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!


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.




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.


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!

Another Successful Year

In honor of RTPI’s Wild America Wednesday, we thought it would be appropriate to celebrate another successful year of RTPI’s Project Wild America (PWA) Youth Ambassadors Program! Beginning in 2015, PWA began with a small group of ambitious students ready to roll up their sleeves and get dirty as they got acquainted with the Chadakoin River and the surrounding urban ecosystem within the City of Jamestown. Fast-forward to 2017, our crew has grown as have as our projects. We hope you enjoy this selection of photos from the summer season as well as the report for this year’s program.

From the first day, our students could tell they were in for a fun summer! To help our students get to know one another, we split them into teams and had them compete in a relay race, testing their knowledge and agility! Here Makenna races towards the “pond” to capture a fish.


The theme of our first week focused on learning about Roger Tory Peterson and the birds that inspired him. Here our students practice their birding skills in Willard Park, where Roger spent time as a young boy.


During our first week, and weeks after we conducted bird banding with PWA students.


Alex Shipherd, SUNY Fredonia biology student and past PWA crew leader, removes a Chestnut-sided warbler from a mist net. Alex assisted in all bird banding operations throughout the summer.


Alex, with the help of Tiffany Donaldson past PWA crew member, place the warbler in a holding bag to keep it calm before it receives its band.


At the end of each banding day our students assisted Alex in taking nets down.


Our students took part in leading many educational programs throughout the summer, reaching hundreds of people within the community and inspiring them to become better stewards of our unique environment.


PWA Youth Ambassadors engaged visitors at this years inaugural McCrea Point Park Festival.


They also joined they Mayor and city officials in the official re-opening of the park since its renovations.


At the festival, students showed off our very first captured Musk turtle marked for study.


After the festival, our students focused on invasive species, biodiversity and lots more turtle trapping.


Students pull and check turtle traps.


PWA students even got to do a little kayaking to explore the upper parts of the Chadakoin River/Chautauqua Lake Outlet and record as many species as possible.


While PWA tabled different events, they often surveyed the public to get their input on different environmental topics. Here, our crew leader Becky Rew asked visitors to RTPI’s Wild America Festival about biodiversity.


PWA students also helped raise awareness of the Eastern Hellbender by dressing up as SAM (Slimy And Misunderstood) the hellbender.


Our students put in a lot of hard work at the Wild America Festival!


As the last week came to a close, PWA students focused on water quality and sampled for microplastics and various macroinvertebrates.


After taking samples in the field, our students took to the lab to test their samples.


Here our students process a water sample in search of small plastic particles.


The samples were further processed and our students learned how harmful plastics can be!


After six weeks of hard work, the 2017 PWA Youth Ambassador program came to a close and our students gave a final presentation to community members about what they had found.

For more information, check out our report here and to read more about our adventures and findings visit!

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

Winging It- At Night!

Our theme last week for PWA was, “Creatures of the Night,” therefore, we worked in the evenings instead of during the day, anywhere from 4:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. PWA spent the week learning about and surveying different nocturnal animals which are home to Jamestown. We met two specialists during the week in order to learn about bats and moths. Wednesday, we walked the streets of Jamestown near the Prendergast Library and behind Chadakoin Park to look for bats, using a device designed to translate the high-pitched sounds a bat makes into something we can hear. Even in the dark, we were able to spot plenty of bats flying over and around where we were walking! DSC_0787Later in the week, we attended a presentation at the Roger Tory Peterson Institute about moths. There was an indoor presentation which lasted about an hour with time for questions. After that, we all went out in the dark to check on the moth sheets our presenter and his team had set out earlier to attract the moths! We identified the species that we caught, learning all sorts of interesting facts about the moths around Chautauqua County. Both of these activities were also open to the public and it was a fun adventure working with everyone who attended!

During both presentations, we received a lot of new information; both of our presenters were very knowledgeable and passionate about their field of interest. In our time spent studying bats, we were able to learn about some very unique characteristics they have. 20170728_134655Bats are the only mammals which are able to fly, and their skeletal structures are far more similar to our own than that of a bird. There are bats which feed on insects, on fruit, or on liquid, such as nectar or even blood. Vampire bats, however, do not feed on human blood, more often feeding on the blood of cattle. They inject an anticoagulant which numbs the spot they bite and keeps the blood from clotting, so that they may lap up as much blood as they need. We do not have any of them in our area though. A single insect-eating bat will consume millions of insects a night, and can fly many miles from their home. Nectar-drinking bats have extremely long tongues to help them drink nectar from flowers, and some have tongues longer than their bodies! Many bats use echolocation to find prey and navigate, but some use enhanced hearing or sight to find their way around and to hunt. Bats will usually either make their homes in trees or caves, and many will move into attics or barns, but they are mostly harmless.

Moths are food to insect-eating bats, and they have many different and interesting defense mechanisms. The mechanism I found most interesting was that some moths are able to mess with bats’ echolocation by making high-pitched sounds of their own, interfering with their ability to locate their prey. Other moths use camouflage. Some trying to blend in with their surroundings, some masquerading as other insects, and still others just trying to use the coloring on their wings to look scary.20170728_134717 I was never very interested in moths or bats, but now that I know how much there is to learn about them, I’d like to know more!

Unfortunately, it is getting harder to observe bats when their populations are rapidly declining. Bats in North America are being affected by a disease known as White Nose Syndrome. This disease has a very high death rate. It tends to strike while bats are hibernating, causing them to use more energy in their sleep. They have to carefully ration energy during hibernation, and if they use too much too quickly, it can kill them. The disease, which is caused by a fungus, also causes white lesions to form on the bats’ ears and noses, which is where the name came from. White Nose Syndrome is present all over North America.
For moths, there are many collections of moth specimens from different areas for researchers to study and reference, but sadly, in our area, we have just around 39 samples, comparing to hundreds from other areas in New York. The Roger Tory Peterson Institute plans to help gather more samples to bulk up our collection. Hopefully we’ll be able to catch up and discover the biodiversity that we have right here in Jamestown, NY.

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.