The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is once again looking for Citizen Scientist volunteers to help researchers collect scientific data on ash trees by mapping the locations of the trees within the Park.
The mapping project, which will take several years to complete, will be used to monitor future threats from a non-native insect. There are four dates left to volunteer this year, with the next being held this Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Volunteers will learn how to identify ash and other common trees found in the Smoky Mountains, read a topographic map, and use a GPS (Global Positioning System) unit.
Volunteers should be prepared to hike up to 5 miles on park trails and in rough terrain off the main paths. It's recommended that participants wear long pants and comfortable closed-toe shoes or boots for hiking and bring snacks, water, sunscreen, and rain gear. Reservations are necessary and participation is limited to 16 people (children 12 and under must bring an adult).
The ash trees are at risk from the invasive, non-native Emerald Ash Borer (EAB), a beetle that can travel undetected in firewood and nursery stock from quarantined areas of the country into new locations in the Park. In 2009 the park installed EAB traps as part of a detection plan.
The traps are the bright purple triangular objects hanging in trees near campgrounds and picnic areas. U.S. Department of Agriculture research indicates the beetles are attracted to the color purple and a lure that smells like a stressed ash tree. The trap exterior is coated with a sticky material which captures insects for periodic removal by park staff.
So far no EABs have been found.
For more information on the EAB, please click here.
To volunteer this weekend, contact Ranger Susan Simpson at 865-436-1200, ext. 762, to RSVP and for the meeting location.