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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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

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Digging Deeper

Panama Rocks has been a hotspot for tourism for hundreds of years. The magnificent rocks and cliffs dominate the forest, and they offer great adventure. They offer the thrill of wandering into a dark cave, not knowing what is around the corner. They offer the feeling of accomplishment when you have climbed up or down to new heights or depths. They offer the feeling of being on top of the world whilst looking down from the top of a cliff. Tourists come and go, and they take the wonderful memories of these rocks with them. But, it is easy to get caught up in all of the excitement without paying attention to the smaller details. Project Wild America wandered into Panama Rocks last Friday. We were not only looking at the rocks. We were looking for something smaller, yet just as important… the inhabitants of the forest.

Panama Rocks offers more than just rocks. Dig a little deeper, and you will find that it is teeming with life. We only had to roll back a few logs before we found a large Slimy Salamander. About 6 inches in length, it slithered right into our hands, making everything sticky along the way. We placed it in a nice habitat box, where it would be staying for the weekend. Along with the Slimy, we found an Eastern Newt, dozens of Red Back Salamanders, countless American Toads, and giant Millipedes. Aside from this, we identified so many species of plants that we lost track. My personal favorite is the Wild Blueberry Bush, for obvious reasons.

This experience truly taught me to look deeper into life and inspect things thoroughly. Our attention can be taken easily by eye grabbing entities. And while they may be amazing, we would be missing out if we didn’t look any closer to find the smaller wonders in life.

 

 

The Wonders of Wetlands

Last week, the PWA crew had our first adventure in wetlands along the Chadakoin river. When I first entered the mucky area, I thought it was nothing special. When looking at it from the outside, they just look like overgrown, muddy forests. However, wetlands are truly a hidden wonder in our community.

Wetlands contain many plants and animals, some of which are only or mostly found in wetlands. You can find skunk cabbage, silver maple trees, arrow leaf plants, and many types of ferns. All of these plants contribute to the stability of wetlands. You can also see many kinds woodpeckers and birds making nests in the trees. These wetlands provide important homes to wildlife as well as food for other species.

Another important fact about wetlands is the soil. This special saturated soil, known as hydric soil, has many minerals and benefits. As the plants in the wetlands die, they fall into the soil and decompose very slowly, causing the soil to take on a dark, rich color. The soil is very thick, and provides a great environment for growth. Because of the special quality of the soil, wetlands also provide flood and drought control. The soil acts as a sponge that traps and releases water. This helps to prevent erosion and helps to control water heights.

Wetlands are truly special places in our community, with important properties to help our river and environment. While they may seem like muddy, gross areas, the species in and around wetlands provide significant benefits to our environment.

The Unknown in Our Community

Throughout the weeks of Project Wild America, the crew members are introduced to many new and exciting things in the community. Many of these plants and animals have always been here, but not many people know their official names and purposes. Here are a few of these species!

Sarah Quadt: PWA has broadened my horizons and sparked my awareness of so many species around me that I would have never known about otherwise. Two species that have stuck out to me the most are the invasive Purple Loosestrife, and its native lookalike, the Blue Vervain. Previously, I simply thought of these plants as “pretty flowers”. I had no idea that the Purple Loosestrife was actually harming our local environment, and did not attempt to distinguish at all between the two plants. Both are aesthetically pleasing to look at, but that does not mean they are good! That was an important realization for me. I also enjoyed learning how to distinguish between invasive and native lookalikes, and continue to keep an eye out for differences that set the species apart. I love being conscious of the difference between invasive and native. I now know how important it is to distinguish between the two when examining species in our environment.

Abbi WarnerThroughout this program, I’ve noticed so many different things. It surprises me on how much I’ve taken in already. But most of all I didn’t notice how many dragonflies were around in the Jamestown Western NY area. My favorite dragonfly are pawn tawks. The vibrant blue-green color is just so beautiful you would think they’re from the tropics. While we were catching them we took videos of how fast their wings flutter and it amazed by that in slow-mo the wing speed was still really fast.

Jasmine Buffone: Through the PWA youth ambassadors program I have learned many new things. Mainly I’ve been noticing the invasive species that are in Jamestown. Such as honeysuckle which I see at many public parks and other places. I feel that it is important to recognize these invasive plants that disrupt our environment; furthermore, contributing to finding solutions to these problems could help our community grow and flourish.

Anna Burt: Over the course of this last week I have encountered many invasive species that I have never noticed before. One of the invasives that stuck out the most was Phragmites. This plant is named using its scientific name, that’s why it sounds a little silly. Never before had I noticed these tall grasses growing along the side of the road. I always just saw them as tall weeds, nothing special. After a week of being taught about invasives I could point Phragmites out in a heartbeat.

Makenna Graham: Along the  Chadakoin Riverwalk, you can usually see many types of wildlife. My favorite to spot is the Spiny Softshell Turtle. I never knew they were in this area before, but since this program, I always notice them. We have a small population of these turtles in our area, and PWA is trying to keep an eye on them. These turtles are peculiar little creatures that you can usually see laying on rocks on sunny days. They have flat, oval shaped shells and pointed faces. Ever since I learned about them, I always make it a point to search along the riverbank for them when I am near the river.

Leanna Stratton: One thing that I have learned through this program that I didn’t know before was about the sycamore tree. The sycamore tree has camouflage for the trunk and that makes it very easy to identify. You can see them all around Jamestown like down by the Chinese restaurant across from Friendly’s. Sycamores branch out all over and make a kind of arch in some places. They can grow 75 to 90 feet and arch out 50 to 70 feet sometimes. They are a very unique tree and I love to look around when I’m driving and try to spot them.

 

 

The Invasive Water Chestnut

First introduced to North America in the 1870’s, water chestnut can be found in ponds, lakes, and rivers. This invasive plant has been found in forty-three counties in New York, including Warren, Allegany, and even at our local Jamestown Audubon’s “Big Pond”. In fact, me and the rest of the Project Wild America Youth Ambassador crew got to go to the Audubon to look for and pull water chestnuts. Seeing this invasive plant up close and getting to learn about it showed us how much a species like this could disrupt an ecosystems balance.

Their pond “Big Pond” is exactly like how the name sounds it would be. So it’s very important to manage and keep these chestnuts under control because this plant can multiply very rapidly. They can spread by the rosette and fruits detaching from the stem and floating to another area on currents. They can also spread by clinging on to floating objects and recreational watercraft. Water Chestnuts form thick mats of vegetation that can be very difficult for boats to get through; In addition, the vegetation shade out native aquatic plants that provide food and shelter to organisms in their habitats.

Common ways to manage this species is to hand-pull them, use harvesting machines, or chemical methods. Some ways I learned that help control this invasive water chestnut effectively are to clean, drain, and dry your watercraft equipment before and after each use. Overall, thoroughly clean your equipment to help prevent water chestnuts from spreading to other lakes or rivers.

What Are Invasives?

Before Invasive Week:

Jasmine Buffone: Invasive species, they often interrupt the biodiversity of an ecosystem. Although, they are apart of populations that surround almost every community. Certain invasives can be deceiving and hard to identify, some of them even have look-alike species. Many in Jamestown originate from places that are very far from New York. To name a few, Japanese knotweed, mugwort, and honeysuckle. These species will continue to flourish and thrive by taking over space and nutrients that other non-invasives need to survive.

Abbi Warner: Invasive species can be animals, plants, fungi, and insects that aren’t p1native to an environment. They usually try to push out the native species; having the natives die off. We usually look at them as pests, or terrible. But they do give a bigger and more competition to the native species, which can be a good thing but also a bad. One of the most known invasive species in Western New York is the Japanese Beetle. In my opinion, there’s nothing good about these insects. More invasives are Curly Pondweed, Zebra Mussels, and Honeysuckle.

Makenna Graham: Invasives are a species that is non-native to the area. These species take over the area they are in, driving out the native species. Because of this, the stability of a habitat can be impacted as some animals can lose their main food source, or can be driven out due to competition. The overall equilibrium of the environment is greatly impacted by invasives. Some main invasives in our area are Japanese Knotweed, Honeysuckle, Norwegian Maple, European Starling, and Multiflora Rose.

Sarah Quadt: Invasive species are any type of living being that is not native to a particular area. They can disrupt entire ecosystems, as these ecosystems may not have factors within it to control the invasive population. Due to having no limiting factors, the invasives can easily take over and drive other species out or trigger die-offs within multiple populations. they can also do the opposite, causing growth in populations. Biodiversity is typically always threatened when these foreign invaders are introduced 1402879245_9c832c7132_z[1]to the area, and this is a huge problem. It is common to introduce another species to control the invasive population or attempt to decrease it through other means. The Zebra Mussel is an invasive species flourishing in Chautauqua Lake, and it causes many problems within our lake ecosystem. It is important to keep an eye out for invasive species in our area!

Anna Burt: Invasive species are any animal or plant that is not native to a certain area. The invasive species try to push out the native species and “take control” of a certain area. Some examples of invasive species are Giant Hogweed, Zebra Muscles, and Honeysuckle.

Leanna Stratton: Invasives are the term when a plant or animal is in a non-native place. They normally make competition for the native harder and some completely overrule the area. Some examples of invasives are Honeysuckle, Muck wood, and Zebra Muscles. Sometimes invasives can help the population thrive and other times and can be very harmful to the area. Altogether invasives should be watched and monitored closely.

After Invasive Week:

Jasmine Buffone: Now, in conclusion, I have learned that there are many invasive species in Jamestown. Also, there are active programs going on to keep these plants under control. For example the hand-pulling of water chestnuts at the Audubon. These solutions help to manage the invasive species all around us.

Abbi WarnerAfter having a week dedicated to invasive species, I’ve learned that they really aren’t good for the environment at all. Once invasives are planted in the area its super hard to get rid of them. From this, we create programs to either get rid of or control the species.

Makenna Graham: This week focusing on invasive species was very interesting. I learned that there are many invasives in our community that greatly impact native species. You can find these invasive species all throughout our community, which is not a good sign. By mapping and documenting these species, we help to prevent the spread and introduction of these species to other communities.

Sarah Quadt: Invasive week was truly eye opening for me. Previously, I knew the basics about invasives; the textbook definition, what they do to our environment, and could name a few examples. Now, I find that wherever I go, I am looking to see if I can spot any. I have gained so much insight pertaining to our environment, and am noticing new species in places like my own backyard!

Leanna Stratton: This week we learned about invasives and why they are harmful to the environment  if they are not native here.  The invasive that we focused on a lot this week was water chestnut. Water chestnuts are a invasive species that can take over and dominate ponds and rivers and cause harm like boats not being able to through harbors. Learning about invasive plants in water and out can be very helpful because people can learn and help the environment with us!!

Anna Burt: This past week I have learned all about invasive species. There are so many in our area that I have never heard of or recognized as invasive. Some of the species we have found in this area are Canary Reed Grass, Honey Suckle (lots of it!), Multiflora Rose, Phragmites, Japanese Knot Weed, and Purple Loose Strife. These invasive species sometimes grow in large areas that interfere with the native plants growing in that area. These species are marked and closely monitored to insure that they don’t spread.

 

The Hidden Wonders at McCrea Point Park

Four years ago I started rowing at the boat club right next to McCrea Point Park. During my first year the park was only a big field of grass with tall weIMG_4460eds covering the banks near the water. I remember the park crawling with wild life my first year on the rowing team. Then a couple years later the city started construction on the park to make it prettier and attract more people. As the park underwent construction the park lost some of its wild life, but soon after the park was finished the life came back to it.

I have noticed this past year how much wildlife we have at McCrea Point. During the end of my rowing season I started to notice all the turtles that lived in the Chadakoin River. As we would row down the river there would be tons of turtles laying out on the logs basking in the sun. Most of them were Painted or Musk turtles, but we also saw some Spiny Soft IMG_4461Shell turtles. Just last week the crew of PWA caught and marked the second musk turtle in the state of New York.

Dragonflies and Damselflies are also abundant at McCrea Point Park. Some species of dragonflies the PWA found and identified were the Eastern Pondhawk, Unicorn Clubtail, Blue Dasher, Widow Skimmer, Amber Wing, Halloween Pennant, and 12 Spotted Skimmer. I always saw these dragon flies while I was out rowing but I never payed much attention to them. Now when I see them I’m in awe because IMG_4427of how beautiful they are up close.

All the different types of dragonflies and the three main species of turtles we have in the Chadakoin are just some of the wonders we have right here at McCrea Point Park. Its been amazing to watch the change in the park throughout the years and see how beautiful it has become. I encourage everyone to go there and just sit oIMG_4417n the rocks near the water or go kayaking down the Chadakoin to see all the beautiful wildlife there is in Jamestown NY.

 

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!

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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

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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!

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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.

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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

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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.

 

 

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A Flash to the Past

When I was younger around age 6 I spent a ton of time outside at my grandparents house in Youngsville, PA. Their house was right next to the Brokenstraw Creek. They had a pavilion in the back and a flower garden, which is where is spent blowing bubbles and playing with my grandmothers 7 cats. I remember being outside and hearing a bird chirp, at the time I didn’t know what bird it was so I asked my grandfather. He said it was a Black-capped chickadee. I was amazed on how he knew the bird without seeing it.

Being here at Project Wild America I’ve learned many different bird calls. We went to Chadakoin park on Thursday the 28th attempting to trap turtles and banding birds. While we were there I heard Black-capped chickadee call. Black-capped chickadees are found in deciduous and mixed deciduous-evergreen forests, especially near forest edges. They are commonly found near willows and cottonwoods which is basically the mabird2ny paths throughout the park. While hearing the chirp I had a flashback to my grandparents backyard, remembering what my grandfather said. I surprised myself by knowing it instantly.

The rest of that day at my grandparents house consisted of watching the cats practice their hunting skills on the birds. Sad to say for the cats needed to work on their hunting skills a little bit more. But for my sake I was entertained and astonished by the nature around me.

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.

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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.

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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!