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May 21
50 Hellbenders Successfully Moved to Three Indiana Zoos
Hellbender WLFI Video

The next big step in the initiative to save the hellbenders of Indiana was completed this week, as three hellbenders were transfered from Purdue University's Aquaculture Research Lab to the Columbian Park Zoo in Lafayette. This is the last of fifty hellbenders transfered from the lab to Columbian Park Zoo, Fort Wayne Children's Zoo, and Mesker Park Zoo in Evansville.

In 2013, Associate Professor of Wildlife Science Rod Williams and his team collected 300 eggs from the Blue River in Southern Indiana. These eggs grew into young hellbenders in the lab, and were transfered to the three zoos to continue growing to adulthood. In the wild, hellbender mortality rate is extremely high; as high as 99%. The salamanders are at their most vulnerable state during their juvenile years, and being raised in captivity will greatly improve their chances of survival when they are released back into the wild in a couple years. 

Once released, the hellbenders will be tracked via radio transmitters to monitor their movements, habitat preferences, and survivorship. The last group of 18 hellbenders released into the wild had a 22.5% survival rate after one year, and Williams hopes to improve on that. A group of 80 more hellbenders will be released in 2016, with 130 in the following year. Williams' goal of 40-50% survival rate would mark huge progress in saving the hellbenders of Indiana.

Saving a Species - Purdue Agricultures Magazine
Hellbenders arrive at the Columbian Park Zoo - WLFI
Help the Hellbender - Purdue Extension 
Hellbender Ecology and Genetics - Indiana Department of Natural Resources

Rod Williams, Associate Professor of Wildlife Science
Purdue University Department of Forestry and Natural Resources

May 19
What happened to that tree? Emerald Ash Borer

​If you're walking in the woods or maybe even traveling along a road this spring in Indiana, you may come across some trees that look like the one in the photos. Clearly, something unusual is going on here. What made the bark change color so quickly, and why are there holes in the bark? The answer to both of those questions for ash trees around the state is Emerald Ash Borer and woodpeckers. As Emerald Ash Borer spreads across Indiana, the population of Emerald Ash Borer larvae overwintering under the bark of ash trees can quickly increase. These grubs provide a tasty treat and important winter and early spring nutrition to hungry woodpeckers. Woodpeckers of several species are expert at detecting and extracting these grubs by pounding holes in tree bark. Ash bark is generally gray on the surface, but the inner bark is a light corky tan color. Once the woodpeckers find the EAB larvae, their excavation activities flake off the outer bark to expose the lighter colored inner bark. This is actually one of the best indicators of the presence Emerald Ash Borer in a tree. The woodpecker activity often starts in the upper main stem and branches of ash trees, but as the population of EAB larvae in the trees increase, the woodpecker activity spreads down the trunk of the tree. Trees with this much inner bark exposed indicate an advanced infestation of EAB and signal ash tree mortality in the next year or two.

If you would like to learn more about ash trees and the Emerald Ash Borer, visit the Purdue Emerald Ash Borer web site.

Emerald Ash Borer and woodpecker damage to ash tree. Emerald Ash Borer and woodpecker damage to ash tree, closer look.

Arrest That Pest! - Emerald Ash Borer in Indiana, The Education Store
Invasive Insects, Got Nature?
Emerald Ash Borer, Indiana Department of Natural Resources (IDNR)
Emerald Ash Borer in Indiana​, Purdue Extension

Lenny Farlee, Hardwood Ecosystem Extension Specialist
Department of Forestry & Natural Resources, Purdue University

May 18
Gypsy Moth Treatment Plan to begin in Indiana of 2015
Gypsy Moth

​The Indiana Department of Natural Resources (INDNR) has announced a new treatment plan for the gypsy moth in certain Indiana counties in 2015. The gypsy moth is categorized as an invasive species and is spreading throughout the region. This treatment plan will slow the spreading of the moths. The moths feed on the foliage of trees and plants sometimes causing death in trees due to the loss of leaves. The treatment started May 11, 2015 with a crop duster spraying areas of trees with bacteria that will kill gypsy moths by drastically altering their digestive systems. The bacteria is not harmful to humans or animals, but people in the area near where the bacteria will be sprayed by the planes should take precaution and stay inside while they spray. To learn more about which counties will receive this treatment visit the INDNR site​

Q&A's About Using BtK to Control Gypsy Moth - The Education Store
Gypsy moth treatments by DNR, not harmful to humans - ABC 57 News
Treatment for invasive moth species to begin around May 11 - Fox28
2015 Indiana Gypsy Moth Treatment Program - INDNR
Gypsy Moth - INDNR

Indiana Department of Natural Resources​

May 18
Watch out for forest hitchhikers, ticks!

When you rush to the closet to grab your favorite shorts and t-shirt, remember that you are not the only creature looking forward to the warmer weather. It is important to check yourself or have a buddy check you for passengers when you get back from the field to lessen the likelihood of bringing ticks home with you.

Indiana has 15 tick species but the three listed below are the most prevalent.

American Dog Tick

American Dog Tick (Dermacentor variabilis): Found primarily along trails, walkways, or in fields. American Dog ticks are rarely found in forests. Despite their name, these ticks feed on a multitude of hosts in addition to the family pet and can transmit Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, a potentially fatal disease contracted by 32 people in Indiana last year. The American Dog Tick also carries Tularemia, a rare but dangerous disease that is often misdiagnosed for the flu.

American Dog ticks can survive for 2 years at any stage in life until a suitable host is found. Male ticks mate with the female while she is feeding as after she is sated, she drops off of the host and lays 4,000+ eggs before dying. Larval ticks only feed for 3-4 days from a host before molting into nymphs. The nymph feeds on a variety of small/medium-sized hosts before dropping to the leaf litter and molting into adults. Interestingly, these ticks are least likely to bite humans.

Lone Star Tick

Lone Star Tick (Amblyomma americanum): Found primarily in dense underbrush and forested areas. As with the American Dog Tick, these ticks are capable of transmitting Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever in addition to Monocytic Ehrlichiosis, another tickborne disease that presents with symptoms similar to the flu but was confirmed in 49 Indiana cases in 2013. ‘Stari’ (Southern Tick-Associated Rash Illness) Borreliosis is a tick-vectored disease that presents with a large round or elliptical rash and flu symptoms transmitted by the Lone Star Tick.

Voracious eaters, adult Lone Star ticks often take human hosts or other large mammals. After a week, the female is capable of laying 3,000+ eggs. The larval Lone Star ticks only feed for 4 days before detaching, burying themselves in leaf litter, and molting into nymphs. Able to quickly ascend up pant legs, these nymphs can be firmly attached to a host in < 10 minutes. After 5 days, the nymphs detach and molt into adults.

Deer Tick

Black-legged or Deer Tick (Ixodes scapularis): Found primarily in deciduous forests, these ticks predominantly use white-tailed deer or other large mammals as hosts. Unlike the relatively accelerated life cycles of the American Dog and Lone Star ticks, the Deer Tick life cycle takes nearly 2 years to complete.

Deer ticks are most notorious for spreading Lyme disease, a dangerous disease that causes flu-like symptoms that if left untreated can spread to joints and compromise the nervous system. More than 100 cases of Lyme disease were confirmed in Indiana in 2013. Babesiosis is caused by microscopic parasites that infect red blood cells and Anaplasmosis is caused by the bacterium Anaplasma phagocytophilum. Both of these diseases are transmitted by through the bite of an infected Deer Tick.

Only the female Deer Tick feeds and once completely engorged, lays an egg mass of 1,900+ eggs before dying in late-May. Deer Tick larvae and nymphs remain in the moist leaf litter within forested areas and prefer smaller hosts. After feeding for 3 days in each developmental stage, they burrow into the litter to molt. Primary Months of Activity for Indiana's Three Major Tick SpeciesLarvae emerge as nymphs in spring and nymphs emerge as adults in fall.

The table here illustrates the months of activity for the larval, nymph, male, and female tick life cycle stages which gives you a quick reference for Indiana. This information was gathered from the resources listed in this post.

Indiana ticks can carry several diseases but the three most common are: Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Lyme Disease, and Ehrlichiosis. Symptoms of all three diseases range from spreading rashes, headaches, fatigue, fevers, to muscle aches. Likelihood of infection is rare however instances of each disease are increasing in Indiana.

Be careful and try not to pick up eight-legged hitchhikers. If you suspect that you have been bitten by a tick or develop a rash along with flu symptoms, contact your local health department for a disease screening.

Ticks-Yuck!, Indiana Department of Natural Resources
Ticks, Medical Entomology, Purdue Univeristy 
Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 
Tularemia, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Lyme Disease, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Ehrlichiosis, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Parasites - Babesiosis, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Anaplasmosis, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 
‘Stari’ Borreliosis, Columbia University medical Center
Ticks sicken hundreds in past five years, IndyStar 

Shaneka Lawson​, Adjunct Assistant Professor
Department of Forestry and Natural Resources

May 15
New Publication! Enhancing the Value of Public Spaces
Enhancing Public Spaces, FNR-497 publication

A twenty plus extension team led by ​Kara Salazar, sustainable communities extension specialist, and Michael Wilcox, assistant program leader and senior associate, have produced a new publication and curriculum titled "Enhancing the Value of Public Spaces." This must-have spiral bound notebook and curriculum zip file download is a great resource for decision makers and local leaders developing community public spaces including park boards, planning commission members, members of organizations, public officials and staff whose missions are related to providing services, programs, or management of public spaces. This program serves as a "how-to" guide for creating high-quality action plans to achieve great public spaces. 

A one day workshop starts the process with collaborative activities to identify best practices for improving public spaces with emphasis on forming partnerships to achieve desired community goals. Follow-on working group meetings provide the resources and technical support needed to plan and implement projects tailored to individual communities. The completed high quality public spaces action plan can be used as part of comprehensive planning efforts, parks and recreation master plans, and fundraising initiatives. 

This publication and curriculum is available as a $25 digital download, or a $50 digital download with print-on-demand options.

Enhancing the Value of Public Spaces - The Education Store
Sustainable Communities - Purdue Extension

Kara Salazar, Sustainable Communities Extension Specialist
Department of Forestry and Natural Resources

Michael Wilcox​, Assistant Program Leader and Senior Associate
Purdue Center for Regional Development
Department of Agricultural Economics

May 13
U.S. Forest Service Northern Research Station Calculates Human Health Benefits of Forestry

​In the first study of its kind, scientists David Nowak and Eric Greenfield of the U.S. Forest Service Northern Research Station have calculated just how beneficial trees are to human health. As well as providing oxygen, shade, and beautification, trees help to remove air pollution by catching harmful airborne particles on the leaves and branches, and by absorbing gases like nitrogren dioxide (NO2), ozone (O3), and sulfure dioxide (SO2). Nowak and Greenfield concluded that trees save over 850 human lives a year and prevent over 670,000 cases of acute respiratory symptoms from diseases like ashthma, bronchitis, emphysema, and chronic pulmonary obstructive disease (COPD).

While trees in suburban areas remove a higher amount of pollution due to their large quantity, urban trees have a greater direct effect on human health and monetary savings due to their closer proximity to people. Altogether, trees improved air quality in the continetal U.S. by less than 1% in 2010 according to computer simulations iTree and BenMAP. This might not sound like much, but this means that trees removed 17.4 million tonnes of air pollution and saved the country over 6.8 billion dollars in medical expenses. This really goes to show how much of a difference trees can add to the quality of our lives, especially in urban areas.

Tree and forest effects on air quality and human health in the United States - U.S. Forest Service Northern Research Station
Urban Trees Help Us Breathe - National Association of State Foresters
Trees Pay Us Back In the Midwest Region - U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)
iTree - U.S. Forest Service
BenMAP - United Staes Environmental Protection Agency

U.S. Forest Service Northern Research Station​

May 11
The Benefits of Seafood Consumption
River Scene

A couple of years ago, I had an article on Got Nature about the benefits of eating recreationally caught fish from waters in the state of Indiana. I’d like to expand on that and talk about the consumption of seafood in general as there seems to be a lot of confusion as to what seafood is healthy or harmful. This is particularly important as the USDA has advised that we should be consuming approximately 2 meals per week (8 ounces) of seafood as part of a healthy diet. One of the best sources of information on seafood consumption is the University of Idaho's Seafood at Its Best web site.

Given the brief nature of this blog and the complexity of the subject of seafood consumption, I will try and give some general advice and examples as to what to look for when choosing seafood as part of a healthy diet. The first generalization is that all seafood is good with the exception of a very few species and sources. Seafood is nutrient dense, being low in fat and carbohydrates but high in protein, vitamins and minerals. There are a few species which are known to contain high levels of mercury (tilefish, sharks, swordfish and king mackerel). Likewise, recreationally caught fish from certain regions listed in advisories should not be considered healthy. When you consider the diversity of seafood this is a very same minority.

There are varying degrees of benefits associated with different types of seafood. Perhaps the most publicized is the heart healthy benefit of eating fish high in Omega 3 fatty acids such as salmon, mackerel and anchovies. Although other fish may not contain as many Omega 3’s, they are still going to be nutrient dense and part of a healthy diet. One of the most popular and most misunderstood is tilapia.

Tilapia is a generic term of several species of fish originally from the Rift Valley of Africa which are now cultured all over the world including here in Indiana. They are a warm water fish, intolerant of temperatures less than about 55⁰F. They are an omnivorous fish eating mostly plant life and invertebrate animals in nature but readily take pelleted feeds when cultured. Here in the US, tilapia is grown almost exclusively for the live-fish ethnic market in metropolitan areas while processed tilapia is imported from farms in tropical areas all over the globe and readily available in the freezer case.

Tilapia has as much omega-3 as other popular seafood, including lobster, mahi-mahi and yellowfin tuna. Tilapia is also very low in fat. A 4-ounce serving of tilapia has about 1 gram of saturated fat, 29 grams of protein and around 200 mg of omega-3. There are several things you can look for when purchasing tilapia that help ensure you are getting a healthy product. Tilapia are cultured and not captured so if reared properly there should be no contaminants in the flesh. Since the majority is grown outside the borders of the US, only a small percentage (2-3%) is inspected by the US-FDA upon entering the country. While the FDA feels this is sufficient to ensure food safety, many consumers and retailers would like additional oversight to ensure quality and reduce liability. Hence a number of third party certification agencies have stepped into this market. Basically, these agencies use criteria which producers, processors and importers must follow in order to be certified and be labeled such in the marketplace. There are more programs than can be mentioned here but some of the most notable are



Fish that have not been certified may not be reared using the best practices and may or may not have been inspected by the FDA.

Fish that are cultured here is the US are inspected at both ends of the process. Feed mills which produce the main input to fish production are inspected by the US-FDA. FDA also oversees the HAACP program for processing fish with the exception of the USDA program for catfish.

So in summary, fish is a great component of a low-fat healthy diet. What type of fish and how it was grown or caught can be intimidating, but the bottom line is the benefits out way the risks. If you are still concerned, ask questions about the country of origin, third party certification, inspection process or even get to know your local producer. But the main thing is to eat more fish as part of a healthy lifestyle.

Fishing Guide and Regulations, Indiana Department of Forestry and Natural Resources
Tilapia, The Education Store
Fish4Health (iOS app), The Education Store
Aquatic Science​, The Education Store
The Truth about Tilapia, Fox News
Recreational fishing and fish consumption​, Got Nature?

Bob Rode, Aquaculture Research Lab Manager
Department of Forestry and Natural Resources, Purdue University

May 06
There's a disease - should I sell my trees?
Trees in forest, Thousand Cankers Disease is no reason to harvest your trees.

​Tree disease and insect outbreaks are a lot like fires and floods - they make the news headlines and can lead to some anxiety on the part of landowners. They may also bring out those who are using the crisis to take advantage of that anxiety to make some fast money. I was recently contacted by a landowner who had been advised by a person wanting to buy some timber from him that he should sell some walnut trees "before they are all killed by Thousand Cankers Disease". There certainly are times when we should consider harvesting trees before they are destroyed by a pest as part of a timber management program (Emerald Ash Borer for instance), but the evidence we have related to Thousand Cankers Disease (TCD) would suggest that selling your trees immediately to avoid mortality and loss is not necessary. Thousand Cankers Disease has two components: a small twig beetle that carries a canker-forming fungus into the inner bark of walnuts. Black walnut trees in several states have been killed by this disease complex, but so far, although the fungus was found on some weevils in Brown County and the beetle was recently detected at a sawmill in Franklin County, no walnut trees in Indiana have been confirmed as killed by TCD. For additional information on TCD you can visit the following web sites: Thousand Cankers Disease and Indiana Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) TCD.

There is currently no strong evidence suggesting a need to rush to harvest walnut for fear of a massive die-off caused by TCD. In fact, some trees infected with TCD in Tennessee have shown some recovery from disease symptoms that has coincided with improved growing conditions at those sites. This would suggest doing management that keeps walnut healthy and vigorous like thinning, vine control, and elimination of invasive plant species may help your trees resist damage from TCD and other diseases or enviromental extremes. This story also demonstrates the importance of getting professional, science-based advice with your forest management decisions. Consult a professional forester when making decisions about the sale of trees. You can find foresters in your area at Indiana Forestry & Woodland Owners Association (IFWOA)-Directory of Professional Foresters. You can learn more about considerations when selling timber at Call Before You Cut and the extension publications Tips on How to Get the Most From Your Timber Harvest and Marketing Timber.

Landowners, timber buyers, and foresters form an important team to manage and utilize the amazing renewable resource that is our hardwood forest in Indiana. There are many reputable firms across the state that purchase timber, providing a great marketplace and economic value to landowners. Your professional forester can help you choose the right buyers, loggers, and market outlets to provide a fair price for the products and good work in the woods. Get their help and do your homework before making that decision.

Thousand Cankers Disease
Indiana Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) TCD
Directory of Professional Foresters - Indiana Forestry & Woodland Owners Association (IFWOA)
Tips on How to Get the Most From Your Timber Harvest - The Education Store, Purdue Agriculture Resource Center
Marketing Timber - The Education Store, Purdue Agriculture Resource Center

Lenny Farlee, Hardwood Ecosystem Extension Specialist
Department of Forestry & Natural Resources, Purdue University


May 05
Indiana DNR Using Grant Money to Fund 36 Invasive Aquatic Vegetation Projects

​Indiana DNR (INDNR) has been awarded nearly $500,000 in grants for its Lake and River Enhancement program. This huge initiative to fight against invasive aquatic vegetation is spread among 36 projects covering 13 counties and 55 lakes. The largest of these projects is the Tippecanoe Lake Chain project, an effort including Tippecanoe, James, and Oswego lakes in Kosciusko County and totalling $31,500 of work. Specifically targeted with INDNR's newly aquired grant are Eurasian watermilfoil, curly-leaf pondweed, and starry stonewort, all non-native species that can be problematic as they take over lakes. The program aims to improve the aquatic habitat as well as recreational activities like fishing and boating. To learn more about this program, please visit the INDNR site.

Lake & River Enhancement Program - Indiana Department of Natural Resources
​Indiana DNR to use grant money in fight against invasive aquatic vegetation in state's lakes - FOX28
Aquatic Plant Management - The Education Store
Aquaculture and Aquatic Resources - Purdue FNR Extension, place aquatics in search field​
Aquaponics Video​ - Purdue FNR Extension

Indiana Department of Natural Resources

May 05
Topping - the Unkindest Cut of All for Trees
Tree topping damage, Unkindest cut to trees

If a bad haircut was fatal, you would be very choosy about your hairstyle. However, each year hundreds of homeowners have their trees pruned by topping; a horticultural “bad haircut” that shortens the life of the tree and leads to greater expense later.

Tree care professionals and university experts’ cautions tree owners that topping a tree is the kiss of death in many instances. This damaging pruning practice can shorten the life span of trees significantly and the damage is long-term where in some instances the beheaded tree will die within a few years, if not less.

Many people don’t realize topping is a poor practice because trees can be remarkably effective in overcoming the damage in the short term - some can take years to die, a few can even withstand multiple toppings. So the real damage is not easily noticed by the tree owners until they can no longer survive such a drastic removal of canopy.

People see trees leaf out year after year and give little thought to the actual effect of the topping. The most immediate effect is a reduced leaf mass, or crown. This smaller number of leaves reduces the amount of energy the tree manufactures to sustain itself. Less energy causes the roots to die back as well. This creates a tree that is less able to supports itself and withstand heavy winds.

The haircut analogy breaks down when you look at what happens after the tree topping occurs. Whereas hair just continues to grow out from the same follicle, branches do not continue to grow out from the same growing point. Tree limbs sprout from previously dormant buds just below the internodal pruning cut. This causes an unhealthy flush of growth near the end of the poorly pruned branch that is typically thin and weakly attached to the tree's main growth stems.

These weak limbs are easily ripped from the tree in storms causing damage and creating a liability for property owners. It has been long known that tree topping is harmful to trees yet the practice of tree topping continues. Reputable arborists will work with a tree’s natural growth habit when pruning and understands the importance of pruning and tree health. Proper pruning can extend the life of a tree and reduce ongoing homeowner expense, however, once a tree is topped, it will require much more frequent pruning to prevent branch failure; costing the owner more money.

The best advice is to hire reputable tree care companies which have recognized qualifications and insurance. Ask the company for credentials from professional organizations such as the International Society of Arboriculture and the Tree Care Industry Association to prove their knowledge and abilities. Also, ask for references of where they have pruned trees at other properties to see what their work looks like after the project. A homeowner wouldn’t hire a plumber or carpenter without references, why shouldn’t an important asset to your property like trees not receive the same consideration?

Trees are a valuable resource and asset to your property that helps make our environment cleaner, healthier, and more beautiful place to live. Those trees deserve better than a life-shortening, bad haircut.

What's Wrong with Topping Trees? - The Education Store
Trees and Storms - The Education Store
First Aid for Trees - Indiana Department of Forestry and Natural Resources
Prune Your Trees​ - Indiana Departmento of Forestry and Natural Resources

Lindsey Purcell, Urban Forestry Specialist
Department of Forestry and Natural Resources, Purdue University

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