The Great American Chestnut Trip: Vermont Edition

After an 18 hour car ride and an enormous amount of Dunkin Donuts coffee, I’ve finally returned from my research trip to the northeastern US. What an amazing time! The environment, abundant with hundred- year old trees, green rolling hills, and crystal blue skies is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. The people, too, were always friendly and accommodating to this eclectic group of ecologists.

A quick recap of the trip: Dr. Dalgliesh organized a group of four of her students, (including me) a post-doc colleague and student from Perdue University, and an intern from the American Chestnut Foundation to travel up to two sites in the northeastern United States. In Berlin, VT and Atkinson, ME there still remains a stand of adult American Chestnut Trees; some of the last of its species. We trekked up to both sites and continued a population study of the species that has been ongoing for about three years.

The first site we visited was in Vermont. Interestingly enough, the chestnut trees here grow on a piece of private property, which we have been granted permission to work on. I was surprised to hear that these Chestnuts grew so close to a residential area, and had not yet been eliminated by blight. I assumed that such a high traffic area would have brought the disease much sooner. Granted, blight was very clearly present in the forest, and has already infected the majority of the mature trees, but nevertheless I was excited to witness these gorgeous mature trees for the first time.

IMG_4789The first day was training day for us newbies. We learned how to perform basic measurements, including DBH, aging, and how to identify animal browse, dieback, and blight on the trees. Afterwards, we split up into groups and began chipping away at the site. There’s a survival crew that goes through first, finding last year’s tagged trees and flagging new trees in a plot. Next, a remeasure crew comes in and records this year’s tree growth. The “newbie” crew follows after, taking measurements and assigning tags to all of the new chestnuts we find in that plot.

There were a few trials and errors along the way, but the 8 of us learned during this time to work together as a team, and became much more efficient. Four days well spent.




  1. Is the blight that infects the chestnuts fungal? Are people aware that these are the last of a species?