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Active Projects

We are hard at work on conservation and research efforts in New York, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania, surveying for imperiled species like the Northern Harrier (Circus cyaneus) shown here, creating management plans for important sites, monitoring state-listed sparrows and turtles, surveying for unrecorded odonates, discovering rare plants, conducting stewardship for threatened waterbirds, and creating novel initiatives with local organizations, regional businesses, SUNY students and citizen scientists to create a better knowledge and appreciation of the natural world and the vast resources the Northeast has to offer.

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Wintering raptor surveys
RTPI and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation are teaming up to complete surveys in Chautauqua County for Short-eared Owls and Northern Harriers. We are hoping some citizen scientists like you will also volunteer to help out in discovering, tracking and recording these birds. This important (and fun!) conservation work will help to add data to the New York Natural Heritage Program. See more detailed information on every aspect of this effort in our blog here.

Natural History Atlas
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 at the above link  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, information, photos, videos and accounts that we will publish digitally. In 2014 and beyond our staff will be repeatedly visiting every single site and many additional locations, all of which you will be able to find on the Natural History Atlas page.

Winter trails cell phone tour
Snowmobiling is said to be an over $750 million industry in the state of New York and nearly $20 million in Chautauqua County alone. This winter we are teaming up with the Snowmobile Clubs of Chautauqua County, including Chautauqua Lake Snowmobile Club, Ellery Sno-Cruisers, Lake Effect Trail Breakers, Cherry Creek Sno-Goers and Sunset Drifters, to establish a self-guided audio cell phone tour on over 450+ miles of winter trails located throughout Chautauqua County.  The tour will highlight designated points of interest throughout the area and provide an opportunity for thousands of local and visiting snowmobilers to learn about some of the places that make this county so unique. Through the tour we will feature areas of natural history interest as well as historical sites and local businesses. Each point will be marked by a trail sign and snowmobilers will be able to dial into the tour to receive material pertaining to each stop. Text, photos and videos will be included throughout the tour and will be free to access through any kind of phone. Click here to visit our tour page and click here to view the mobile tour site.

Eastern Hellbender and other herpetological research
The Eastern Hellbender (Cryptobranchus alleganiensis alleganiensis) is just one amphibian that is endemic to our region but declining rapidly because of deteriorating conditions in its environment.  Many salamanders, frogs, and snakes are suffering declines that threaten the overall health of our ecosystem. RTPI President and Executive Director Twan Leenders is one of the world’s leading herpetologists who has worked intentionally for decades on some of the most critically endangered species on the planet. Dr. Leenders continues this work today at RTPI and abroad, and more information on these efforts will be seen here on our website and blog in the future. See this page on the Tree Walkers International (TWI) website detailing a partnership between TWI and RTPI in the French Creek watershed.

Sparrow monitoring at Jamestown Airport
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 NY 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 is working 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.

Spiny Softshell Turtles in downtown Jamestown
In the summer of 2013 we discovered a population of 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.

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In 2014 student interns from SUNY’s Jamestown Community College and the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry have assisted with this exciting research in hopes of fostering a better home for these unique creatures. If you have any sightings please submit them to us by emailing turtles@rtpi.org.

Audubon Alliance for Coastal Waterbirds
RTPI is proud to be a new partner in the Audubon Alliance for Coastal Waterbirds‘ (AAfCW) third season with Audubon Connecticut and Connecticut Audubon Society. AAfCW is an active conservation, education and outreach project that provides stewardship and survey efforts by volunteers and staff working to help the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) and Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (CT DEEP) in an innovative joint initiative on Connecticut’s beaches, islands, and other coastal areas to monitor imperiled waterbirds.

Odonate surveys throughout the region
RTPI is in the beginning stages of collecting dragonflies and damselflies from across the region. Our staff seeks to better understand the distribution of species, especially any that are state-listed or of conservation priority, and their abundance to use 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.