Wildlife Technician Program – Worms!

Yorktown H.S. graduate Sofia Natasi recently completed her three-year tenure in MRG’s award-winning Wildlife Technician Program (WTP). Sofia was mentored by Director of Research & Education Chris Nagy who has led the program for the past 10 years.

Sofia studied the change in distribution of invasive earthworms of the genus Amynthas spp., which were introduced to our area in the late 19th to 20th century. They are less well known than other invasive earthworms from Europe that have been in North America longer, such as nightcrawlers, and are more destructive. These worms devour the leaf litter and other organic matter that lies on the forest floor and provides habitat for small animals and protects soils.

Sofia’s work followed up on a survey done in 2010 by a previous WTP student, Harry Lipson. Sofia surveyed the same 55 plots that Harry looked at and found that Amynthas worms had spread to nearly all the plots (in 2010 they were present in about 45% of the plots). While there are no efficient techniques to control these worms over large areas, keeping track of them is important for managing the Preserve and deploying a control measure once one is developed.

Sofia presented her work at several science fairs and at the Northeast Natural History Conference in Albany, NY in April. She won 2nd place out of all student posters (which also included posters by undergraduate and graduate students).

She presented her study on Sunday to members of the Rusticus Garden Club who generously support the Wildlife Technician Program through their MJ Mercurio Scholarship program. When asked if her experience with hands-on research at Mianus River Gorge influenced her future course of study, she answered, “Definitely!” Sofia will be a freshman at SUNY Binghamton in the fall. Congratulations, Sofia, and thank you!

Posted in Announcements, Land & Water Protection, Research News, WTP Techs.