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Research and Management

Chautauqua Lake Aquatic Invasive Species Early Detection Network

Invasive aquatic plants negatively impact the ecological, recreational, and economic value of Chautauqua Lake. Management of long-established invasive aquatic plant species is complex and costly, while the risk of new harmful species arriving is ever present. Prevention and early detection of such new arrivals is the most cost-effective way to protect Chautauqua Lake from additional harmful aquatic plant species, such as Hydrilla, water chestnut, and several other species that are already known to occur within 100 miles of Chautauqua Lake. Since 2018, RTPI has been collaborating with the Chautauqua Lake watershed Management Alliance to train interested volunteers and develop informational materials to support a growing early detection network of dedicated lake users. If you want to take an active role in keeping Chautauqua Lake healthy and help fight the spread of new aquatic invasive species, contact Jonathan Townsend at 716-665-2473 x 231 or [email protected] for more information on how to get involved.

Studying Transmission of Microplastics through the Food Web

Roger Tory Peterson was one of several notable naturalists who observed a decline in birds and worked alongside famed Rachel Carlson to address the impacts of DDT on these species. Currently, plastic pollution appears to be creating similar ecological impacts. Plastics are composed of potentially toxic chemicals but can also accumulate additional environmental pollutants that are present in waterways. Plastics do not biodegrade, but rather over time break down into ever smaller particles. This creates the distinct possibility that such “microplastics” enter the food webs undetected and harm local wildlife. RTPI hopes to shed light on this problem by analyzing how plastic is moving through aquatic insect larvae, adult aerial insects, and their predators such as bats, dragonflies, and birds.

Habitat Management in RTPI’s Pollinator Meadow

RTPI’s preserve has undergone a succession of changes over time. The entire Western NY region was originally forested, but nearly all of it was cleared for agriculture by settlers. When left fallow, fast-growing “pioneer” tree species and scrub quickly colonize the fields.   Unfortunately, many of the trees that grew into the area now occupied by RTPI are now dying of old age or disease, and much of the scrub includes non-native, harmful species like multiflora rose and Asian honeysuckle. We are in the process of removing these unsafe and unhealthy trees to give the maples, oaks and other hardwoods room to grow. Non-native scrub is being replaced with a mixture of native grasses and wildflowers to benefit butterflies, birds, and bees, and all the life that depends on them. Intensively altered land, such as our preserve, generally does not revert to a healthy forest without active management. It is a work in progress, but soon the grasses will grow, the flowers will bloom, and the birds that Roger Tory Peterson loved to paint will fill the meadow with song.

Studying Neotropical Migratory Birds

Warblers, hummingbirds, orioles, flycatchers, and many other familiar birds fly up from the tropics each year to nest and raise their young in our area. Once their breeding season is over, they migrate south again to their respective tropical homes. We have a fair understanding of what birds live in the greater Jamestown area, but we know little about exactly where the migratory birds spend their winters and how they travel to get there. The standard technique for tracking migratory birds is applying a uniquely numbered metal band to the birds’ legs as way to recognize individual birds each time they are captured. RTPI staff carries out bird banding studies in Western NY, but each winter, staff also bands migratory birds in Latin America as part of a tropical biology course offered by RTPI. Our data helps ensure that these incredible long-distance travelers continue to return to our backyards in the future. This work is supported by the Trust for Wildlife.

NYS Breeding Bird Survey

On New Year’s Day of 2020 New York started its third breeding bird atlas project. Over the span of five years, birders throughout the state will help document breeding evidence of birds—entering all their data in eBird as the official BBA data platform. Anyone with an interest in birds is encouraged to share their observations and help us better understand which birds breed in our area and how their populations are faring compared to previous Breeding Bird Atlas efforts. RTPI’s Twan Leenders, President of the RTPI Ornithological Club, is an active participant in this effort and is the block coordinator for the greater Jamestown area. You can contact him at [email protected] for more information on how to join in this effort or to find out more about upcoming training opportunities.