Take Your Love of Nature One Step Further

June 10, 2021
Brent Boscarino, Invasive Species Citizen Science Program Coordinator
New York-New Jersey Trail Conference


Take Your Love of Nature One Step Further
Hiker Boots on the Catskill's Wittenberg Cornell Slide Trail. Photo by Heather Darley.


Ask any outdoors person, and they will probably tell you of a place they visited as a child that inspired their love of nature.

We recall running through meadows of wildflowers, climbing into towering tree canopies, or admiring a breathtaking view on a mountain peak. But for so many of us, the story becomes a lament about how these natural spaces are no longer what they once were. Too often, they are now degraded or overrun by invasive vegetation.

One of the fond memories I had as a child, and now as a father, is packing GORP, a sandwich, and some water and enjoying a picnic with my family after a good hike. Unfortunately, many picnic areas and natural spaces in Pennsylvania and New Jersey are being spoiled by the invasive insect pest, spotted lanternfly (SLF). The sticky residue that SLF swarms leave behind is driving families away from these areas and ruining these special moments in nature. As a community, we all need to band together to keep these pests out of our region’s natural areas to avoid a similar fate. Early detection is key! You can take action by volunteering to help spot these early invaders before they can become established through our Invasives Strike Force Survey Program. Our ISF survey program will also continue to focus on invasive plants this year, but starting in 2021, we will also have a program to detect SLF.

Not only is this early detection work essential to preserving ecological integrity, but it’s also fun and rewarding! So many of our volunteers have shared that learning how to identify and appreciate the details of the plants and animals they are seeing along the trails has completely transformed the outdoor experience for them. It truly brings the respect and gratitude for our natural areas to a whole new level.

Perhaps some of your favorite nature moments involved swimming in a pristine lake on a hot summer day. Now that lake, which was once so clear you could see straight to the bottom, is entirely covered in floating mats of water chestnut. The Aquatic Invasives Strike Force (AISF) spends their summer working to bring back a small part of what so many of us have lost: refreshing places to go for a dip, increased accessibility in lakes and rivers, and healthier habitats for our native fish and wildlife. You too can join the AISF Crew on a water chestnut removal day in July, leaving these treasured habitats in much better shape than you found them.

If you prefer to stay on land, but still want to get your hands dirty, the Invasives Strike Force Crew will also be running a series of volunteer work days on weekends from May through October, removing invasive plants in parks throughout northern New Jersey and the Lower Hudson Valley. Our Habitat Helpers volunteer crew takes caring for our environment one step further by growing, planting, and maintaining native habitats. 

Check out the volunteer opportunities for the coming month!

Invasives Strike Force Surveyor Workshops

If you have not yet attended our training workshops or have only attended one of them, it is not too late to join our survey team! All you need to do is access our on-demand, taped webinars we've linked to below (in order) and then fill out a survey assignment request questionnaire to let us know you are ready for an assignment! 

  1. Invasives Strike Force Program Orientation Video  (required, ~ 0.5 hrs)
  2. ISF Standard Survey Training Workshop Webinar - Part 1 (Introduction and Species ID) (required, ~2 hrs)
  3. ISF Standard Survey Training Workshop - Part 2 (Data Collection and Protocols) (required, ~1.5 hrs)

We can't wait to have you on board and for the survey season to begin! Questions? Email us at [email protected].

Invasive Plant Removal Days

Habitat Helper Native Landscaping Days

Spend just one day volunteering with us, and you can see what a difference a pair of hands and a positive attitude can make in restoring balance in our vital natural habitats. Interested in any of the above opportunities? Please contact us at [email protected] to learn more.