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Active Projects

We are hard at work on conservation, education and research efforts in New York, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania, conducting surveys for imperiled species like the Eastern Hellbender (Cryptobranchus alleganiensis alleganiensis) shown here, creating management plans for important sites, monitoring federally and state-listed birds and turtles, surveying for unrecorded odonates, discovering rare plants, finding wintering raptors, 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 our environment has to offer.

Eastern Hellbender slider bar

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. Twan 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. Fall 2015 survey efforts are currently underway! Watch for upcoming blog and media posts on our results.

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.


In 2014 student interns from SUNY’s Jamestown Community College and the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry assisted with this exciting research in hopes of fostering a better home for these unique creatures. Our conservation staff is continuing this in 2015 with the help of Project Wild America Youth Ambassadors. If you have any sightings please submit them to us by emailing turtles@rtpi.org.

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 soon as we prepare for the 2015-2016 season.

Audubon Alliance for Coastal Waterbirds
RTPI is proud to be a partner in the Audubon Alliance for Coastal Waterbirds‘ (AAfCW) fourth season with Audubon Connecticut. 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.

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 and 2015, RTPI staff worked 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.

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.

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.