Research Code and Guidelines  

A. General Policies 

1. These policies apply to all research activities involving Black Rock Forest (BRF) staff, facilities, and/or lands, including individuals with BRF-approved research plans, volunteers, interns, students, and David Redden Conservation Science Fund Small Grants Program awardees. 

2. All guests of BRF, researchers or otherwise, are expected to adhere to BRF’s General Code of Conduct (found here: in addition to the Research Code and Guidelines herein. 

3. Failure to comply with any element of the Research Code may be grounds for rejection of subsequent research applications, loss of space, and/or termination of the research.

B. Research Proposals
All research endeavors at BRF must be approved in advance in writing. Research proposals must contain the following:

  • Cover sheet: This is the fillable form on our website: Provide a short descriptive title (< 200 characters). On the form, check all boxes that apply. If a project involves human subjects, you will be required to conform to guidelines established by the NIH and NSF regarding consent forms and the rights, privacy, and welfare of your subjects. If your project involves vertebrate animals, you are required to adhere to your institution’s animal welfare guidelines as set forth by NIH and NSF. Research involving protected species must conform to State and Federal regulations. Copies of institutional and government approval (e.g., IAUCUC approval, collecting permits, etc.) must be given to Black Rock Forest before the permitted activities may commence. 
  • Project description: The project description is limited to a maximum of two single-spaced pages with one-inch margins and 12-point, standard font. The description should provide sufficient background and stated objectives to allow BRF research staff to assess justification and rigor. A research design description should present expected procedures in sufficient detail to allow BRF research staff to assess feasibility, including lab space requirements, proposed field sites (if known), and duration. Please state the intended role of BRF in your work, an approximate schedule for activity inside BRF lands and/or facilities, and an estimate for the number of project participants. This project description must be attached to the application on the website via the drag-and-drop window.  
  • Curriculum Vitae: A short (< 2 pages) CV of the PI to be uploaded with or appended to the project description. If the project lead PI is a student, a short CV of the mentor/supervisor of the student on the proposed project must also be provided.  

C. Research Review Process
All research endeavors requiring the use of BRF lands, facilities, or unpublished data must be approved in advance. BRF reviews proposals to minimize conflicts among research projects including space and staff availability, manage environmental impacts, ensure compliance of projects with all regulations, assess the extent to which projects take advantage of BRF’s unique resources, ensure that research programs meet a minimum standard of quality and equity, and increases BRF’s ability to achieve our mission. The review process is as follows:

  1. New research applications are accepted on a rolling basis outside of those applying to the David Redden Conservation Science Fund Small Grants Program whose application deadline is typically late-January. BRF will process applications received with due diligence, typically within 30 days. 
  2. All research must be submitted for review. 
  3. Regardless of whether scientists have outside funding, BRF cannot guarantee that any given research application will be approved until it has been reviewed. 
  4. All research is reviewed by the Director of Research in consultation with BRF research staff. BRF may seek ad hoc reviews as needed with written consent from the proposal PI. All field and BRF-based lab work must be sufficiently described in the research proposal to allow BRF to assess feasibility. Based on feedback from consultation, the Director of Research may seek additional conditions if recommended before the proposed research is approved. 
  5. Research projects can be approved for up to two years if requested initially and renewed up to 5 years. Longer approvals may be granted with special requirements. 
  6. Copies of all permits and approvals must be shared with BRF before planned research begins. 
  7. Applicants will receive the final decisions, and any conditions of approval, via email. 
  8. Applicants wishing to appeal a declined proposal can make a request in writing to the Executive Director. 

D. Evaluating and Prioritizing Research Proposals
The Director of Research and BRF research staff evaluate proposals based on the criteria listed below:

  1. Scientific promise. Proposals are evaluated based on their promise for scientific discovery. Proposals should have compelling objectives and should clearly describe the relationship between the proposed work and existing or historical work. BRF welcomes a diversity of approaches, including experimental and observational work, natural history investigations, and exploratory as well as hypothesis-driven research.
  2. Feasibility. Projects will be evaluated on whether the work can be done at BRF (e.g., target species abundance, terrain, and access) as well as whether they take advantage of resources unique to BRF, including our wireless mesh network. 
  3. Compliance. All projects must comply with federal and state laws as well as BRF research policies outlined herein. 
  4. Appropriate treatment of animals. Intrusive research on or handling of vertebrate animals will be approved only if BRF is the appropriate site to conduct the research, the work itself is scientifically sound and has all appropriate permits and approvals. All vertebrates maintained in captivity must have a plan for housing and caring for them in a humane fashion. Laboratory and field studies involving vertebrates must be in accordance with current Federal and State regulations. 
  5. Impacts on ongoing research. Ongoing research has precedence, thus if proposed work would significantly impact existing work, BRF will advise alternative sites and decline proposals when alternative sites are not feasible. 
  6. Impacts on natural systems. Extensive collecting, habitat or environmental modifications with chemicals, and introductions of species/genes are less likely to be approved. Impacts on natural systems include those associated with installation of equipment or structures, or that generate high levels of traffic to a site. The greater the impact the more important it is to demonstrate strong intellectual motivation for the project. 
  7. Impacts on future research. Projects that potentially exclude large amounts of future research will face a higher level of scrutiny. 
  8. Impacts on unique areas. Some activities will be discouraged or prohibited in unique areas, including sensitive wetlands, drinking water sources, and known archeological sites. 
  9. Scientific productivity. Researchers who have worked at BRF and who are proposing additional work must demonstrate the fulfillment of scientific achievement based upon their work at BRF. This can be demonstrated by, though it is not limited to, scientific publications, scientists trained, external funding, shared datasets, and grey literature. 
  10. Prior conditions of approval. Failure to meet prior conditions of approval may be a basis for denial or additional conditions, e.g., failure to deliver a final report for David Redden Conservation Science Fund Small Grants Program awards. 

E. Space Assignments and BRF-owned Housing
When space is limited, including but not limited to housing, laboratory, or research sites, the Director of Research shall prioritize space assignments based on the promise of research excellence and the appropriateness of BRF to facilitating the research. Additionally, the Director of Research will work to maintain a diversity of home institutions, conceptual areas, and career stages of researchers. The Director of Research reserves the right to determine whether space is limited and shall have the freedom to set aside unassigned space to address unanticipated needs.

BRF owns three lodging options listed briefly below or more information here: 

  1. Old Headquarters: located at 129 Continental Road Cornwall, NY 12518. This is a three-bedroom, shared-housing style house with wifi and furnishings provided and aimed toward long-term stays. Old Headquarters is a housing option for our Postdoctoral Fellows, BRF interns, BRF students, occasional long-term BRF guests, and guest researchers (see below). 
  2. The Lodge: located inside the Forest at 235 Reservoir Road Cornwall, NY 12518. The Lodge has 10 rooms with 60 beds, a full kitchen, wifi, and shared restrooms designed for short-term stays. 
  3. The Stone House: located in the center of the Forest, 2 miles in from the Science Center and Lodge. Primarily used as an education focal point, research guests can request to tent at the site of stay inside and use the seven bunk beds. Wifi is available when conditions permit, but no electricity nor running water. 

Long-term (i.e., > 2 weeks) housing options are limited at BRF. Short-term BRF staff (e.g., postdoctoral fellows or seasonal technicians) and BRF-supervised students and interns are given housing priority. After BRF housing priorities have been accounted for, BRF will announce housing vacancies to Consortium members and prior guest researchers in early April. Consortium member researchers will be given priority. All long-term residents will commit to a housing agreement and rent arrangements. 

F. Restrictions on Types of Research
The following research activities are highly restricted or prohibited: 

  1. Research that is grossly intrusive or causes significant conflicts with BRF’s infrastructure or staff is prohibited. 
  2. Research requiring the release of unestablished species is restricted. Applicants wishing to work in BRF with unestablished species are required to provide justification and a plan of action to remove individuals and seeds to minimize risk of establishment and/or spread. 
  3. Access to some locations is restricted, (e.g., drinking water reservoirs, sensitive wetlands, and documented historic sites). Discovery of artifacts or historic structures during approved research mandates immediate notification to BRF research staff. 
  4. Genetic experiments that involve genetic exchange between individuals of different species, in a way that would not naturally occur, will be restricted. 
  5. Proposals requiring chemical applications (e.g., herbicides, pesticides, fertilizers, tracers, etc.) will be more scrutinized and possibly restricted or prohibited. 
  6. Use of unpiloted aircraft vehicles or “drones” may be permitted, but requires an approved permit application available here: 

G. Conducting/Managing Research 

  1. All approved researchers must provide BRF research staff with at least 24-hours notice by completing the research visit form here: Your reservation must be approved prior to your arrival.  
  2. Researchers may request overnight lodging or camping via our website: Fees apply: 
  3. All research sites must be georeferenced and these spatial data much be provided to BRF as soon as possible. Plot corners and centroid at minimum, preference being individual objects (e.g., each tree). 
  4. BRF operates two laboratory spaces within the Science Center, a wet lab and a dry lab. No food, drinks, or pets are allowed inside the labs. Further BRF building and grounds rules are here: and under our Code of Conduct here: 
  5. The use of personal vehicles inside BRF is permitted on BRF-maintained forest roads only. Not all forest roads are passable by car/truck and more still may be seasonally impassable; conferring with BRF staff is recommended. All personal vehicles must receive a vehicle permit on arrival from BRF staff. Drivers understand that not all vehicles are suited for the gravel roads of the forest and they enter at their own risk. Drivers assume responsibility for damage to the vehicle they are driving. 
  6. All Forest entrance roads are gated and locked. A gate key can be signed out to visitors via our main office in the Science Center. 
  7. All research infrastructure and equipment must be labeled by the user. At minimum, each label should have a PI last name and date, but we encourage researchers to add further information when possible. 
  8. The labeling of sites and/or trees is allowed under the following guidelines. Biodegradable flagging is required when temporarily labeling sites/trees. Lead-free tree marking spray paint is allowed but strive to keep your labels to a < 1-ft x 1-ft area. Brass tree tags with unique numbers are available for purchase from BRF and should be attached to the tree via an aluminum nail. Longer term markers for plot corners or circle centroids should be made of rebar with plastic, colored caps. 
  9. We encourage researchers to connect their infrastructure to our wireless network:
  10. Inactive research sites will not constrain forest management or future research unless special arrangements have been made in writing. 
  11. Researchers must consult with BRF research staff before initiating research at sites within BRF beyond their initial proposal. A description of new sites with latitudes and longitudes must be shared with BRF research staff for approval.
  12. Copies of works published stemming from research efforts within BRF or with BRF staff should be submitted to BRF via a .pdf and with web link and DOI. Notification of media coverage, presentations at professional meetings, etc. are also appreciated. The use of BRF facilities should be acknowledged in publications. Recipients of David Redden Conservation Science Fund Small Grants Program awards have additional duties outlined in their award letter. Please use our organizational graphic standards and official logo available here: 

H. Research Code of Conduct
Working at BRF involves participating in a broader community dedicated to scientific discovery and training. To promote scientific discovery, BRF encourages a scientific community that is egalitarian, open, and collaborative. We expect scientists working at and representing BRF to: 

  • Respect and acknowledge the work of other scientists,
  • Ensure that research and behavior while at BRF meets all laws and regulations, including BRF’s rules and regulations, and previous conditions of research, 
  • Conduct high quality research and training that advances science and/or society’s needs, 
  • Work with BRF staff to balance the impacts of research on people, animals, and the environment with the public benefits of that research, 
  • Declare conflicts of interest, 
  • Present evidence honestly when speaking about BRF science or as a BRF scientist, and to clarify the extent to which they are speaking as an expert or a citizen. Scientists shall not indicate that they are representing BRF, or official BRF viewpoints, unless they have been asked by the Executive Director to officially represent BRF, 
  • Act to promote a healthy scientific community, including avoiding using positions of authority or BRF resources to create a hostile work environment or to advance individual agendas at the expense of scientific discovery, research training, or the larger community, 
  • Make good faith efforts to work with the Director of Research to ensure research projects have all appropriate approvals. 

I. Denial of services for behavioral problems
BRF reserves the right to ask visitors who do not have an approved research plan to leave or deny services for inappropriate actions, including violations of our Research Code, without any additional review or appeal. Recognizing the substantial investment by guest researchers and our staff, BRF provides a high level of review before denying services.

A scientist may be denied services because s/he has violated the codes and guidelines above, failed to work in good faith with BRF Research staff to obtain appropriate approvals for research before conducting that research, failed to honor prior conditions of approval, or otherwise caused significant problems for BRF. The Executive Director will notify an individual if they determine that a denial should be considered for behavioral problems. If the individual decides not to withdraw their application to work at BRF at that stage, then the individual will be asked to pay a review charge as set by the Executive Director based upon the extent of the situation to demonstrate their good faith in having the situation reviewed. Upon receipt of payment, BRF will generate in writing a review and analysis of the issues. That information will be provided to the individual, who will be given the opportunity to respond in writing within a reasonable amount of time as set by the Executive Director. The Executive Director will provide the initial analysis, any response by the individual, the final decision and any additional supporting information, to an ad hoc committee appointed by the Board President. That committee can let the decision stand by taking no further action, remand the decision back to the Executive Director for further consideration, or recommend to BRF’s President that the full Board intervene. The Executive Director can deny or withdraw services without review to a research guest at any time if s/he believes allowing the person to use BRF services creates a significant threat to individuals or BRF or is likely to result in serious legal issues. In cases involving sexual harassment, the Executive Director can immediately remove individuals from the community for serious incidents, for evidence of recurring behavior, or for less serious incidents in which the individual does not demonstrate a willingness to correct behavior.

J. Amendment/Interpretation 

  1. The Executive Director interprets all policies. Her/His decision shall be final concerning interpretation of policies, as well as acceptance/rejection of research plans and decisions involving space prioritization. 
  2. The Research Code must be consistent with the Bylaws of BRF. In case of contradictions concerning research policies, the Research Code yields to BRF Bylaws. 
  3. Other materials, including but not limited to written items, emails, information on the website, and oral communications, are only advisory and are controlled by the Research Code. 
  4. Formal interpretations of research policies may be obtained by making such a request in writing to the Executive Director. 
  5. The Research Code is reviewed annually by BRF research staff. 
  6. Amendment of the Research Code is by the Executive Director.