The first EMMA project is a deer population and management study. Among the participating organizations, there are varying levels of deer management ranging from none at all to carefully monitoring and control populations. Huyck Preserve does not currently manage our white tailed deer populations, but their growing numbers across New York State may require us to consider population management tools in the future.
There are 4 deer exclosures set up around the Preserve as part of the study - each exclosure is accompanied by a control plot which is measured and marked out but not fenced. You may see a few of the study sites from trails, and there is signage that explains the work - please do not interfere with these plots.
Plots are 10 meters square, and we have identified and are monitoring all of the trees and saplings within the plots. Several plots have additional equipment as part of EMMA monitoring water availability, decomposition, and more. Saplings are planned to be measured yearly, while trees are measured every 5 years, with the study planned to continue for at least 10 years. The plants are monitored for growth (height and diameter), health (canopy coverage and any visual signs of stress), and for signs of deer browse. White tailed deers browse heavily on seedlings and saplings, especially as winter ends and spring begins and food becomes scarce, and can have negative impacts on forest regeneration by damaging and even killing the young trees. The loss of these young trees means when a mature tree falls, there are no saplings that can fill in the gap. By comparing the data from the exclosures at Huyck Preserve with those at other EMMA sites, we hope to monitor and assess the white tailed deer populations and their impacts on forests in the Hudson Valley.
We are piloting a phenology trail along the lower falls trail in partnership with the EMMA program. In our spring 2014 newsletter we talked about phenology – the study of the timing of biological events – and why it’s important.
The phenology trail is now set up – if you walk the lower falls loop from the back of the Visitors center parking lot, over the lower falls bridge, then back along Ten-Mile Creek to the road, you may see trees with metal tags or spots on the ground flagged with small red flags – these are our phenology trail specimens! While a few individuals may be added or removed for next year, we are currently monitoring several individuals of various tree s (Red oak, red maple, striped maple, eastern hemlock, American beech, and white ash) and herbaceous species (jewelweed, jack in the pulpit, and Virginia strawberry). Data is being entered in Nature’s Notebook, a cross-country citizen science phenology effort.
If you regularly walk this trail take a little time to peer up at the trees – do they have leaves? How many? Are they colored? Any flowers or flower buds? – and you’ll find yourself getting practice at observing nature. Slowing down and looking closer will often reveal other small creatures – such as caterpillars – you might have otherwise overlooked!
Next year we will have a training and informational session for interested volunteers who’d like to participate in this citizen science study at the Preserve, which is a great excuse to get outside and learn about the plants around you! Volunteers will be trained in identifying the trees and flowers on the trail, along with the phenophases –what flower buds, flower, and seed pods look like and how to tell what they’re doing. If you’re interested in becoming a volunteer for the phenology trail and would like to be notified of when training is in the spring, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org