Just another WordPress site

Over the course of the 2023 field season, the WNY PRISM Survey and Monitoring Technicians were involved in many education and outreach events. They helped staff the WNY PRISM table, ensured events ran smoothly and worked alongside volunteers. Outreach is an important aspect of invasive species management because it strengthens the connection people have with the environment and improves their knowledge of invasive species. WNY PRISM’s education and outreach programs, such as volunteer workdays, present opportunities for the public to ask questions and engage in invasive species removal.

WNY PRISM held four volunteer workdays at parks throughout the region in 2023. These workdays allow community members to get a hands-on experience with invasive species removal and learn about the natural world around them. One of the workdays was held at Letchworth State Park, known as the “Grand Canyon of the East.” Volunteers worked alongside WNY PRISM staff members to remove an invasive grass at Inspiration Point, an area which offers a nice view of some of the waterfalls at the park. Attendees got to enjoy these scenic views while working. The workday was held in partnership with the Friends of Letchworth State Park who brought not only enthusiasm for the project, but refreshments to help the group stay hydrated and ready for action.

The volunteer workday at Letchworth State Park focused on slender false brome (Brachypodium sylvaticum), which has been managed at Inspiration Point since 2020. Slender false brome is a perennial grass that grows in dense clumps and quickly forms large infestations which outcompete other vegetation. In order to remove this species, attendees split up into small groups and spread out across Inspiration Point. Each group had a WNY PRISM staff member with them to help answer any questions and talk about other nearby plant species. Volunteers were provided with gloves, bug spray, shovels and trash bags to make the work as seamless as possible. Manual removal of slender false brome is recommended before the plant produces flowers or seeds, which can be spread by human activity. The volunteers were incredibly hard working, were quickly able to learn to identify the species, and removed both seedlings and large clumps of slender false brome.

We had a great experience working with volunteers during removal workdays. It is refreshing to meet people with similar interests and a passion for the environment, and continue to make connections as familiar faces attended events throughout the field season. Be on the lookout for future volunteer workdays!

Another event we were grateful to be a part of was the Reinstein Woods Fall Festival. The 23rd Annual Reinstein Woods Fall Festival took place on a beautiful day in September. It featured a range of activities geared towards families, including interactive exhibits, a scavenger hunt, guided hikes, live animals, music and food. WNY PRISM had a table with engaging activities such as coloring pages, temporary tattoos and lots of invasive species specimens in resin. We even had a water chestnut specimen that was part of the scavenger hunt! The sea lamprey specimen definitely stole the show however, and caught everybody’s attention when they stepped up to the table. Our outreach table was full of educational resources that supported a wide range of interests. There were informative handouts including native species for gardens, best management practices and invasive species to be on the lookout for. The festival lasted all day and had an incredible turnout. We spoke with over four hundred attendees ranging from kids to adults from all over western New York.

One interaction that stood out was when a family of five came up and expressed interest in everything our table had to offer. While in conversation with the parents, the youngest kid was so intrigued by our spotted lanternfly specimen that he jumped for joy because of its vibrant colors. This was an awesome moment because it provided an opportunity to teach the family about spotted lanternfly, including how to identify it and what its harmful impacts are, and send them home with materials about the species so they can learn more. It is moments like these when you can tell education and outreach really pays off!

It was also great to step away from the table for a few minutes and check out the other stands at the festival. Inside the main building they had a live animal show, and one favorite was a small recovering screech owl with one eye named Zelda. It was fun to have time to walk around the festival and continue to learn from other people’s presentations. Be sure to look for the WNY PRISM table if you attend a future Reinstein Woods Fall Festival!

Blog post written by Jason Kappan and Lindsay Piotrowski, 2023 Invasive Species Survey and Monitoring Technicians.