Final Thoughts

Abbi Warner: Throughout the past six weeks I’ve learned so many things, along with overcoming public outreach. Getting to learn how to bird band, trap turtles, catch dragonflies and butterflies and identifying invasive species with our mentors Emma, Elyse, Morgan, and Twan. The experience this summer was much more than amazing. I would definitely tell my friends (that are interested in this kind of field) about this program for next summer. I’m hoping to come back next year and learn even more.


Abbi and Emma take a closer look at their recently captured Musk Turtle.

Jasmine Buffone: During these informative six weeks, I can conclude that I have learned a lot. Whether it was catching dragonflies, setting up turtle traps, or identifying invasive species we constantly were gaining new learning experiences. I’m even able to identify different birds through there bird calls. In addition, I can name a total of more than forty species. I had never thought about how many invasive species there is in Jamestown, but through this program, we were about to identify many different plants wherever we went. Like how when we planted trees there was Japanese Knotweed along the bike path at the Chadakoin park. I’m very thankful for this program and I encourage everyone to go explore the nature that surrounds Jamestown!


Jasmine and Abbi plant a tree along the newly opened bike path in the City of Jamestown.

Anna Burt: These past six weeks have been an absolute blast! I’ve learned so much and can’t wait to use this knowledge to help educate the public about what’s effecting our environment and how we can help. This summer I learned how to band birds and hold them, catch dragon flies, identify invasive species, and learned where to look for salamanders and snakes. I’ve definitely come out of this internship knowing so much more than I ever though I’d learn and I wouldn’t have wanted to spend my summer doing anything else. 🙂

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Anna and the rest of the crew assist in setting up mist nets designed to safely capture songbirds.

Leanna Stratton: This six weeks has been a very good and educational experience. I have learned more about the environment than I ever learned in school. I never thought that I would hold a wild bird. In this program, we tagged and released over sixty birds. That wasn’t even the best part of this program. We also turtle trapped and sighted many different turtles that live right here in Jamestown. We put a turtle trap in the Chadakoin river during the second week of the program and we caught a musk turtle. We also sighted some spiny softshell and painted turtles along the Riverwalk. We dedicated a week to invasives and kayaked down the river at McCrae Point. This six weeks flew by and when I’m walking or driving I see many plants and animals that this program has talked and taught me about and I’m glad that I had great mentors to help me learn along the way. Many thanks to my mentors Twan, Elyse, Morgan, and Em.


Abbi and Leanna work to identify a raptor spotted flying over the bike path. They concluded its identity as an Osprey.


Makenna Graham: This summer has been so enlightening and a lot of fun. Even in my second year with the program, I still learned so many new things about our environment. I loved all the experiences I had with birds, turtles, dragonflies, and invasive species. The program overall was very informative and I am excited to use all of my new knowledge when I go to college. This summer has definitely gone by quickly, and I’m glad I spent it learning.


Makenna and Sarah work together to plant a Sassafras tree and protect it from potential harm.

Sarah Quadt: I am so truly thankful that I was able to be a part of Project Wild America this summer. I absorbed all of the information I could during these six weeks, and I plan to use it as much as I can in my daily life and in college decision making. My goal for this summer was to put it to good use, and I can relax knowing that I have accomplished so much. This program has brought me one step farther in my journey of giving back to our environment, and I hope what I have learned will help me to accomplish plenty more during my lifetime.

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Sarah, Makenna and Morgan identify a dragonfly and prepare to mark it as part of a mark-recapture study.

For more information on all of PWA’s accomplishments, please view our final report here: PWA Summary 2018

First Impressions 2018

The first week of Project Wild America 2018 is already over! The week’s theme was Roger Tory Peterson and birds, and we stuffed quite a bit into it. The crew held up strong and stuck with us, or at least it seemed so, but they will tell you their First Impressions below.

Makenna Graham: The first week of Project Wild America was really interesting and a lot of fun. This is my second year with the program, and it’s really amazing to get to experience the wildlife in our area again. We’ve had several rainy days, and some days that were almost too hot to stand, but we still find productive and fun activities to do and involve the community. This week we did bird banding, turtle trapping, and dragonfly and damselfly catching. We also attended the bike path opening at Chadakoin Park, where we saw many enthusiastic community members eager to explore. Overall, the first week with Project Wild America’s 2018 crew was very fun and I look forward to the adventures we will have throughout the summer!


Picture By Anna Burt of a Meadow Hawk Dragonfly

Abbi Warner: My first week working with Project Wild America was amazing. We went bird banding and turtle trapping. Unfortunately, we didn’t catch any turtles but we did catch about 15 birds. I loved the bird trapping. Holding the different birds in hand, feeling their faint heartbeats was so amazing. I never would have thought I would ever in my whole life hold a wild bird like that. One of the two most beautiful things about holding the birds was that you get to see every little detail up close. The other is letting the bird fly out of your hand and seeing them go back into their natural habitat, free and unleashed. All in all, I’m very excited to expand my experiences with this project in the weeks to come!

Jasmine Buffone: My first week of working as a PWA Youth Ambassador has been completed. It was filled with many new experiences and insights relating to Roger Tory Peterson. Whether it was learning about dragonflies or banding birds at the Chadakoin park we gained knowledge about our community and explored the different species that thrive all around us. We also set up turtle traps and attended the bike path opening


Picture by Abbi Warner of a Garter Snake

ceremony at the Chadakoin park. Everyday brings something unique and fun to learn about. I’m looking forward to exploring the nature that surrounds Jamestown and can’t wait to see what the following weeks bring.

Anna Burt: This past week has been so much fun. I’ve already learned so much about the species of animals and plants all around me that I never took much notice of before Project Wild America. Everything is truly beautiful. We did bird banding earlier this week and we were able to hold the birds in our hands using the bander’s grip, a technique of holding the bird with two fingers curled around the head then the rest of your hand holding the bird’s body. I’ve had so many unique and amazing opportunities so far and it is only week one! I cannot wait to see what these next couple weeks will entail!


Picture By Anna Burt of a Great Crested Flycatcher in a bander’s hold

Leanna Stratton: Our first week was an adventure from sitting in the big halls of the Roger Tory Peterson Institute all the way to walking down the trails of the Chadakoin River. The first two days were setting up and getting to know what the program was all about. Roger was a very interesting guy that explored and loved what nature was about. He studied and logged many different species so that people today could have a better understanding of  nature.


Picture By Abbi Warner of the PWA crew exploring Chadakoin Park

After the first two days we were able to go and explore nature in the new bike trail at Chadakoin River. We set up bird nets and caught many different species of birds. Song Sparrow, Great Crested Flycatcher, Yellow Warbler, Swamp Sparrow, Cardinal, and Yellow Throat are some of the birds we banded and released the first two days. We set in some turtle traps on Friday but unfortunately didn’t get anything. Saturday we wrapped up the weekend at the Farmer’s Market playing Birdo. Overall the week was fun and full of many memorable events. Throughout the weeks to come I hope there will be many more fun and enjoying moments.

Sarah Quadt: The first week of Project Wild America is over, and I can safely say that I am proud to be a PWA Youth Ambassador. Everyday a new challenge awaits, and I love that our team has already accomplished so many different things. We spent Tuesday and Wednesday at RTPI, and learned all about the legacy of Roger Tory Peterson and what we will be doing this summer to embrace what Wild America stands for. On Thursday, we met bright and early at Chadakoin Park for a full day of bird banding and


Picture by Sarah Quadt of a Yellow Warbler

dragonfly/damselfly catching. We learned a lot from the 15-20 birds we caught. I loved when we discovered that there are tropical migrants nesting right here in Jamestown! We also discovered that sometimes, even when you try to let them go, Robins chicks do not want to leave you. Dragonfly and damselfly catching was also a great educational experience. We learned how to properly handle and hold the delicate creatures, and identified some species in our area. On Friday, we met again at 7:30 a.m. for a long day of bird banding and turtle trapping, while also planning on attending the grand opening of the Riverwalk bike path by the mayor.  We learned how to assemble the traps and had our first experience using…waders. They definitely take some getting used to! On Saturday, we were at the farmers market on Cherry street reading to children, playing games, and spreading knowledge about the nature around us to the public. Overall, this first week has taught me to love and appreciate the nature around me, and I want to learn more.




Year Four Brings More

Hide your turtles, hide your dragonflies because the Project Wild America Crew is back for our fourth summer! We are super excited to be back out in the diversity of nature that the Greater Area of Jamestown has to offer.

Roger-Tory-Peterson-woodpecker-plateWhile we follow a similar plan for this project each summer, we are continuing to add more objectives to our growing list of knowledge acquired. This summer we are separating our time into five themed weeks. The first of which will be Roger Tory Peterson and Birds. During this week, we plan to see nature through Roger’s eyes and engage in the curiosity of birds. We plan to bird band, take formal bird counts, and get re-accompanied with the vast variety of species around us. The second week is all about Herpetology and amphibians. This means turtles, frogs, and salamanders! We will attempt to capture and record the elusive species that live in and around the Chadakoin River.


Week Three is our Invasive Species Week which coincides with New York Invasive Species Awareness Week. For this theme, we plan to identify the numerous invasives that target surrounding habitats. This is an important topic, especially when it comes to understanding the ripple effects invasive species have on the environment. Branching off of the connectivity of the environment, our fourth theme will be Biodiversity and Habitats. During this week we will work at identifying as many species as possible, adding them to our already 200-some identified species. We will then figure out habitat indicators for certain species as this helps put two and two together when it comes to identifying habitats. Our final themed week is centered around both Wild America and Human Impacts. During this week, we will look at understanding the affects that humans, waste, and urbanization have on the environment and species around us. We will conclude the week at the Panama Rocks Wild America Festival where nature and its beauty will be celebrated.


The Crew has quite a full summer ahead of them, considering on top of the aforementioned objectives, each Saturday we are participating in numerous public outreach events. To get more details on those, please visit our Events 2018 tab.

We are excited and hopeful that we will continue to build on this unique project, all while basking in the intrigue that nature has to offer. So, if you see us out and about Jamestown, feel free to come up and say hi and ask us what we are working on; we are always eager to involve the public!

Kayaking with the Crew

DSCN5442What a way to start our second-to-last week as the Project Wild America Crew! Bright & early on Tuesday morning, where was the Crew? In bed? At the Roger Tory Peterson Institute? Nope, try the middle of the Chadakoin River. You see, this week starts our theme of Bioblitz. Bioblitz is basically just us trying to identify as many species as we can in the Jamestown area. And what a better place to identify as much as we can than one of the most diverse places in Jamestown: the Chadakoin River. We dipped our kayaks into the chilly water around 8:30 a.m. at McCrea Point and started identifying from there. To make it more interesting, our crew leaders made it a competition. All eight of us crew members were challenged to each identify five to ten different species without overlapping with one another. While this may have started a few quarrels among the crew, we were still successful! I don’t have enough room to list it all, but I’ll give you the lowdown for each category.

Aquatics: Eurasion Milfoil, Curly Pondweed, Duckweed, Hornwort, and Bryozoan.

Birds: Catbirds, Eastern Kingfisher, Great Blue Heron, Green Heron, Sandpiper, Red-winged Blackbird, Blue Jay, Mallard Ducks, American Robin


Vegetation: Birdsfoot Trefoil, Cardinal Flower, Blue Vervain, Purple Loosestrife, Narrow-leaved Cattail, Japanese Knotweed, Spearmint, Royal Fern, Forget-Me-Knot, Queen Anne’s Lace, Wild Blueberry, Skunk Cabbage, Mugwort, and Button Bush

Trees: Black Ash, Green Ash, Black Willow, Sugar Maple, Red Maple, Dogwood, and Silver Maple

And all of this was just along a mile stretch of the Chadakoin River. Who knows what other mysteries lie in the banks and swamps downriver. As you can see it was a busy day filled with biodiversity, competition, and lots of yakin’. And that was just day one of Bioblitz. Catch us at Chadakoin Park, McCrea Point, or Allen Park just trying to add to our species list and don’t be afraid to approach and ask questions: we’re friendly and always looking for someone to share our knowledge with!DSCN5431

We’re Hell-Bent on Saving the Hellbenders!

The Roger Tory Peterson Institute recently got two new habitants- two eastern hellbenders. These salamanders are kept in a large tank at the museum, with flat rocks to hide under. Their names are Oneka and Tweeg, and they are the coolest looking creatures I have seen. They are slimy and cute, with short little legs, and dark little eyes. They go by many different names, such as snot otters, Allegheny alligators, or mud dog. They are such interesting creatures, but many people know very little about them.

Salamanders are quite diverse in appearance, Hellbender-DSC_1216-500x331coming in many different shapes and sizes. However, the biggest salamander of all is the Hellbender. These amphibians are the largest aquatic salamander in the United States, and the third largest aquatic salamander in the world. They can grow over two feet long and look very odd with a flat head, long wrinkly body, and brown spotted skin. They typically live under large rocks or boulders in streams and rivers, and are mostly nocturnal. They eat crayfish, small fish, and tadpoles. The species of hellbenders found in New York are Eastern hellbenders, while another species, called Ozark hellbenders, are found in Missouri and Arkansas. The Ozark hellbenders are endangered, while the Eastern hellbenders is a species of concern. Hellbenders do have lungs, however, they rarely spend much time out of the water. Most of the oxygen hellbenders need is absorbed through its skin, which is part of the reason why hellbenders are becoming endangered.

A disease has been spreading that affects the ability of certain amphibians that breathe through their skin. This disease is called chytrid, a pathogenic fungus. This can hurt the hellbenders by inhibiting the amount of oxygen that can be absorbed through the skin. Another cause of the declining populations is water pollution. Hellbenders are very sensitive to polluted water, and need clean, cold, oxygen-rich freshwater to survive. The pollution can cause other diseases that damage the skin, or make them more susceptible to chytrid disease. Populations in New York have been steadily declining, with the Allegheny populations declining 40% since the 1980s. Conservation efforts are being made, with hellbenders being breed in captivity and later released. Hopefully with some help and monitoring, these slimy little creatures will make a come-back and have a large population in the coming years.

Turtle trapping 🐢

Musk turtleHey guys! It’s Lauren here, so far my favorite part of this internship was the turtle trapping! It was quite the experience, I feel that we all got closer as a group as we trucked through the mucky waters of the Chadakoin. The Stenotherus odoratos anso known as the musk turtles.  Musk turtles like to live in rivers, creeks, and other shallow bodies of water that have a muddy bottom that they can forage for there food. Which consists of insects, small fish, and even carrion that they find at the bottom. It was a little nerve racking that we could not see our feet through the water and you wonder what every little thing that touches you is but that is kind of the fun part you never know what you are going to find. You might even lose a shoe in the deep mud or just get stuck cause the mud is up past your knees. But I love getting down and dirty with the turtles and trying to see why these musk turtles are only in this small part of Chautauqua county and the only spot in western New York. So it was cool that we got to be part of the first musk turtle to be marked in New York State. They are not invasive to the area except maybe to the fishermen that catch them on there lines cause they will not second guess biting someone if they are messed with and they excrete a foul musky odor from sweat glands on the edge of their shells . These little aggressive and smelly critters can get to 3  to 5 inches and the average lifespan in captivity is 54.8 years. I have really enjoyed this and can not wait to do it again!

How Do We Catch Birds, and What Do We Do With Them?


We walk up to the mist nets, the morning air is cool and the grass is wet. The water starts to seep into my socks. As we get closer, something makes the net quiver. The group arrives and I see my first bird up close. It is a small song sparrow, its feet grabbing ahold on the fine netting. Our supervisor pulls the net around the legs and frees the bird from the net, careful not to hurt the sparrow, and careful not to let it go.

When a bird is flying overhead or when we see a photograph of a bird close up, we all

can recognize that it is a bird. I bet you would never think that someone can catch such a


Author of this post, Anna Sena, Holding a Catbird

small, fast, flying animal.  What the Roger Tory Peterson Institute is doing is setting up large mist nets, catching any bird that flies into it, and banding them. They do this to track migration habits of birds, and the dispersal of the species.




Catching Birds:

Birds are most active in the early morning, so the catching takes place from sunrise until noon to maximize the number of birds caught. The first thing we do is put up the mist nets. They are very fine nets that do not hurt the birds, they only catch the birds who get tangled up in them. The birds grab onto the net so their feet and body are tangled up. A trained professional with experience will carefully take the birds out of the net and put them in soft, white cloth bags that is calming for the birds and ease their stress.

housewren.jpgA house wren holding onto the mist net, Becky Rew

Processing the Bird:

After we catch the birds, we have to process them. This means observing the sex, weight, size, and age of the birds. To determine the sex of a species, the appearance differs from male to female.feathers The coloring of the feathers on a gold finch, for example, is more golden yellow on male birds than female birds, who are more grey and brown. We can also look at their breast and abdomen to see if they have a brooding patch, which is a bald area on females to keep eggs warm, since feathers insulate the mother’s heat. We measure the wing size and the tail feathers in millimeters. To determine the age of the birds, we look at their feathers. The wearing of them, the sizes of them, and if they have younger feathers. We also look at features like molting and fat content.  We put a band around a leg of the bird. It is loose enough to not hinder movement, but snug enough to not fall off of the bird.

Holding Birds:

There are two main ways to hold birds, the banders hold, and the photographers hold. When measuring and observing the bird, the photographers hold is used. When putting

Image result for banders hold on birds

The Bander’s Hold

the metal band around the leg of the bird, general holding of the specimen, or releasing the bird, the banders hold is used. The photographers hold is also used in most photographs to clearly see the body and

The Photographer’s Hold


Why Do We Band Birds:

The Roger Tory Peterson Institute, along with its Project Wild America Program is catching and banding birds to track population and migration. We band birds in Jamestown, and then if we capture them again at another time, we know they stay here. If another bird bander catches the same bird in another state, or even country, we know they are moving or migrating. This ultimately helps the birds and helps the people who study them by furthering our understanding of how a certain species lives.

During this entire process, the first priority is the birds. We want to cause them the least amount of stress possible, and if their health is threatened, we do what is best for the bird and we will let it go. The bird’s health is more important than getting it banded. This is an incredible experience for an aspiring environmental scientist like myself and it improves our knowledge of the nature around us.


An American Robin, Hanny Qadri 

PWA Crew’s Initial Thoughts

Lauren Garvey: These past two weeks we have done so many interesting things like band birds and trap and mark turtles. Trapping the turtles would probably have to be the most interesting so far, not just because we got to catch turtles, but also because of how much we got to learn about each other and how we all helped each other and became closer as a group. We also learned some pretty cool things. Like how to tell if a turtle is a male or a female and also how to tell how old the turtle might be. It has been a lot of fun so far learning new things and getting closer as a group.

Emma Wade: I am more than excited to be back for my second year as a Project Wild America Youth Ambassador. Also, I’m lucky to be surrounded by people who share the same interest in environmental studies as I do and we seem to have a pretty great crew this year. These past couple weeks have been filled with rainy surprises, mucky water, and lots of wildlife. From bird banding to identifying trees, and catching turtles we’ve been quite busy and entertained. I’ve learned a lot about identifying trees, how to safely band birds, and about the other crew members. It’s been fun and educational and I’m excited to see what the coming weeks bring!

Elliott Safford: I believe that the different activities you participate in, and the way you take part and react during your time being involved with them, will affect the type of person you will be and the values you will uphold.20170628_124614 Each of the different programs I have been involved with have made an impact on the way I think and see things in their own ways.

I’ve often been a pretty cautious person, very unsure, and afraid to take any chances. I’m quickly learning that Project Wild America will be my chance to change that.20170629_140515 I have already been able to go outside my comfort zone while having loads of fun, and I’ve gotten a little more confident and willing to dive into a new situation. All this in just under two weeks! Through all of our adventures with bird banding, dragonfly and damselfly catching and marking, and turtle trapping, I’ve learned a lot, and grown as a person at the same time. So far, I’d have to say that I’m loving my summer job!

Hanny Qadri: It has been a little over a week here at RTPI’s Project Wild America and I have been doing stuff I’ve never thought I’d ever be doing. This very small amount of time has been so eye opening. Prior to starting this internship I was ignorant to the insane amounts of life here in Jamestown and took it for granted. Now I know for sure that Jamestown is prosperous and full of life from first hand experiences, you just have to look for it. This perspective of science is definitely new to me so I still have a lot to learn but I look forward to it. I am enjoying the community involvement and look forward to being pushed further out of my comfort zone.

 Makenna Graham: These first weeks with Project Wild America have been exciting and new. We’ve done so many interesting projects and studies, such as bird banding and turtle trapping, while also visiting different parks around town and looking at different species of plants and trees. My favorite day so far was our bird banding day. I love birds, and seeing them up close was amazing! I was able to hold several types of birds, such as Catbirds, Robins, and Sparrows. These birds were documented and then safety set free, which was so interesting to see. I’ve started to become familiar with certain bird calls, and can identify several species of birds in our community. This program has given me several amazing experiences, and it’s only been two weeks. I can’t wait to see what else

Jonah Rizzuto: This first couple weeks working has been very fun and educational. I am learning many new things about plants and animals and also learning about animals I never knew existed. I would have to say that the best part of my experience so far would be the turtle trapping. The first time going into the water I was a little nervous and curious to be honest. I even lost my shoe in the mud, haha! But the second time going in I was fine. I kinda had an idea of what I was getting my feet into!! It’s fun working in a small group and really getting to know each other and accomplish things together.

Shania Nuse: From the start I knew I would be in love with this Project Wild America summer program and I love it more and more each day! Through both rainy and sunny days I enjoy getting the hands on experience and learning new things each and every day. So far we’ve learned how to band birds and the different approaches to it, catching and marking dragonflies and damselflies, and just recently catching and marking turtles. What’s even more wonderful is that through this program we can learn and take our newly found knowledge and give back to the community which is really exciting to me. I am very excited to be apart of this summer program this year and being with such amazing people!

Anna Sena: I LOVE THIS JOB! I love being outside everyday. I love learning new species. I love learning more about the environment. I love teaching other people. All of these things I do in the Project Wild America Program. My future plans involve Environmental Science and this program is a great head start on that career. Bird banding was

Marking a White Tail Skimmer

incredible and the experience will stay with me for a long time. Dragonfly catching was so fun and exciting; a couple of us even stayed for at least half an hour to catch a super fast White Tail Skimmer because we wanted it so bad! The only grueling thing that has happened to us this couple of weeks is walking through the muck in the Chadakoin

Showing off the turtles

River. I admit, the first time we went in the water I cried a little bit because it is a fear of mine to be in that situation. I did conquer my fear and the next day I was better. The experience was worth it because of the turtles we caught. At the McCrea point opening the public loved the adorable turtles we caught. So, in conclusion, I have nothing negative to say!


Welcome Our New Crew Leaders

Please join us in welcoming this year’s Project Wild America Youth Ambassador Crew Leaders, Morgan Motherwell and Becky Rew! Morgan participated in PWA last year as a crew member and has completed her first year at the Rochester Institute of Technology where she is studying Environmental Science. Becky joins us from Jamestown Community College, where she studied Environmental Science as well. Becky will be transferring to SUNY ESF this fall to pursue Conservation Biology. Both of these wonderful young ladies will be leading our crew through a busy summer season, exploring Jamestown’s wild side and connecting the community to the life that lives in their backyards!

Rebecca (Becky) Rew is on the left and Morgan Motherwell on the right.

Calling All Students

Are you interested in pursuing a career in environmental biology or environmental education? Are you a junior or senior in high school, or a college student looking for an exciting summer packed with relevant experience? Please consider joining the Roger Tory Peterson Institute’s Project Wild America Youth Ambassador program. Through this program you’ll have the opportunity to work alongside RTPI biologists and staff as they investigate, monitor and improve habitat for unusual and threatened species in the City of Jamestown, as well as raise public awareness and increase community engagement.

For those interested, applications in PDF can be picked up at RTPI or found here:

PWA Crew Leader Application 2017
PWA Crew Application 2017

Completed applications can be dropped off in person or emailed to Elyse Henshaw at ehenshaw AT

RTPI is very excited for what the upcoming field season has in store, and look forward to once again being immersed in water, mud and adventure alongside another great crew of students that will be doing the same as we explore and discover the natural wonders within the boundaries of our own city!