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WSU researcher engages communities in tree health research with Forest Health Watch

Posted by Seth Truscott | November 2, 2021
A scientist with Washington State University’s Department of Plant Pathology launched the Forest Health Watch program in 2020 to engage communities in research about tree health.

Members of the public are accelerating research by engaging in program events and sharing their observations online.

Joseph Hulbert, WSU Postdoctoral Fellow, founded Forest Health Watch.

“Through Forest Health Watch, we’re building a valuable network of community scientists enthusiastic to accelerate research and keep trees healthy,” said Program Director Joseph Hulbert, a postdoctoral researcher and WSU plant pathologist.

More than 100 individuals have registered as community scientists through Forest Health Watch, and more than 400 individuals have specifically joined the Western Redcedar Dieback Map project on iNaturalist. Together, more than 170 of these individuals have shared about 1200 observations of redcedar trees. Their efforts support research to identify important environmental parameters, such as climate, soil, and topography, to determine where trees are vulnerable.

Hulbert notes there are many areas that are poorly represented by the western redcedar observations, and seeks to engage more communities on the east side of the Cascades.

The Forest Health Watch program was established through support from the USDA NIFA Education and Workforce Development Postgraduate Fellowship Program. It has also benefitted from support provided by the US Department of Agriculture, National Institute of Food and Agriculture, McIntire Stennis project WNP00009.

Forest Health Watch offers many opportunities for communities to learn more about keeping trees healthy. Each month, the program offers virtual research updates, biosurveillance training presentations, and occasional presentations about the specific issues, such as emergence of sooty bark disease. The program hosts virtual office hours for anyone to ask questions or learn to use iNaturalist, an online platform for science observation, and dedicates time specifically for tribal members for discussions about forest health issues.

Hulbert has given more than 50 different invited virtual presentations for stakeholders and public audiences and organized in person educational events with volunteer groups and tribal youth. Groups or individuals interested in learning more about local forest health issues and the program are encouraged to contact him.

To learn more, contact Hulbert at hulbe@wsu.edu or by phone at (541) 908-5129.