Friday, October 31, 2014

Feature: Great Strides With MEGA-Transect Chestnut Project In PA

In 2014, Mike and Kieu Manes played a tremendous role in moving the Appalachian Trail  MEGA-Transect Chestnut Project forward in Pennsylvania. This project trains volunteer hikers to recognize and count surviving American chestnut trees, as they hike along the Appalachian Trail.
In October 2014, Kieu and Mike completed counting all the chestnuts along the Appalachian Trail in PA, between Route 61 (Port Clinton) and the Delaware River, a distance of more than 75 miles. They found a total of 4,631 chestnut trees three feet or more in height within 15 feet of the Appalachian Trail.
The Appalachian Trail MEGA-Transect Chestnut Project is a long-term plan to provide information about trends in chestnut survival including characteristics of locations that support chestnut survival. The ultimate goal of the project is to inform eventual restoration of the American chestnut to its pre-blight role in the Appalachian forest.
Mike and Kieu received their training for the project from TACF Regional Science Coordinator Sara Fitzsimmons in 2011 at Hawk Mountain. As active trail maintenance volunteers they brought a wealth of skills and knowledge of the trail to the task of collecting American chestnut data, and their first data collection report revealed their dedication and creativity via careful documentation, beautiful and informative photos.
Subsequent years have found the Manes organizing and leading trainings to engage new volunteers in counting American chestnut along the trail. John Stempa, another experienced trail maintainer, was one of the Manes’ trainees this year. In discussing his training, John stated, “[I] never knew what an American chestnut even looked like, until Mike and Kieu introduced me to the American Chestnuts along the AT. Since then, it’s been a lot of fun for me to help educate others. My son has learned how to identify the American chestnut and has taught others since then.  In fact, our dogs know more about the American chestnut than most of my neighbors.”
Heather Housekeeper, another 2014 recruit, offered similar praise for the work Mike and Kieu do for TACF. She states, “It was such a pleasure to join Mike and Kieu in their surveying of the American chestnut. I am an AT thru-hiker (08') as well as an herbalist and author who is regularly educating the public on our local plants. Now that I have a better knowledge of the American chestnut, I plan to incorporate it into my plant walks whenever possible! And I'd like to echo John Stempa in remarking on my ignorance of the American chestnut the whole while I was hiking the I can educate other hikers I come across in my travels. Much thanks to Mike and Kieu and the American Chestnut Foundation!”
Mike and Kieu Manes have been avid members of The American Chestnut Foundation since 2011.
For more information, visit the PA Chapter-The American Chestnut Foundation website.

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