At Fire Island National Seashore, the Resources Management Division have many responsibilities to monitor and collect data about on the island. Two important issues currently on Fire Island are the Southern Pine Beetle and the General Deer Management Plan. From first hand experiences in the field with the Resource Management biologists and interns, I was able to have the opportunity to learn more about the efforts to monitor each of these issues.

The southern pine beetle (Dendroctonus frontalis) is a bark beetle originally native to the southeastern United States. This insect is an invasive species, which has expanded its range north and west, possible due to climate change. It is extremely destructive to forests in the United States as it attacks all species of pine, including pitch pinepredominant pine species on Fire Island. These beetles live inside of pine trees while surviving off of plant tissue and reproducing inside of the tree. After new offspring hatch this process begins again. It is harmful to the trees in that it interrupts the flow of nutrients and can kill the tree. The southern pine beetle has been identified at seven sites within the parks boundaries since October 2014. In 2014 and 2015 more than 1,500 infected trees were identified and cut down. This year only less than 20 infected pine trees have been found. Infested trees have to be cut down in the winter so that the dormant beetle larvae are exposed to harsh winter conditions which it cannot survive in. This suppression method has been shown to significantly slow the spread of the beetle.

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S-shaped galleries in pine bark created by southern pine beetle, a destructive forest pest native to the Southeastern United States.

NPS Photo

In my field experience, I was able to assist Biological Technician Kelsey Taylor, Jordan Raphael and other SCA interns, survey pine trees and identify individuals who were infected. Infected trees are marked with orange spray paint and are continuously checked up on, to observe the southern pine beetles infection. Highly infected trees are felled. To learn more about the southern pine beetle on Fire Island National Seashore please click here.

In regard to Fire Island’s most well known wild life species, the white-tailed deer, efforts are being made by the National Park Service and the U.S. Geological Survey and the State University of New York School of Environmental Science and Forestry to track female white-tailed deer with GPS-enabled radio tracking collars. This study began in 2014 as a response to hurricane sandy and is still on-going today to help us understand how white-tailed deer move about the island. After 12 months the collars release from their necks.  To learn more about the deer movement study on Fire Island please click here.

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A female white-tailed deer fitted with a GPS-enabled radio tracking collar stands in the back dune habitat.

NPS Photo