web analytics

Where the Wild Things Are; Jamestown’s Chadakoin River

Posted on Jul 31, 2015

Where the Wild Things Are; Jamestown’s Chadakoin River
by Melanie Smith RTPI Communications Coordinator

Roger Tory Peterson Institutes ‘Wild America’ initiatives aim to reinvigorate and perpetuate appreciation of our local natural heritage. This year marks the 60th anniversary of Roger Tory Peterson’s telling of his own journey to discover the untamed reaches of our continent in the book by the same name. RTPI’s Project Wild America Youth Ambassadors, a group of 6 area high school students and 2 JCC students supervised by RTPI staff, have spent the summer doing just this, through their exploration and assessment of the Chadakoin River in Jamestown.

Learn It
To prepare for this endeavor, the PWA Youth Ambassadors received training and gained experience in numerous techniques used in biological and environmental sciences: observing and identifying numerous organisms including plants, insects, reptiles, amphibians and birds; assessing water quality using aquatic invertebrates; and constructing and deploying traps to sample fish and turtles, just to mention a few. The students also had the opportunity to meet several environmental professionals and become familiar with potential career choices; Jeff Brockelbank of the NYS DEC shared his expertise on maintaining healthy forests during a field trip to Harris Hill State Forest in Gerry, Ron Rosa described how fish populations are managed during a field trip to Prendergast Point Fish Hatchery in Mayville, and Mackenzie Bennett, an biotech intern with JCC, provided hands-on instruction in sampling mosquito populations for use in state-of the-art genomic studies. These experiences provided a strong background in environmental science, and helped the students to put their own research into a broader context.


Love It
For 6 weeks, The PWA students fully immersed themselves in the ecology of the Chadakoin, and in doing so, gained unique knowledge of this vital habitat. Contrary to the initial assumption that Jamestown’s urban center would be an unlikely place to encounter thriving wildlife, the RTPI youth ambassadors documented the presence of myriad fascinating species; Spiny softshell turtles, Musk turtles, Black-crowned night herons, Caspian terns, Peregrine falcons, and Prince’s Baskettail dragonflies, and many more. These discoveries were made through many hours spent hiking the banks and wading the depths of the river. In order to explore the inaccessible on foot, and to get up close with some of its inhabitants, the PWA crew also enjoyed a day on the water in kayaks. This experience, made possible through services and equipment provided by Evergreen Outfitters in Lakewood, provided an entirely new and interesting perspective of the Chadakoin.

Spiny softshell turtle

Protect It
Through the PWA initiative, the Youth Ambassadors have also developed new perspectives on the relationship between society and the environment. Their experiences have nurtured a more profound reverence for the diversity of life with which we all coexist, and imparted a keen awareness that humanity’s relationship with other species is too often at odds with their needs for survival. The Chadakoin ecosystem bears the scars of anthropogenic influence; industrial, municipal and residential activities have in many ways altered the physical, chemical and biological characteristics of the river. The removal of natural riparian vegetation has caused accelerated erosion of sections of the riverbank, and increased exposure to sunlight in some areas, which raises the water temperature and reduces the concentration of oxygen. Invasive organisms are have staked their claim in certain niches, competing with some of our rare indigenous plants and animals. Runoff from the surrounding landscape has introduced chemicals and trash that foul the water and can impede biological functions. Yet, despite these impairments, an amazing array of creatures persists in Jamestown’s Chadakoin River corridor.


Take a Walk on the Wild Side
The PWA Youth have had an amazing experience making many fascinating discoveries along the Chadakoin River, and they are eager to foster the same sense of environmental stewardship that they have developed, and to share what they’ve learned in the local community. To do this, the PWA Youth Ambassadors will host a series of events along the Chadakoin River. We hope you can join us for these events to learn more about the ecology of the Chadakoin and how you can be a steward of this precious natural resource;
o Chadakoin Trash Clean-Up: Friday, August 7th , 1 pm
The RTPI PWA crew will meet at McCrea Park and lead a trash cleanup to improve habitat quality along the river. If you would like to participate, please arrive at 12:45pm and bring a pair of work gloves. We also advise you to wear long pants and closed-toe shoes.
o Riverwalk Educational Outreach: Saturday, August 8th , 10:30am – 12:30pm
The PWA Youth Ambassadors will meet behind Friendly’s to set up a series of educational displays along the Riverwalk through which they will communicate their findings to the public.

For more information, please visit the PWA website (projectwildamerica.org) and Facebook page.