Bird Boxes


Asha Deharder

Hello, Asha Deharder here! This week at Project Wild America our focus of the week is birds and bats. Earlier in the week we conducted a bat emergence count, but the past few days our focus has been on putting up bird boxes. Specifically, we have put up houses for wrens, pollinators, bluebirds, blue jays, bats, chickadees, owls, and ducks. Walking along Riverwalk, we were able to see some of the birds we were constructing habitats for. Providing bird boxes for native birds serve a multitude of purposes. Our native birds provide a critical role in our ecosystem: such as pollinating, dispersing seeds, controlling rodent and insect populations, and indicating ecosystem health. Therefore, it is beneficial to create habitats where these species are safe from the elements and predators. Luckily, building bird boxes is a relatively simple way that anyone can help their local environment. After this experience, I understand the role of birds in our environment and how to help.
Until next time-
Asha Deharder

Andrew Johnson

Hello, this week we put up bird box’s to help give habitats to different species of bird along the river walk, including the house wren. The house wren is a small bird that likes to live in brush and are very common in suburban areas in the America’s. The bird houses we put up are perfect for them because they are small and are low hanging. We put the bird houses on PVC pipe so that small animals, such as squirrels from getting into the bird box. We may have put these up for better habitats for these birds but also for the community. What we want from the community is for them to contact RTPI about the different species they see using the bird box’s along the river walk. All and all, these box’s are not only for the birds, but for the community also.

Joseph Youngberg

Today we went down to the riverwalk to install bird & bee houses so create new nesting areas for different species of birds. Most of the boxes were installed on pvc pipe to make it very difficult for predators to get into the box. The houses create new habitat for different birds that allows them to find safer nesting areas to allow more of their eggs to successfully hatch.

Jenelle Grigelevich

Hi! My name is Jenelle. I am one of the Youth Ambassadors for the Project Wild America Project at the Roger Tory Peterson Institute. This is the third week in the project and it is bat and bird week. Today, we went on a Chadakoin river walk and set up bird and bee boxes. They act as another habitat for wildlife as many other habitats are decreasing in size and quality. The bee houses are nailed to a tree and the bird houses are pounded into the ground. The reason the bird houses are on a PBC pipe instead of a tree, like the bee boxes, is for less disturbance from squirrels and raccoons. These bird and bee boxes are extremely helpful to keep our wildlife in Jamestown. It’s great to be part of a project that helps the local environment so much and setting up these houses was a fun and beneficial experience all around!


Ayah Quadri

From bluejays, cardinals, chickadees and eagles to loons, ducks, woodpeckers, and robins, Jamestown has an array of birds that flourish in our lush greenery. Identifying, understanding, and tracking these complex flying creatures is a priority for the Project Wild America crew and the overalIMG_2972.jpgl Roger Tory Peterson Institute. In order to provide homes for our local birds, we were given the opportunity to decorate and set up bird boxes. We painted our boxes (I did a big, cute bat), cut and drilled the PVC pipes, and walked along the Jamestown Riverwalk to place them all along the path. There are wren/ chickadee boxes, blue jay boxes, wood duck and screech owl boxes, and bat houses. We also nailed pollinator boxes for bees onto some of the trees. By having these boxes on a public nature walk, we are able to raise awareness about all the birds in our area and it allows the community to get involved by counting the birds and bees they see. The boxes/ houses are important in our environment since they provide more nesting habitats that may not be as available from the limited number of good trees that are not always livable for either birds or bees. The PVC pipes are also a major part of the set up, as they prevent other animals from climbing up to the boxes since they would slip down them. Birds are a vital part of our ecosystems and by putting in the effort to learn more about their environmental roles, we can be more appreciative of their beauty and complexity.

Hannah Hornyak

This morning in the middle of a parking lot lay an assembly line of PWA crewmembers putting together birdboxes and their PVC pipe foundations. We primarily spent our time sawing pipes and drilling screws. Personally, I was fairly proud of myself, utilizing an electric drill and handsaw for the first time, today. We then placed these wren-sized birdboxes along the Riverwalk near McCrea Point.

It stands as an important obligation to our local bird species to put up birdboxes, which serve to provide good habitats when the surrounding trees aren’t the most hospitable. Common birds around here that utilize these specially-made boxes include Wrens, Chickadees, Bluebirds, Screech Owls, and Wood Ducks. Placing these birdhouses into our environment helps to proliferate these local species, as well as provides the opportunity for citizen science, as folks can observe the emergence counts of birds that are nesting in these boxes and then

Olivia Ruiz

After three weeks of learning about conservation, and going out into the Jamestown community for outreach based on environmental concerns, this week’s focus of PWA are birds and bats! This far into the program we have been able to conduct emergence counts to survey the number of bats we have in Chautauqua County, this past Monday we were able to conduct one in Barcelona. Further, this week the crew has learned about the role of specific birds in our community and how we are able to preserve their habitats. We decorated Wren houses on Tuesday then today, Wednesday, we used PVC pipes to mount the houses along the Chadakoin bike path. Certain small animals such as squirrels or chipmunks aren’t able to climb up the PVC pipes because they’re too slippery, which preserves the habitats we are creating for them. Birds hold important roles in the ecosystem and our community as a whole; for example, they’re pollinators, transport seeds, and regulate pest control by eating insects. It is important to note that these bird houses are numbered and have the Roger Tory Peterson Institute’s contact information because our hope is when
community members see these habitats, they can report any interesting occurrences they witness! It is really important that PWA, stakeholders, community members, youth and older generations alike, work together by educating each other on such topics, and working together to conserve our beautiful natural community, such as bird habitats.

Mason Tomczak 


Every week at RTPI for Project Wild America, we focus on a specific group of plants or animals, and this week was bird week. For bird week, we gathered up all of the bird houses at our facilities and have started putting them along the Chadakoin river. Before we hung the birdhouses we took time to paint and decorate them, and I painted a chickadee on the side of the house. It is important to have birdhouses in our public parks that display our name and information to raise awareness for our cause, and it helps to have a nice painting on the side of the house to intrigue the public about nature. Birds play an important role in maintaining our ecosystem; more birds nesting means a greater control of insect populations as well as a biological indicator that an ecosystem is thriving based on birds’ abundance. Project Wild America will continue to do projects such as these and working hard to raise awareness for our community’s natural areas and making sure they are sustained.



Invasive week/Turtle Trapping

Hannah Hornyak

Ahh, being the sardine girl, what a glamorous duty! Taking up the role of an air hostess, but with a uniform consisting of a pair of waders and a baseball cap. On our recent turtle trapping adventures, I’ve had the responsibility of carrying cans of sardines; an ideal lure for our little reptilian friends. Now that’s not even the fun part, I’ve also gotten to jab holes into the cans, causing sardine juices and oils to spurt out everywhere. Being a person who doesn’t really partake in eating fish, this has gotten me out of my comfort zone and I suppose I’m starting to accept the smell.

We’ve got five different species of turtles around our area; Snapping, Red-Eared Slider, Eastern Musk, Spiny-Softshelled, and Painted. The Spiny-Softshelled in particular are an indicator of a non-polluted environment. They’re thriving in the Chadakoin, beside the Gateway Center, demonstrating that our local water outlets are not as polluted as some have come to believe. Ultimately, we still have a responsibility to these creatures to keep their environment healthy and thriving. Reducing our personal plastic usage and disposing of waste properly is a good start in taking care of these turtles.

Ayah Quadri

For two days, the PWA crew took some long walks in an effort to catch and examine our native turtles. Everyone worked together to set up the big turtle traps in the mucky, green water. The second day, we began to collect the traps and became sad to discover that no turtles were found in the first few. Then, there they were. Two cute little baby turtles caught in the nets of one of our last traps we took out. My friends and I were quick to notice it was a painted turtle since it had green stripes along its shell and body as well as red coloring all over. Both were beautifully colored and were clearly not red eared turtles that are similar looking. Red eared turtles, an invasive type in Jamestown, have the same colored stripes but don’t have red on their body or shells. There is only red on the two spots on there head where their ears would be. Both were males since they had very long tails and claws. Unlike snapping turtles, painted turtles don’t bite and have a much shorter neck length, so they are unable to reach their head back over their shell. Along with snapping, painted, and red eared turtles, Jamestown also holds musk and spiny soft-shell turtles. The spiny ones are much more rare to spot than the others. The PWA crew catches turtles in order to make assumptions about an area and its ecosystems. For example, if there is a spiny soft-shell turtle in an area, then that indicates cleaner water, as these turtles dislike water pollution. It is very important for us to examine the types of species living in different areas, as they all indicate different information. I am grateful to use this opportunity to better understand our local turtle species and I hope we will be able to catch bigger turtles and other types in the future! Though they are small and seem unimportant, turtles, like most creatures, play necessary roles in their environments and should not be taken for granted or unnecessarily harmed.

Andrew Johnson

Hello, this week we caught two turtles. To do this we set turtle traps and went back the next day to see if we caught any. As we went and looked in the traps we weren’t very gleeful, because we seemed to have caught nothing. Until, we got to one of the last seven traps. As we pulled it up we saw the distinct red lines of a painted turtle. These turtles were not very big and were easy to handle. Painted turtles are interesting because they have red stripes down their side, which is why they are called painted turtles. Although, you have to pay attention because you could mistake them for the red eared slider, because those only have red behind their head and not along their shell. We couldn’t tell if they were male or female, but usually the claws and tail of a male are longer. Furthermore, we did this to track how the population of the turtles and where they are traveling to. You do this by notching the turtle, which is like banding a bird, and by putting this mark on the turtle it can tell us how the turtles are doing. All in all, trapping turtles is important for us because it helps us learn how the turtles are doing.

Mason Tomczak

This was our first week of turtle trapping in the Chadakoin river. We set the traps yesterday, and  it was admittedly an arduous task due to the blistering afternoon heat and grossness of the swamp. I especially enjoyed the sardine juices that sprayed onto me when i opened the can of bait that stayed with me the rest of the day. Although yesterday I was hungry, tired, and sweaty for multiple hours, today I learned to appreciate our hard work with the results we obtained. We caught two painted turtles, and although they were small babies they were very feisty. They tried to bite any fingers and scratch with their tiny claws at our hands. The turtles were easily identified as painted because of their distinct red spots but less easily identified as male or female because of their young age. Project Wild America does turtle trapping in order to help indicate the health and status of our local rivers and ecosystems, we can use the amount or variety of turtles caught to see if pollution or other factors are prevalent in affecting the turtle’s environment. With more gross yet rewarding work, we will hopefully be able to draw more precise conclusions based on our findings from turtle trapping.

Jenelle Grigelevich

Aren’t turtles fascinating? I’ve always loved them. I’ve grown up with turtles. I even have a pet turtle, his name is Shelldon and he’s a red eared slider. I’ve had him for almost 6 years now and I wouldn’t trade him for a thing! Red eared sliders are wonderful pets, but they’ve introduced a problem to local ecosystems.  They’ve become an invasive species. Invasive species are species that are introduced to an environment that they are not native to. Many invasive species don’t have any natural predators and outcompete other organisms living there, allowing the invasive species to thrive to unsafe levels, and threaten the native species that were originally there. Red eared sliders are not a native turtle to New York State, yet we find them everywhere. This is because many people get red eared sliders as pets, but then decide they don’t want them when they see how big they get (they can reach up to 12 in). People have started releasing their pet turtles into ponds and rivers. Instead of doing this, people should try to find a new home for their pet turtle or try to return them to a local pet store.

Oliva Ruiz

Invasive species awareness week is here! After teaching little kids about the role invasives hold in many eco systems and the risks that come with them, as a crew we’ve been able to educate an important part of our community on this topic. Personally, I am a new student representative on the Riverwalk board and I was able to inform the board of the invasive species Ive been able to identify! Just to name a few- Japanese Knotweed, Honeysuckle, and the Rusty Crayfish are just a few we have in our local community. Yesterday the crew was able to spend the hot summer day setting up turtle traps across the riverwalk inlets and this morning we checked to see if we caught any of the five species we have in the area. We found two baby Painted turtles- one male, one female! These colorful creatures are cute and vibrant with red and yellow stripes. By trapping turtles we are able to record data for different projects and surveys; for example, some turtles are good indicators of pollutants. It has been very eye opening to be able to identify different native and invasive species, and differentiate their  genders as well. I am so excited to learn more about invasives and kayak on Chautauqua with the crew!

Asha Deharder


Hello, Asha Deharder here! This week the crew had the ultimate pleasure of setting up turtle traps. We gathered our chest waders, turtle traps, stakes, and sardines (for bait) and headed out. We set up seven traps along Jones and Gifford Rd. and Riverwalk. Despite the heat and the swamp water, I was excited to catch some turtles. Today, we returned to take down the traps and see what we caught: we got two baby painted turtles! We got to hold them and view them up close. It was an amazing experience. Through this experience, I also learned about the five local species of turtle. The infamous Snapping turtle, with its long tail and sharp beak. The Painted turtle, with yellow and green stripes down it’s neck. The Red-eared slider, with red ear marks behind the eye. The Eastern Musk, with two yellow stripes extending from its nose. And of course, the evasive Spiny Softshell turtle, with its long snout and smooth shell. Overall, this experience educated me on our local turtle populations as well as gave me field experience in trapping and studying turtles for scientific purposes. 


Until next time- 

Asha Deharder

Joseph Youngberg

Wednesday we traveled to set turtle traps in streams and inlets to see what kinds of turtles we could catch in different areas. This morning we went back to the locations and at the first spot we put traps we had no luck as far as turtles in the traps but the second spot we pulled the traps, we had two baby painted turtles swimming around inside of it. Turtles are affected by pollution & cannot live in very poor water which shows the water around isn’t as bad as many people think & that they can thrive in the local streams around us.

Plastics and Pollution


Hannah Hornyak

Around this little home of ours lies vast creek-like water outlets, home to many species of flora and fauna. I’ve had the lovely privilege of witnessing painted turtles resting on logs, hoards of snails crossing the paved pathways of the Riverwalk, and dozens of flowering plants presenting themselves gracefully.

Unfortunately, this ecosystem stands polluted by a massive amount of plastic materials. Bottles, grocery bags, and food packaging mark the trail of human carelessness. In contrast with other man-made products, plastics don’t break down; they only reduce to smaller bits of plastic. These minute pieces of plastic are then consumed by creatures, gradually working their way up the food chain in the process of bioaccumulation. Eventually, we find ourselves consuming food that contains microplastics. This stands to show that as a species with the resources to build and repair, we must utilize that to mend the environment around us, starting with the smallest bits of plastic.


Ayah Quadri

Plastic. Its everywhere. At least thats what we (the PWA crew) discovered very quickly. In the Chadakoin river, we found trash piles everywhere. When we wore our waders to walk in the water, we struggled not only to walk, since they were so heavy, but we struggled to pick up all the trash. At one point, I discovered plenty of plastic bottles, wrappers, and containers lying underneath thick branches that were tangled on top of each other. Ive never seen so much plastic under piles of branches like that before, especially only within a few feet of each other. Our crew leader told me that when the river rises, it carries all the plastics up with it and deposits it under everything. Then, when it goes back down, it leaves the trash behind. Not only were all the plastics covered in gunk and filth, the river was as well. Everywhere you looked, it did not seem the cleanest at all. It was upsetting to see so much pollution in one area. It’s hard to imagine how much exists in the places we still have yet to see and clean. We also cleaned up trash in the Chadakoin park. As soon as we drove into the parking lot, we saw a pile of trash in the grass on the side. People are so ignorant of the harm they are causing to nature that they simply toss their trash wherever they please. If awareness of the extreme harms from pollution was more widespread, there would be more motivated to protect the environment. Pretending like the problem is not there will not solve it, and through this program, I intend to take advantage of my newfound knowledge and spread it our the community.

Jenelle Grigelevich

Hey! It’s Jenelle again. Today I want to talk about pollution, specifically, plastic pollution. Recently, the problem with plastic has been rapidly increasing. Plastic is a very dangerous factor in the environment. From the macro plastics that choke or strangle animals, to the micro plastics that are so small that a mosquito larvae can eat them. Through a process called bioaccumulation, the amount of plastic in organisms increase as you travel up the food chain. The micro plastic particulates in any organism can lead to many health problems and can eventually result in fatality. If the micro plastics don’t  directly affect an animal, then macro plastics most likely will. These have the ability to kill creatures as well. Water birds getting tangled in fishing line, fish suffocating in plastic bags, turtles getting muddled in old nets, are all ways macro plastics are taking wildlife lives. Not to mention the fact that some animals not only consume micro plastics, but many consume macro plastics as well. Plastic in any form is very dangerous to any ecosystem and people must start taking action. Recycling, using reusable bags, and sipping through metal straws are simple ways people can help out. People could even just go to their local park or beach with a trash bag and gloves and help clean up a little! Little actions can help save our big beautiful world.

Mason Tomczak

My second week in Project Wild America has proven to be very educational, engaging, and enjoyable. This week we stuck to the theme of pollution remediation; in other words, cleaning up garbage that is harming our local ecosystems. We also were educated through multiple presentations about the effects of pollution and the concept of bioaccumulation. Bioaccumulation is the the concept of harmful materials such as plastic traveling all the way up the food chain from a small organism to large organisms. When a fly ingests plastic from its food source, the frog eating that fly is also ingesting the plastic and the cycle continues throughout the predatory chain. In the field this week, we put on waders for the first time and went to remove garbage from the swamp in Chadakoin park, which I can conclude was probably the grossest work I have ever done. The smell of the water was awful, the sun was beating down and the mosquitoes were having a banquet dinner that was my face. Coupled with wading in multiple feet of sludge and muck, it was an unpleasant experience for sure. However, what may seem unpleasant to us is actually a thriving habitat for many plants and animals, and that is why we need to remove any garbage and pollutants infiltrating their healthy ecosystems. Although the work may be disgusting, it is work that needs to be done for the sake of maintaining our environments and to form a greater connection between nature and ourselves.

Olivia Ruiz

A growing issue in our contemporary society is the prevalence of pollution and plastics contaminating the natural world. This week the crew dove right in and cleaned up Chadakoin  park of liter, then proceeded to dress in waders and enter outlets along the bike path, to clean out the river of more liter. It is truly devastating to see these natural ecosystems becoming overtaken with harmful plastics that end up threatening many organisms in our community. Our group is learning that even the ten of us as a crew can make a substantial difference in how we preserve and protect our environment. Essentially, it takes a simple one hour of community clean up to rejuvinate these ecosystems— imagine if a whole city united in this effort! It is PWA’s goal to draw awareness of these issues and spread a call to action mentality regarding the health of the natural world.

Andrew Johnson

Hello, this week we learned about pollution and plastics. During the clean up of the outlets near Chadakoin Park we found many plastic bottles and trash. We are going to put turtle traps down in this area to catch the different species of turtles. What I realized is that many of those areas don’t get cleaned up often and we need to raise awareness on the pollution of these habitats. We not only need to do this for the turtles but for all the wildlife in that area. Many of the pollution causes micro or macro plastics to be eaten and to go through the food chain, poisoning these animals. All in all, I realized that we need to clean the areas not only visible to us, but also in more obscure areas.

Asha Deharder

Hello, Asha Deharder here! We are nearing the end of our second week of Project Wild America. This week, we but a huge focus on plastics and pollution in our environments. On Wednesday we geared up with our waders, plastic gloves, and garbage bags and headed into the Chadakoin River outlets. Within the hour, the bags were full with a plethora of garbage, most of it plastic. The issue of plastic pollution may seem obvious: animals can choke on plastics and the pollution is an eyesore. Yet, the influence of plastics in the environment run much deeper. Through a process called bioaccumulation, microplastics are transferred up the food web and accumulate exponentially. When garbage is disposed of improperly or people simply litter, the effects are widespread environmentally damaging. As environmental stewards, it is our responsibility to dispose of our waste products responsibly. Yet as we treaded though the polluted waters of the Chadakoin, it was evident that many still refuse to assume their responsibility in protecting our environment. 

As an optimist, I hope to see this change. As a realist, I understand that some people fail to see the value of the environment and choose to pollute it. 

Until next time- 


Joesph Youngberg

While working we’ve learned that little pieces of plastics called microplastics can pollute waterways and can move through the food chain by smaller organisms eating them. Since microplastics don’t break down & just get smaller and smaller, they will always be present in the environment & can continue to move through the food chain and can build up in larger predatory animals such as owls & eagles.

Crews first impressions

Ayah Quadri

On June 27, the air was hot, and the clear water was cool. The PWA crew wore big rain boots and held big fine mesh nets as we prepared to get into the calm water. Through WAVE training, we began to learn about how to analyze water patterns and organisms to learn about the condition of the creek. We learned to do kick netting so that we can try to capture microorganisms for us to identify. Though my friend and I tried multiple times to get a creature, we kept getting empty nets. However, we couldn’t help but be obsessed with the beautiful water that we had just learned causes plenty of erosion to the nearby land border due to the cities’ inability to put a thick and durable enough bank alongside it. The bank has to be very specifically made so that nature is still able to continue flourishing in that area. If the border is not done correctly, it will erode away too quickly and may harm some natural habitats if it is not something the organisms can adapt to. I loved looking at the crayfish that other people found. The water seemed almost empty until you realize the tons of species of microorganisms that live in and alongside the water that we don’t even see. Everything about the water was beautiful, also what we couldn’t see. 

     Its the little things in life that many of us sometimes take for granted. Just understanding how powerful water is from how easily it erodes the land around it or how complex yet small the organisms that live in there makes you really be grateful for having this beauty around us. The water’s ecosystem fosters so many organisms and making minor changes to the environment can make considerable differences in their lives. All the detail in the water should only inspire everyone to learn more about the environment around us, as, sometimes, we struggle to see the beauty in simple things. This is what I’ve learned from only the second day of the PWA program and can’t wait for the days to come!

Andrew Johnson

IMG_0176.jpegWhile learning how to use helpful apps yesterday, we heard a loud noise and went to investigate it. It was near the pond, and we spotted the maker of the sound poking its head out of the water. It was an American Bullfrog. We were able to determine what it was by using an app called iNaturalist. Bullfrogs have been given their names because their call sounds like a bull. The American Bullfrog is the largest frog in the United States getting to weigh 1.5 pounds in some instances. This was a really cool experience and a great way to use the new tools we acquired.

Asha Deharder

Yesterday, on my second day as a Project Wild America Youth Ambassador, the crew was conducting a water study in the Moonbrook Creek in College Park. Although we were supposed to be focused on kick netting microorganisms, a group of beautiful damselflies caught my eye. With black wings and a green body, they fluttered gracefully around the bank of the creek. Towards the end of our time at the creek, I held out my hand, and a damselfly landed on it. These wings appeared to be made of pure black velvet and the body of a beautiful reflective green chrome. I was able to stare into the eyes of this beautiful creature for several seconds before it flew away. Needless to say, I felt blessed. Upon further research, I discovered that the Ebony Jewelwing Damselfly is native to the Eastern United States. Their habitat is near wooded streams, which makes sense. This experience filled me with a quaint joy. I was able to feel a connection with another living creature and with my entire environment.  In this day and age, I believe curating a connection to nature is more important than ever. I look forward to more experiences like the one I had with the Jewelwing Damselfly.

Jenelle Grigelevich

Hi, I’m Jenelle! I’m part of the 2019 Project Wild America youth ambassador program. I’m so excited for the upcoming summer! Within the first day of Project Wild America 2019, we, the crew set a goal. This year, the youth ambassadors want to catch a spiny softshell turtle! During first day orientation, it was presented to the crew that one of the species of turtles we are aiming to trap is a spiny softshell turtle. The crew leaders told us that very few have been caught in Project Wild America history despite the turtle being a major target. This instantly made the entire crew want to beat this turtle at its own game.  

The spiny softshell turtle is an odd-looking species of turtle. It has a bumpy and flat looking shell, a protruding nose, small beady eyes, and almost circular backs and front flippers. They’re quite fast creatures, and they know their way around our turtle traps seemingly better than other species. 

All in all, me and the whole crew really want to capture this turtle and learn more about it. It’s an important species in the Chadakoin River and it’d be so wonderful to get closer with it. Wish us all luck!

Mason Tomczak


Two days ago, my first day at RTPI as a Youth Ambassador for Project Wild America was full of enjoyment and enthusiasm. I especially enjoyed taking a trip to catch dragonflies at the pond behind the building. I have never seen such an abundance of dragonflies, and I had no idea you were so easily able to catch them and hold them in your hands. We were educated about the differences between dragonflies and damselflies due to the orientation of their wings, as well as learning some specific species such as the 12-spotted dragonfly. I was the first to catch a dragonfly almost as soon as we arrived at the pond and was grateful that my leaders showed me how to effectively use the net and how to pick up the dragonfly without harming it or letting it escape. Normally not very friendly with insects, I was fascinated by the fact that I was holding a beautiful insect and I strive to learn and interact more with any creatures we observe this summer

Oliva Ruiz


Yesterday, Thursday, June 27th, walking with my PWA crew, we wandered to the Hundred Acre Lot and received WAVE training and kick netting in the creek. As we were trying to find and identify microorganisms in the water and evaluating water quality, I noticed an abundance of beautifully colored damselflies flittering around in the ecosystem. After continuing to be trained on this very hot and sunny summer afternoon, one of the damselflies landed on my hand. Unfortunately, I wasn’t quick enough to snap a picture, yet I was able to make observations about it and confirm it was a damselfly by the fact that its wings were positioned upright, instead of horizontal as a dragonfly would have them. Later on, after spending more time in the creek, another damselfly landed on my hand, and I was able to use the app, iNaturalist to use a picture to identify its species! The beautiful emerald chrome colored body and velvet-black wings were the characteristics of the species Jeweleings, scientifically named as Calopteryx, damselfly.

   It is truly astonishing to be able to use what I learn through the PWA internship about what interesting organisms I can find in my own backyard and share that with my community. I encourage everyone to take a closer look at the beauty of nature around them. I’m excited to see what other interesting organisms will end up in my hands for the next five weeks!

Joesph Youngberg

Yesterday we learned how to do wave training to check the quality of water by examining the kinds of aquatic insects that we catch in the nets. While out, we caught several crayfish along with dragonfly larva, dragonflies, and damselflies. I’m enjoying learning new ways to observe the environment and the animal within it and am hoping to continue gaining unique experience & new ways to show others to appreciate nature.

Hannah Hornyak

The denouement of my third day as an intern in the PWA Youth Ambassador Program stands still as I begin my first blog. Today was fulfilling, as we delved behind-the-scenes at RTPI, discovering the archive rooms.
These rooms host many artifacts that stood within Roger Tory Peterson’s life, from his hundreds of reels of film to his personal effects. From birdskins to original pieces of art, this archive allows us to feel the nature of Roger’s life and step into his shoes.
Upon seeing his magnificent paintings, I was drawn in and compelled to spend hours inspecting every detail within them. One piece with a roadrunner amidst cactus caught my gaze and held it, the thought of the beauty of the southwestern United States surfacing within my mind. A pair of Roger’s intricately adorned spurs lay upon a table, harmonious in their design, their leather straps exquisitely tooled; I could only think of Roger’s welter of travels and vast experience with the world.
It stands as a wonder in my mind that the culture of the southwest could find its way back here through a man who found his original passion in the forests surrounding Jamestown.


Bat monitoring

Allie Perrin

Our recent outing took us to the southwestern corner of Chautauqua County to conduct a bat population survey on a Little brown bat (Myotis lucifugus) colony that at one time, had approximately 1,700 bats. However, once the dreaded disease White-Nose Syndrome hit the population, it hit hard. White-Nose Syndrome is a fungal disease that affects bats during hibernation. This terrible disease makes the bats wake up more times during hibernation which causes the bats to use more energy thus using up all of their fat reserves so they technically starve before spring even arrives.  The bat population was reduced to extremely low numbers due to this horrible disease. It specifically targets the little brown bats and other similar species that hibernate, as opposed to migrate. The location of the colony we visited was on a couples property. The Little browns use to congregate in the barn they had on their land. When the couple decided that the guano and pee from the bats was too much for them to stay in the barn, the couple decided to put up 6 bat houses on the outside of the barn. Thus, allowing the bats to have somewhere to sleep and keeping them out of the barn. Another house was added by the Chautauqua Institution to the couple’s property, making the total of their bat houses to be 7.  To do the population survey, we went to the property and sat in lawn chairs and waited till the bats came out. The Little browns started to emerge around 9:15 p.m.. We sat and counted until around 10:15. We watched closely and counted every bat that came out of the houses. By the end of the night, we came to a conclusion that there was around 120 bats in the colony. We personally had counted 112 bats. We also looked directly into the bat houses after and could see there was still some left, as well as even a few pups inside. We also did acoustic surveying at the same time. This is when you record and analyze the echolocation calls of the bats. You have to use specific equipment to pick up the calls because the human ear cannot detect it. We ended up with some Little brown calls and even some Big brown bat calls.

Bat monitoring programs are important because they allow us to see how the bat colony are growing and how much they got affected from the White-Nose Syndrome. It gives us the information that we need to take conservation efforts and try and help out these little creatures. It helps us understand their behavior and breeding habits. We can closely monitor the populations sizes and hopefully document the rise in numbers of the Little brown bats.

This experience was very surreal. Being up close and personal with the bats as they come out of there houses and fly around was amazing. Some bats flew right at you and you could feel the power they had in there wings as they flew over you. Overall, I learned a lot about the different bats and calls and how they were affected by White-Nose Syndrome. I can’t wait to do it again.


Brandon Nielsen:

Continuing with our first two weeks of training as new PWA crew leaders, Allie and I got to take part in a bat survey earlier this week. We drove to the southwestern region of Chautauqua County to visit a couple that had a growing bat colony of Little Brown Bats (Myotis lucifigus) and Big Brown Bats (Eptesicus fuscus). The bats are currently using bat boxes on the property to roost in and raise their young in. We had to wait until a little after sunset, around 9:15 PM, for the bats to begin to be active. Around this time the bats started to wake up from sleeping all day and began leaving the bat boxes to go out hunting for insects to eat. As the bats left their roosting sites, we were able to conduct our survey by noting the numbers of bats coming out of each bat box during the night and getting a rough estimate of the number of bats currently in the colony. That night we recorded seeing 120 bats based on the bats leaving the boxes, and from the bats, we could see still hanging out in the boxes later in the night. Along with this, we could also use ultrasonic recording software to record the bat’s use of echolocation to navigate in the dark and find their food sources. We could then use these recorded calls to help us in the identification of the bats we saw in the boxes. Based on these recordings we could say with a greater certainty that these were Little Brown Bats and Big Brown Bats in the colonies.

It is exciting to be finding these bats, especially the Little Brown Bats, as they were mostly killed off in recent years due to White-Nose Syndrome. This fungal disease has had a significant impact on many bat populations, as it causes the bats not be able to maintain a constant state of hibernation in the winter. This, in turn, will cause the bats to use more energy in the winter being awake and causes them to burn through their built up food stores before the end of the winter, and the bats will end up dying from starvation.

So these surveys are essential as they allow us to monitor the current state of these bat populations.  Before White-Nose Syndrome came into the area this colony numbered around 1,700 and was down to under 40 by 2016. In NY, 90% of Little Brown Bats have vanished. These surveys also provide us with valuable information on what food sources the bats are eating and the kinds of habitat they can utilize to be able to rear successful pups based on where the bats are feeding. Even though sadly, this large scale die-off occurred, it is encouraging to be seeing a rebound in these local bat populations. We look forward to being able to conduct more of these surveys in the summer with the full PWA crew and the continued growth and success of these local bat colonies.

First Thoughts for 2019

Brandon Nielsen:

The first week of the PWA program is behind us, for the crew leaders that is and we have already had a lot of excitement in this first week of the program. We are currently training and preparing before the new Youth Ambassadors join us this upcoming week to begin the actual bulk of the PWA summer program. So far we have had the opportunitybird banding pwa to take part in turtle trapping, bird banding, aquatic invasive species education, and setting up a plan to work on the Green Roof at the JCC campus. During our turtle trapping and identification training, we got to learn about five local turtle species that we would be primarily seeing this summer; those being Musk Turtles, Snapping Turtles, Spiny Soft Shell Turtles, Red-Eared Sliders, and Painted Turtles. It was very cool to be able to learn more about these species in our area and to handle them as well during the trapping. In our trapping and subsequent release of these turtles, we managed to catch five Snapping Turtles, eight Painted Turtles, and two Musk Turtles in total. These turtle trappings are essential as they allow us to survey the current species that we have in our area, where they are being found, and in what numbers they are being observed.  This helps us in assessing how healthy our current wetland ecosystems are for these different species and sheds light on different protection practices that need to be in place to allow for the continued success and in some instances improvements that need to be made to these habitats for the success of these turtles.  

Continuing with our training later into the week, we had the opportunity to conduct bird banding here at the RTPI grounds.  After setting up the traps and monitoring them throughout the morning, we were rewarded with a Grey Catbird and a Common Yellow-Throat that were able to take measurements of and band before releasing back onto the grounds of the institute. Along the same lines as the turtle trapping, the bird banding is also an excellent surveying method to see what species are actively using the forest habitat and how healthy they are. These surveys help us in assess how successful the different species are based on the number of birds from a specific species we can band and based on the recapture of birds that received bands in past years. With the data, we collect, we can start to understand the habitat usage of these species and to understand what they need in their habitat to survive and thrive.

Both of these trapping experiences were very exciting as I had not had the opportunity before to learn how to conduct these kinds of field animal surveys.  I look forward to getting to do these animal surveys more as the summer progresses with the PWA Youth Ambassadors and having the opportunity to learn more about the local wildlife here in our area.  I also look forward to the opportunity to educate the public more about these local species and helping to emphasize the continuing need to protect the environment that serves as their homes.


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

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.