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Spring projects accelerating

Posted on Apr 16, 2014

We are about to hit the busiest time of our year as spring and summer field work and active conservation projects go into full swing on the ground in Western New York and nearby areas of Pennsylvania. We are working seven days a week nonstop during these seasons to collect data, conduct research, educate the public and train the next generation of scientists. Here are only some of the major initiatives that are underway at the moment:

  • In 2001 RTPI published a Natural History Atlas to the Chautauqua-Allegheny Region, culminating several years of environmental education work through a matching grant from the Annenberg Rural Challenge. We have put the complete original Atlas online and available for free download through support from the Center for the Study of Art, Architecture, History & Nature (C-SAAHN) Fund at the Community Foundation of Greater Buffalo. We are currently updating the Atlas fully with fresh data, photos, videos and accounts that we have started to publish digitally at the same link above. This means that our staff is visiting literally dozens of sites across New York and Pennsylvania in 2014 to continue to accumulate this data with the help of citizen scientists and SUNY students.
  • Our staff is currently conducting a year-long plant and wildlife assessment of the approximately 200-acre College Lodge property owned and operated by the Faculty Student Association of SUNY Fredonia. Working with SUNY staff and experienced local naturalists RTPI staff is surveying all forms of life in order to create a conservation and management plan recommending best practices for the site. In July 2014 there will be a BioBlitz of the College Lodge, a 24-hour race to record every living thing on the property with experts from across the region taking part. Click here to visit the College Lodge page in our Natural History Atlas.
  • RTPI staff documented confirmed breeding of Henslow’s Sparrows and Grasshopper Sparrows at the Chautauqua County/Jamestown Airport (KJHW) during the summer of 2013. Both species are listed as New York endangered species with the Henslow’s Sparrow classified as ‘threatened’ and the Grasshopper Sparrow classified as ‘special concern’. Working with airport officials, the New York Department of Environmental Conservation and the local birding community data and information was collected all summer while protecting certain areas of the airport from mowing whenever possible. Botanical studies to determine habitat selection and site usage were undertaken as well. In 2014 RTPI staff will work with student interns from SUNY’s Jamestown Community College to continue this conservation effort conducting both point count surveys for bird life and vegetation surveys.
  • Another terrific discovery in 2013 was that of the New York state ‘special concern’ Eastern Spiny Softshell Turtles (Apalone spinifera) in the Chadakoin River in and around Jamestown. In this urban environment the species faces difficulties ranging from increased levels of predation to lack of a suitable nesting substrate. RTPI staff confirmed successful breeding in September 2013 and we are expanding the scope of observations of the species and their biology throughout the city and region while working with community leaders, local businesses and interested citizens in educating residents and protecting the area. In 2014 student interns from SUNY’s Jamestown Community College will be assisting with this exciting research in hopes of fostering a better home for these unique creatures.
  • We are opportunistically surveying for select species of high concern such as the Eastern Hellbender (Cryptobranchus alleganiensis alleganiensis), one impressive amphibian that is endemic to our region but declining rapidly because of deteriorating conditions in its environment. RTPI is also in the beginning stages of collecting dragonflies and damselflies from all of the Chautauqua-Allegheny Region to better understand the distribution of species, especially any that are state-listed or of conservation priority, and to use their abundance as indicators of the health of key habitats. RTPI has already discovered previously unrecorded species in Chautauqua County including the Delta-spotted Spiketail (Cordulegaster diastatops), Band-winged Meadowhawk (Sympetrum semicinctum) and more.

This is only a fraction of what we will be up to in our conservation and education work in the immediate future. Keep an eye on this blog, our media section and our social platforms to see more of what is happening hour by hour.

Scott Kruitbosch
Conservation & Outreach Coordinator