Team to study effects of emerald ash borer with help from W&J researchers

Created: June 7, 2018
Last Updated: January 13, 2020

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DELAWARE, Ohio, (June 7, 2018)There are 308 million ash trees in the forests of Pennsylvania, and one gleaming invasive insect poses a threat to all of them. On the Allegheny National Forest in northwest Pennsylvania, a team of scientists and foresters is working together to monitor the health of ash trees to one day blunt the effects of emerald ash borer (EAB)—with the help of researchers from Washington & Jefferson College (W&J).

The emerald ash borer is a destructive beetle from Asia that has killed hundreds of millions of ash trees across much of the eastern United States and Canada and is now invading the Allegheny National Forest. Past and ongoing studies at the Allegheny National Forest have included understanding landscape patterns of ash health, optimizing genetic conservation strategies, and installation and initial data collection for an insecticide treatment experiment to test treatment efficacy.

A new grant of nearly $16,000 from the USDA Forest Service’s State and Private Forestry branch is allowing for an expanded ash monitoring effort as well as an expanded team. In May, W&J joined the monitoring effort and will help establish how the spread of EAB is affecting the health of ash trees on the Allegheny National Forest.

“We are excited to partner with research scientists at the USDA Forest Service to better understand the spread and impact of EAB on the forests in eastern North America,” said W&J Associate Professor Jason Kilgore, Ph.D. “This will also give Washington & Jefferson College undergraduate students the opportunity to engage in meaningful research and collaborative work.”

The research team includes Dr. Kilgore, Kathleen Knight (Northern Research Station), Charles Flower (Northern Research Station), Alejandro Royo (Northern Research Station), William Oldland (State and Private Forestry), and Andrea Hille (Allegheny National Forest). Washington & Jefferson College undergraduate students will gain research experience as they assess the health of ash trees in long-term monitoring plots on the ANF.

Data collected on the Allegheny National Forest will help scientists better understand the effects of EAB across different landscapes. Field data will be used to inform Satellite Detection Surveys of EAB, performed by the USDA Forest Service’s Forest Health Assessment and Applied Sciences Team, as well as to update EAB models in the National Insect and Disease Risk Map. These data will also be compared to tree health data collected in ash treatment areas where insecticides are being used to protect more than 500 individual ash trees from EAB on the Allegheny National Forest. These treated ash trees occur in clusters of 20 trees across most of the national forest and are being protected for longer term genetic and seed conservation purposes.

“This unique collaboration among research, the Allegheny National Forest, and Washington and Jefferson College has the potential to help land managers in every state with emerald ash borer,” said NRS Research Ecologist Kathleen Knight. “Ultimately, the knowledge we gain from this project will help forest managers and policy makers plan for, reduce, and mitigate the ecosystem impacts of EAB.”

This news release was written by the U.S. Forest Service.

About the Northern Research Station

The mission of the Northern Research Station is to improve people’s lives and help sustain the natural resources in the Northeast and Midwest through leading-edge science and effective information delivery.

About the U.S. Forest Service

The mission of the U.S. Forest Service, an agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is to sustain the health, diversity and productivity of the nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations. The agency manages 193 million acres of public land, provides assistance to state and private landowners, and maintains world-renowned forestry research and wildland fire management organizations.

About Washington & Jefferson College

Washington & Jefferson College, located in Washington, Pa., is a selective liberal arts college founded in 1781. Committed to providing each of its students with the highest-quality undergraduate education available, W&J offers a traditional arts and sciences curriculum emphasizing interdisciplinary study and independent study work. For more information about W&J, visit www.washjeff.edu, or call 888-W-AND-JAY.

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