccio, Rimmer launched VCE in 2007 with the goal of advancing wildlife conservation through a combination of ecological research and community engagement. From its origins in Hartford, Vermont, VCE now collaborates on projects across the state and throughout the hemisphere, in locations determined by the conservation needs of the species it studies.

    “Those of us who have had the privilege of working closely with Chris over the past 15 years know him as a multi-talented leader who has helped create a unique organization that conducts innovative, community-driven conservation science,” says Board Chair Peter Brooke.

    Over his career at VCE, Rimmer has accumulated a long list of notable accomplishments—many involving Bicknell’s Thrush, an elusive, olive-brown songbird that favors high-elevation coniferous forests. His quest to better understand this charismatic bird and the threats it faces has led Rimmer from the top of Mount Mansfield to the forests of Cuba and Hispaniola.

    “His work to study and conserve this globally-vulnerable songbird, fueled by his signature passion for ornithology and fascination with the species’ unusual life history, has yielded enduring partnerships across the hemisphere,” says Susan Hindinger, VCE’s Associate Director. One prime example of such partnerships began in 2007, when Rimmer co-founded the International Bicknell’s Thrush Conservation Group (IBTCG). Together, IBTCG completed the first-ever Bicknell’s Thrush conservation action plan, a collaborative effort of all six countries across the species’ full annual cycle, from Canada and the northeastern U.S. to Hispaniola and Cuba.

    However, Rimmer’s career reflects more than just his talent as a researcher—it also demonstrates his belief that conservation is as much about people as it is ecology.

    “My transformation from an unenthusiastic biology major to a biology professor would not have been possible without the help and support of Chris Rimmer and Kent McFarland,” explains Dr. Gabe Colbeck, a researcher and assistant professor at Maryville University who, as a student, helped collect data during the early days of Rimmer’s Bicknell’s Thrush research. “They displayed amazing patience and trust as they helped me develop a strong set of technical and critical thinking skills, such that I was competitive for graduate school. They also crafted an environment of people with strong beliefs in sustainability and social justice. This peer group was instrumental for me as I developed into a socially responsible human being.”

    Over the years, Rimmer has been a dedicated mentor to dozens of other young biologists, many of whom have gone on to careers in ornithology and conservation.  He has also happily mentored countless novice birders in the community where he lives and works.

    “The energy and care that Chris has devoted to VCE and its greater community is nothing short of inspiring,” reflects Brooke.

    As VCE looks forward to its next chapter, preparations are well-underway to identify Rimmer’s successor. The Board has undertaken several critical steps to ensure a seamless leadership transition and strongly believes the organization will continue flourishing for years to come.

    However, this is an undeniably bittersweet moment in VCE history. “After many years in the field, Chris feels that now is the right time to retire from this organization so dear to his heart, and does so with no regrets,” Brooke says. “For all his tireless years of dedication to VCE’s mission, we are truly grateful.”


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    Chris Rimmer holds a Bicknell’s Thrush during a bird banding trip on Mount Mansfield on May 20, 2016. © Kent McFarland