web analytics

Connecting with Our Forests

Posted on Apr 14, 2016

While old man winter seemed to have taken a break this past season, we certainly did not as there was much work to be done! As you likely saw, we spent much of this past winter season getting into the field to survey for Hemlock Woolly Adelgid (Adelges tsugae), an invasive insect threatening our local hemlock trees (Tsuga canandensis) and forests. Throughout the course of our field work and educational outreach programs, we not only had the opportunity to spread the word about this pest in attempts to slow the spread of it into our area, but also had the opportunity to learn a lot more about our local forests and the importance of the hemlock trees.

From December to March lots of coordination, educational programs and field surveys took place. Though we gathered negative results in all of our surveys, we received many positive results through all the work that accompanied our surveys, and accomplished the following:

  • For a second year, we continued our work with 6 different organizations including the U.S. Forest Service, The Nature Conservancy, WNY PRISM, Jamestown Community College, Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy and Cornell Cooperative Extension of Chautauqua County.

    South Valley Volunteers

    Here volunteers survey in South Valley State Forest, one of our adopted sites from the High Allegheny Plateau Project coordinated by the Nature Conservancy and U.S. Forest Service.

  • To kick-off the survey season, we provided training to 20 people that attended our citizen scientist training, many of which later joined us on surveys or reported back to us as they surveyed their own properties.


    Lots of smiling faces as we didn’t find any HWA!

  • Our team comprised of JCC students and faculty, CWC volunteers and staff, and RTPI staff and interns, all of which formally surveyed 8 different sites between three counties (Cattaraugus, Chautauqua and Warren) and evaluated over 2,100 trees, none of which had any signs of HWA. This year we had the highest amount of volunteerism, having 24 different volunteers join us on surveys.

    Group Pic

    The cold and snow did not deter our group from surveying Dobbin’s Woods and several other Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy sites.

  • Through our collaborations, our team reached countless people through social media posts, blogs, newsletters, email blasts and several articles in the Post-Journal. We received a number of calls and emails from community members interested in learning more about HWA.

    JCC-RTPI Survey

    Our group even surveyed right here in our own backyard! We took a closer look at the large hemlock stands on the RTPI preserve, JCC Campus Forest and Moon Brook farm.

  • We worked with Bryce Alexander, one of our fantastic interns, who assisted in all field surveys and educational outreach programs.

    Bryce Surveying CHQ Gorge SF

    Bryce diligently surveys hemlock trees in Chautauqua Gorge State Forest.

  • I also had the opportunity of traveling to Houghton College to lead a training and survey in one of the local state forests with Houghton biology students and faculty. We did not find any HWA in our chosen site there either.

    Chautauqua Gorge State Forest

    Healthy hemlocks abound in our survey sites between Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua and Warren counties.

  • Through National Invasive Species Awareness Week we coordinated several evening programs and day workshops in which we had 7 fantastic speakers and a combined 70 attendees.

    NISAW-AL Presentation

    Andrea Locke from WNY PRISM gives a presentation on Birds and Invasives during the National Invasive Species Awareness Week.

  • We erected 10 Forest Pest Outreach signs within Harris Hill State Forest and North Harmony State Forest along the Overland and snowmobile trails in which outdoor recreationalists could connect to information through our cell phone tour.

    Bryce-FP signs

    Bryce assisted in erecting our Forest Pest Outreach Project signs, a collaborative effort started last year with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Chautauqua County (CCE) to disperse information to winter outdoor enthusiasts.

This past winter was a particularly exceptional season of learning. While many of us are well versed in the basics of this bug, our understanding of the detrimental effects this pest has and how important hemlocks really are to our landscape was deepened. While it is easy for us to emphasize the ecological value of a hemlock tree and say that they provide habitat, shade, micro-climates and more, that is just scratching the surface of how valuable these trees truly are. Hemlocks provide a great deal of aesthetic value to our forests, and provide countless services that would otherwise cost us likely hundreds of thousands of dollars to duplicate.

This year we also learned of many of incredible efforts being put forth throughout the state and the broader region to learn more about the insect’s biology and how our forests can be sustained in the midst of Hemlock Woolly Adelgid. We may never be able to eradicate this invasive species; however, our efforts are not in vain. Our data as well as that of many others that are carrying out early detection surveys is being used to better inform managers and researchers of the levels of infestation across the entire state. In turn, this information provides insight as to where and when efforts should be focused to treat trees, release biological control predatory beetles, and beyond.

That's a wrap on surveys!

That’s a wrap on surveys!!

Overall, it was a great season of work and now that it is complete, we are left with a deeper connection with our local forests and great sense of accomplishment. We owe a huge thank you to all the volunteers that bundled up and participated in the HWA surveys this year, we couldn’t have covered that much ground without them! As we move into spring, we will continue to get information out on other invasive species approaching or existing in the area and let you know how you can help spread the word while preventing the actual spread of each, so stay tuned!

Elyse Henshaw
Conservation Technician