Free biodiversity lectures return to UCCC and SUNY-New Paltz this February

(Photo by John Hayes)

(Photo by John Hayes)

It’s that time of year that makes even outdoorsy types turn indoorsy. It’s too cold to hike comfortably, but not snowy enough to enjoy those vigorous winter sports that keep you warm, like Nordic skiing, snowshoeing and sledding. That’s probably why the Shawangunk Ridge Biodiversity Partnership (SRBP) picks February as the time to present its annual free four-lecture series to help keep us all from getting too wrapped up in our overcivilized cocoons.

The lecture series is an important component of the environmental education piece of the SRBP’s mandate. The partnership’s member organizations include New York State’s Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, the Nature Conservancy, the Mohonk Preserve, the Open Space Institute, the New York Natural Heritage Program, the New York State Museum, the Palisades Interstate Park Commission, the Cragsmoor Association, the Friends of the Shawangunks, the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the New York/New Jersey Trail Conference. The weekly lectures, also co-sponsored by SUNY-Ulster and the SUNY-New Paltz biology department, and take place on the two campuses on Wednesday and Thursday evenings from 7 to 8:30 p.m.

With “Secrets of the Shawangunks” as this year’s theme, the series kicks off on Wednesday, February 3 in the College Lounge, Room 203 of Vanderlyn Hall on the SUNY-Ulster campus at 491 Cottekill Road in Stone Ridge. The first lecture, “Hudson River Painters: Then and Now,” will be presented by Chris Bowser, an education specialist with DEC’s Hudson River Estuary Program, the National Estuarine Research Reserve and the Cornell Water Resource Institute. Described as “one part art history, and several parts of your own interpretation of both old and new works,” the talk will discuss famous nineteenth-century artists from our region who were also among America’s first environmental advocates, as well as contemporary artists who work in a similar tradition.

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Subsequent lectures will take place on Thursday evenings at 7 p.m. in Lecture Center 102 on the SUNY-New Paltz campus. On Thursday, February 11, DEC biologist Mike Schiavone will discuss a great modern conservation success story in “Wild Turkeys in New York: Past, Present & Future.” Once extirpated from the state, wild turkeys have been restored to the landscape, though their numbers have declined over the past decade. Come learn what DEC biologists are doing to track this popular game bird, including insights from research and how it influences management.

A more alarming topic, “The Southern Pine Beetle,” will be the subject of DEC forester Rob Cole’s lecture on Thursday, February 18. A major forest pest in the South, the southern pine beetle (SPB) was first found infesting trees in New York in 2014, and has since been detected in the Hudson Valley at two state parks, Bear Mountain and Minnewaska. The DEC and its partners are currently surveying for infested trees in our region. The presentation will cover the arrival and expansion of this harmful invasive species in New York, the strategies that DEC is employing to locate and manage populations, and the research projects currently taking place.

A talk on some fascinating examples of adaptive evolution “Plant and Animal Mimicry” will close out the lecture series on Thursday, February 25, featuring Dr. Elizabeth Long, the Mohonk Preserve’s director of conservation science. Plants and animals are under constant pressure to avoid becoming a meal for someone else. One survival strategy that has evolved many times over for both plants and animals is to mimic something or someone else – either through color, shape, sound or smell – misleading predators about who (or what) they are.

All four lectures are open to the public and free of charge. Cancellations due to winter weather will be announced on many area radio stations. No parking permit is required at SUNY-New Paltz if you park after 6:30 p.m. For additional information, call 255-0919 or visit www.mohonkpreserve.org/events.

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