Bemidji State University students, faculty assess emerald ash borer in Mahnomen

Bemidji State University students and faculty have been contributing to efforts to combat the emerald ash borer in the area.

The emerald ash borer is an invasive, exotic beetle first discovered in the U.S. in 2002 that targets ash trees.

Ash trees make up a significant part of the city of Mahnomen’s ecosystem.

Last fall, the BSU cohort assessed the threat using GIS to create a detailed inventory of tree species.

“This was a wonderful opportunity for students to step outside of the classroom,” Dr. Samantha Jones, assistant professor of geography, said. “It allowed them to utilize the skills that they have learned in a real-life situation.”

The eight students who participated were also hired by the city of Mahnomen as independent contractors.

Faculty members worked closely alongside students to provide resources for research and data collection. Max Tostenson, a junior environmental studies major from Perham, Minnesota, said he was grateful to get into the field.

“This project was awesome,” he said. “I never knew a lot of these trees and I gained a lot of valuable experience.”

In preparation for project, Jones created a custom and interactive app that would be used by students to record data. She had also worked to train students on how to use the app to record the extensive data that they were recording.

“While complex, the data collection process became more accessible with much of our resources being accessed through our smartphones,” Jones said.

The data collected will be used by city staff as well as the DNR to observe high-risk areas for emerald ash borer damage.

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