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AP Environmental Students, Citizen Scientists

May 04, 2023
By Office of Communications

Mrs. Rhile’s AP Environmental Science students took their AP exam on Tuesday, but in March, they collected data on the invasive hemlock wooly adelgid as a part of an ecosystem investigation network project with the Gulf of Maine Research Institute (GMRI). Hemlock wooly adelgid (HWA) is a small insect that drains sap from hemlock branches until the tree dies. Until recently, cold winters have limited the spread of HWA. Scientists suspect this pest could spread throughout our region as winters become more mild. 

APES students are part of a citizen science initiative to monitor the presence of HWA. Over 200 branches were surveyed in Evergreen cemetery by students. Good news: not many had HWA present! Then students examined hemlock on our Ocean Avenue campus. Bad news: multiple hemlocks on campus had infestations. These findings will be shared with the Gulf of Maine Research Institute and their partner Maine Department of Agriculture, Forestry & Conversation. These ecosystem investigation network projects connect and support a community of people and organizations who are working to understand how climate change is impacting the species, habitats, and communities in our region. 

Mrs. Rhile said these types of citizen science initiatives are valuable for APES students, because, “we discussed the fact that sheer number of individuals being trained  and going out in the field enables the scientists involved to get large datasets. We get experience doing real fieldwork.” This work applied what students learned about ecological succession (hemlocks as climax species), pests, invasive species, and foundation species in a real world context.