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Animals &Exec's Blog &News dgregg on 03 Feb 2011

White Nose Syndrome Update February 2011

White Nose Syndrome was first discovered to be affecting bats in northeast North America in 2007. Since then it has devastated bat populations in the region and spread substantially across the eastern United States. There are several new developments that may be of interest to Rhode Island naturalists.

The following is a news item sent to RINHS by Bob Brooks, USDA Forest Service Northern Research Station, Amherst, Mass.:
There has been significant documentation of WNS-associated declines in bats populations in winter hibernacula, excellently summarized by Frick et al. in their 2010 Science article. We are now starting to document the effects of this mortality in summer activity surveys. The first report was by Dzal et al. from surveys along the Upper Hudson River, NY. I am pleased to announce that an “in press” report on a 2010 re-survey of my 2004-2006 Quabbin sites is available on the Biodiversity and Conservation website.

Abstract: White-nose syndrome (WNS) was first reported in a hibernating bat population in central New York State in February 2006. Since 2006, WNS has been reported from bat hibernacula across much of eastern United States and adjacent Canada and has been associated with a dramatic decline in the populations of hibernating bats in the northeastern U.S. We are only beginning to discover how these declines are manifest in changes in summer bat abundance and activity at local scales. A 3-year (2004–2006) acoustic survey showed that the forested watershed of the Quabbin Reservoir in central Massachusetts supported an abundant and species-rich summer bat community. In 2010, 4-years following the initial occurrence of WNS, a re-survey of the same habitats and sites found a 72% reduction in bat activity on the watershed. This is the identical rate of decline reported from cave hibernacula surveys (73%). This decline in summer activity levels is most likely a consequence of WNS-caused mortality. The impacts of population losses of this magnitude of a once widespread and abundant taxa are unknown but are presumed to be ecologically significant.

If anyone is interested in the paper and is unable to access it from the journal website, I would gladly send a digital reprint. -Bob Brooks

WNS is, in all likelihood, caused by a fungus (Geomyces destructans), and has been shown to be transmissible not just from bat to bat but from G.d. spores in the environment, it is imperative that those venturing into caves or other bat habitats and those handling bats take steps to prevent movement of spores and other contamination. To that end, a decontamination protocol has been developed using the best available science. Those interested can follow this link:
WNS decontamination procedure

Here in Rhode Island, the Department of Environmental Management, Division of Fish & Wildlife, has been developing bat monitoring procedures to better understand the importance of bats in our local ecosystem and any long-term changes that may result from WNS. DEM Biologist Charlie Brown has been the lead on this project and those interested what’s happening or in what they can do to help should contact him using the DEM Fish & Wildlife website.

Awards &Conferences &Exec's Blog &News dgregg on 26 Jan 2011

Nominations Sought for 2011 Distinguished Naturalist Award

Nominations Sought for 2011 Rhode Island Distinguished Naturalist Award

Once a year the Directors of the Rhode Island Natural History Survey seek nominations for the Rhode Island Distinguished Naturalist Award, an honor presented to one or more people annually by the Rhode Island Natural History Survey.

Over the years this award has become an expression of the deep and abiding respect our community holds for individuals who excel in their studies of Rhode Island ecosystems and in their ability to communicate the knowledge and understanding thus gained to others.

Consider the individuals who fired your interest in the natural world, served as role models for your own accomplishments in natural history, or contributed to the knowledge and protection of the organisms, geology, and ecosystems that you now enjoy. Please take a moment to nominate for this award those whom you respect and would wish to recognize.

A Distinguished Naturalist is someone who has excelled in one or more of the following categories:

• Significantly advanced scientific knowledge of Rhode Island’s organisms, geology, and ecosystems as evidenced by published books, scientific papers, and monographs;

• Is recognized as an outstanding teacher and educator to students and the public on the form, functions, and ecological significance of Rhode Island’s plants, animals, geology and natural systems;

• Contributed considerably to enhancing public awareness of the importance of understanding the natural history of Rhode Island’s ecosystems.

Currently serving RINHS staff and directors are not eligible for the award.

To learn more about past Distinguished Naturalist Award recipients, visit the DNA page of the website.

Submit nominations describing how your candidate fits these criteria by email to programadmin@rinhs.org or by mail to P.O. Box 1858, Kingston, RI 02881.
Deadline is Tuesday, March 1, 2011.

Past nominations are kept and reconsidered every year, so if you’ve nominated someone in the past who did not win, you aren’t required to re-nominate them. You may wish to provide additional information if you feel it would help the committee.

Nominations will be reviewed by the RINHS Board of Directors and
the recipient(s) will be announced in April and recognized at the RINHS annual conference April 28.

Events &Exec's Blog &Invasives &News &Plants dgregg on 24 Jan 2011

Memorial Service for Les Mehrhoff Scheduled

RINHS received the email below this morning through the invasive species grapevine (or would that be bittersweet vine?). It is from the family of late invasive plant guru Les Mehrhoff and announces a date for a memorial service. Someone from RINHS will definitely be going so anyone from the RI area interested in attending the service, there may be an opportunity to car pool. Please contact Kira at the office if you’re interested.

“Hello everyone,
Jessie and I have finally settled on a date and time for the memorial service. It will be held at the Storrs Congregational Church at UConn. The date is Saturday, March 12th at 11:00 AM.

We also want to thank all of you for your beautiful cards, endearing notes and well wishes. We received such an outpouring of love that it really meant a lot to us and truly gave us the strength to move forward. We were also overwhelmed by the stories of how many lives Les really did touch or impact in some way…it just completely filled our hearts with so much pride. We always knew we had a really special guy in our lives.

Thank you all again and we hope to see you at the memorial service.
Sincerely, Olga and Jessie”

Conferences &Events &Natural History &News dgregg on 14 Jan 2011

2011 RINHS Conference April 28, on Salt Ponds

This year, RINHS’s annual ecology conference focuses on southern New
England’s salt ponds and coastal lagoons. These special landscapes
help characterize coastal Rhode Island and other parts of southern New
England. They form a complex boundary between sea and land and are
loci of dynamic natural processes, diverse habitats, and intense
pressure from human activity.

In southern New England, salt ponds and coastal lagoons serve valuable
and unique functions for a variety of stakeholders in tourism and
recreation, environmental sustainability, and resource-extractive
industries such as fisheries. Yet many elements of these systems are
undergoing historic changes due to climate and sea-level change, land
conversion, surface water and groundwater contamination, invasive
species, restoration projects, and new aquaculture practices. The
difference between good and bad management could have a dramatic
effect on the future viability of salt ponds and coastal lagoons,
therefore the need for sound scientific understanding of the processes
and functions of these valuable yet fragile ecosystems has never been

The keynote speaker is Dr. Judith S. Weis, Professor of Biological Sciences, Rutgers University, an environmental toxicologist, and author of the 2009 book, Salt Marshes: A Natural and Unnatural History. Other confirmed speakers include Dr. Jennifer Bowen, Assistant Professor of Biology, UMass. Boston, speaking on microbial biodiversity and Dr. Kevin Kroeger, US Geological Survey, Woods Hole, speaking on groundwater inflow and nitrogen. Other speakers will be announced. In addition to the keynote, the program will feature topical sessions, a panel discussion, and presentation of annual RINHS awards, and be concluded with a social hour.

The 2011 conference is sponsored by the Rhode Island Natural
History Survey and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Rhode Island
Refuge Complex. Display space and additional sponsorship opportunities
are available, contact RINHS for more information.

RINHS conferences are widely regarded for convening a broad spectrum
of people sharing a curiosity about southern New England’s animals,
plants, geology, and ecosystems. They are excellent venues for
researchers and organizations to showcase what they do in a collegial
environment. For more information on RINHS conferences, visit

RINHS is seeking contributed papers for the program from anyone working on a subject relevant to the science and management of salt ponds/coastal lagoons. See the conference page for complete information on submitting an abstract.

A preliminary program with abstracts of accepted papers and posters and the 2011 REGISTRATION FORM will be available around March 15.

Exec's Blog &Invasives &Natural History &News &Plants dgregg on 03 Jan 2011

Memories of Les Mehrhoff

With the unexpected death, on December 22, of Les Mehrhoff, the natural history family lost one of its greatest, most visionary members. Les–botanist, ecologist, teacher, founder and leader and leader of IPANE (Invasive Plant Atlas of New England), and all-round invasive plant guru–suffered a massive heart attack at his home in Connecticut. Les was working hard right to the end on one of the greatest priorities in conservation, one that he did much to bring to all our attention–mitigating the environmental damage caused by invasive plants. Les had been a long time adviser and supporter of RINHS and was a frequent companion to RINHS staff, board, and members in the field, at meetings and conferences, and in all manner of regular communication. Les presented at three of RINHS’s annual conferences–1999, 2003, and 2007–each time addressing a different aspect of invasive plants. Whomever was the nominal keynote speaker at the CIPWG (Connecticut Invasive Plant Working Group) annual meeting, everyone looked forward to Les’s appearances just as much.

Events such as Les’s unexpected passing, like the sudden loss of member and mycologist Doug Greene this spring, remind us how much we naturalists owe to each other for our interests and passions and how each such loss highlights a responsibility to share and promulgate those interests and passions so they do not pass with us, when it is eventually our time.

There will be a celebration of Les’s life organized in Storrs, CT, later in the winter and RINHS will pass word when we know more. You may also contact the RINHS office to be kept up to date. Les’s family has asked that we remember him by performing an act of kindness for the preservation of our environment.

Websites remembering Les include:
Published obituary
UConn Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
Walking the Berkshires [blog]

Animals &News dgregg on 13 Oct 2010

White Nose Syndrome Update

Wondering what the latest is on white nose syndrome, the phenomenon that is devastating the population of cave roosting bats around the U.S.? Here’s a link to the USFWS’s White Nose Syndrome site.

USFWS announced last week $1.6 million in new awards to researchers studying white nose syndrome. Funded research includes studies of disease detection, transmission, and origin.

Animals &News &Publications dgregg on 23 Sep 2010

Check out RIDEM’s Wild Rhode Island Newsletter

The Autumn 2010 issue of RI DEM’s Wild Rhode Island magazine is new available, in electronic form, from their website–Click HERE.

There’s a terrific article on Nicrophorus americanus, the American burying beetle, as well as one on one of our most delicious fish, striper, Morone saxatilis.

Animals &Invasives &News dgregg on 22 Sep 2010

New Asian Longhorn Beetle Finds in Worcester Co., Mass.

The Massachusetts Introduced Pests Outreach Project made the following announcement on September 21, 2010. For our Rhode Island audience, learn to ID ALB and its damage to trees and keep a sharp lookout.

Comprehensive ID tools from Mass. DCR
DEM Fact Sheet

Report anything suspicious to the Rhode Island Tree Council at albfreeri@gmail.com, to RI DEM using their invasive sighting reporting tool: https://www.ri.gov/DEM/caps or to RINHS at invasives@rinhs.org.


BOSTON – The Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) and the
U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) today
announced the expansion of the Asian longhorned beetle regulated area in Worcester County
after the discovery of additional trees infested with the beetle in the towns of Boylston and

The current central Massachusetts regulated area has been expanded by 18 square miles,
creating a federal and state quarantine zone for the area that is now 94 square miles.
Inspectors working on the Massachusetts ALB cooperative eradication program found
additional infested trees in the town of Boylston and the town of Holden last month, forcing
expansion of the regulated area boundary. Eradication program activities include inspection of
every host tree within the regulated area to evaluate ALB presence. In Worcester County,
ground survey crews and tree climbers are continuing their inspections within the city of
Worcester and the towns of Holden, West Boylston, Boylston, and Shrewsbury.

Invasives &News dgregg on 11 Aug 2010

No News is Good News

A periodic reassessment of invasive species in the marine environment in New England has revealed…nothing new. That’s good given the list of potentially disastrous introductions that could occur (think Caulerpa taxifolia, mitten crab, or rapa whelk). RINHS was involved in the previous assessment, in 2001, and has been following the current assessment from a distance through its partners, NBEP and RI Aquatic Invasive Species Working Group. Species lists from both assessments will be included in RINHS’s BORIIS database. Get the full story here:

link to story on seacoastonline.com

Invasives &News dgregg on 06 Jul 2010

Asian Longhorned Beetle Found in Boston

We received this urgent message at the office this morning. For more information on ALB follow the links below or see the other RINHS articles at:

Anyone who’s been to Worcester in the last 12 months knows this is potentially very big news, news that will likely come with a multi-million dollar price tag and change the face of Boston for a century. We will post more information at it is available.


—–Original Message—–
From: Massachusetts Introduced Pests Outreach Project [mailto:pestalert@massnrc.org]
Sent: Tuesday, July 06, 2010 11:51 AM
To: Ellis, Donna
Subject: Asian longhorned beetle found in Boston

This weekend a small infestation of Asian longhorned beetle was found in Jamaica Plain (Boston). The site is at Faulkner Hospital, just across from the Arnold Arboretum. Six infested maple trees were found so far, in close proximity to each other, and have already been removed by USDA/DCR. Surveys will continue this week to determine the extent of the infestation.

It is extremely important that we get the word out ASAP to everyone in the Boston, Brookline and Newton area to be on the lookout for:

1) Adult Asian longhorned beetles (shiny black beetles with white spots and long, banded antennae)

2) ALB exit holes (dime-sized, perfectly round holes, especially in maple, but also in birch, elm, horse chestnut, willow and other hardwood trees.but not oak)

3) ALB egg-laying sites (divots in the bark ranging in size from 1/4 to 3/4 inches across – fresh pits often have oozing, foaming sap)

Anyone seeing anything suspicious should report it immediately at http://massnrc.org/pests/albreport.aspx or call toll-free: 1-866-702-9938. Take photos if you can.

If you are with an environmental group or other organization that needs outreach materials, the Mass. Dept. of Agricultural Resources will provide you with ID cards, fact sheets, etc., for free. MDAR can also provide public speakers for ALB training sessions. Contact jennifer.forman-orth@state.ma.us or call 617-626-1735 for more info.

Spread the word, not the beetle! Get all the latest ALB news at: http://massnrc.org/pests/alb

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