Thursday, September 13, 2018

Climbing trees to protect the environment

Karla Salp
WSDA Communications

Tiffany Pahs takes a selfie up in the tree canopy
Last month a team of nine WSDA biologists learned how to do something most hadn’t done since childhood – climb trees.

The tree climbing training was held at USDA’s Asian Longhorned Beetle (ALB) eradication facility in Ohio. The five-day course was the start of an effort to build the skills of agency staff and prepare them to respond rapidly to new invasive pest detections.

The week included learning various ways to climb and move about the canopy of trees, learning the characteristics of different species of trees and which are appropriate for climbing, and of course, safety. Each person received one-on-one training with an instructor. One instructor said the course was like trying to cram one year of tree climbing knowledge into a week.

Susan Brush high up in the trees
“It was fun, but exhausting,” Tiffany Pahs, gypsy moth survey coordinator for WSDA’s pest program, said.

In addition to the mechanics of climbing trees, the team also had classroom time when they learned how to identify ALB and the damage they cause to trees.
Gear used to help climb trees

“When it comes to inspecting damage high up in the canopy of a tree, there are really only two options – climb up to inspect the damage or cut the tree down. With this training, we can inspect trees while keeping them standing,” Pahs said.
Merely by being present at the training location brought home the reality of the massive damage that invasive pests can do to the team. When training, they would hear trees crash to the ground – dead and falling ash trees destroyed by Emerald Ash Borer infestations.

The week-long training was the start of a certification process for both climbing trees and inspecting them for insect damage. The team plans to continue their training and become fully certified in the upcoming months.

When it comes to invasive species, early detection and rapid response are critical to contain and eradicate tree pests. These new skills will enable WSDA to respond rapidly to an invasive pest detection in our trees, potentially preventing the establishment of pests that could otherwise destroy the Evergreen State.

WSDA pest program biologists and their tree climbing instructors
To learn more about this USDA program, check out this blog.