Behrend students, faculty to lead fight against invasive species in Wintergreen Gorge

With funding from the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, Pennsylvania Sea Grant and Behrend are working to develop a weed  management plan that brings students and community members together to remove invasive species.

By Anna McCartney

Communications and Education Specialist at  Pennsylvania Sea Grant, an outreach program of Penn State Behrend  

Wintergreen Gorge along Fourmile Creek is a popular destination for hikers, birders, fossil-hunters and others who simply use the stream to cool off on a hot day.

Because it’s also a favorite of Penn State Behrend students, they are involved in creating a weed management and implementation plan to develop best management practices that protect the Gorge from invasive species.

With funding from the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy (WPC), and help from Pennsylvania Sea Grant (PASG) and Behrend faculty, they are working to develop a Weed Warrior program that brings students and community members together to remove invasive species that are found there.

IMG_3440 PSU PASG Weed Warriors wintergreen gorge R

Students will also help develop a Best Practices Guide that can be used by other universities and communities to control invasive species on their campus or other natural areas.  

In May and June, students will learn to identify target invasive plant populations and use GPS equipment to inventory and track them on a baseline work map so they can prioritize future removal efforts. The data they collect will be added to existing information provided by the WPC about rare, threatened or endangered plant species so the plan will protect these assets while eliminating the harmful plants.

The management plan will require students to conduct research and determine immediate priorities and the best course of action to combat invasive species within the identified areas. Based upon the site conditions, students will also need to consider how to reintroduce native species once the invasives are removed.

Marti Martz, PASG senior outreach and project facilitator, anticipates that engaging Penn State students and community members in this effort will provide several benefits. “There will be more ‘boots on the ground’ to help with removal and more opportunities to discuss impacts of invasives on native plants and the insects and animals that rely on these natives. Once people understand how invasive species degrade a habitat, they will be more vigilant about what they bring into their own yards,” she said.

Sea Grant will also work with Ann Quinn, director of Greener Behrend, and the students to develop a Best Practices Guide that can be used by other universities or communities that want to control invasive species on their campus or other natural areas.


Tom Cermak, Pennsylvania Sea Grant coastal outreach specialist, helps Behrend students remove invasive bush honeysuckle from Wintergreen Gorge.

“This project not only provides valuable, hands on experiences for students, but it also protects and enhances the ecological integrity of a wonderful community asset,” said Tom Cermak, PASG coastal outreach specialist who is working with students to identify, track and remove invasives.

“We at Behrend are very excited to work with Sea Grant to eliminate invasive plant populations throughout Wintergreen Gorge. As these aggressive species are removed, they will be replaced with native plant communities, which will increase biodiversity and help keep the Wintergreen Gorge Ecosystem in balance, ” said Quinn.

You can help maintain the beauty of this popular hiking and biking trail by volunteering to remove plants at planned workdays this summer. Contact Ann Quinn at 898-6993 or bush honeysuckle1D0EC7E8-155D-451F-678FFC8BDF8B607F-large

Bush honeysuckle is a deciduous shrub that can grow up to 15 feet. This aggressive invader displaces many native plants, including wildflowers and dogwoods.

multiflora rose Penn State

Multiflora rose (above) steals space, nutrients, water, and sunlight from native plants and trees.

6 spooooky things about Penn State Behrend


By Heather Cass
Publications & Design Coordinator, Penn State Behrend

In honor of the upcoming All Hallows’ Eve festivities, I dug up six spooky (and some just silly) things about Penn State Behrend.  Enjoy!

1. There’s a place in the Wintergreen Gorge on  the edge of campus called “Devil’s backbone.”


Devil’s backbone is the name given to the gorge’s highest vantage point in Wintergreen Gorge, about 250 feet above Four Mile creek. Read more about the gorge (page 13) and watch videos here (under “Extras from this issue”).

In the mood for a good ghost story? Check out this story we found online (but do not attest to): The Ghost Child of Wintergreen Gorge.

Speaking of enduring ghosts haunting campus…..

2. Ken Miller, senior director for campus planning and student affairs, has been working at Behrend since George Michael’s “Faith” topped the pop charts, “Heathers” was showing at the theatres,  and the average cost of a gallon of gas was just 91 cents.

Are we making him sound old? Nah, it’s only been 25 years. 😉 And, fortunately, he hasn’t lost his sense of humor…or that awesome ‘stache.

ken miller

Ken Miller, right, with his brother Tim outside of Lawrence Hall, circa 1989.

3. This tree by Wilson Picnic grove:

tree wart

According to Dr. Mike Naber, lecturer in geosciences, the “tumor” on this tree could be Agrobacterium tumefaciens that causes a plant disease called crown gall. Or, Nabor said, it is simply a “burl” caused by stress, injury, or a virus.

Or it could be a zombie calling card.

Speaking of signs from the dearly departed…

4. Bruno’s Café is named after a dead dog. Even spookier? Legend has it that said dog is buried on campus.

Bruno's Portrait

So, if you hear a German shepherd howling late at night…

5.  The cashier at the bookstore has gotten really thin.


Somebody get this guy a peanut butter sandwich.

6. This tree by Lilley Library:


While it’s shaped like a witch’s hat, this is actually a Purple Fountain Weeping Beech, native to Europe.

You know, Europe…where Transylvania is (just sayin’).

Happy Halloween, everyone!

Help needed for International Coastal Cleanup (free T-shirt and lunch!)

By Heather Cass
Publications & Design Coordinator, Penn State Behrend

1,400 pounds – that’s the total weight in trash that 150 Penn State Behrend students, faculty members, and staff cleaned out of Fourmile creek during last year’s International Coastal Cleanup.

From the headwaters of the creek at Hartman Road in Greene Township through campus (Fourmile is the creek that runs through Wintergreen Gorge) and on to Napier Park in Wesleyville, volunteers collected 63 bags of trash and 58 bags of recyclable materials.

That’s a lot of cigarette butts, candy wrappers, and soda cans that didn’t make it into the lake (because, eventually, it all ends up in the lake!)

You have to step back and realize that the watershed is not just water,” said Ann Quinn, lecturer in biology and coordinator of Behrend’s International Coastal Cleanup. “It’s everything that leads into it.”

The Pennsylvania-Lake Erie International Coastal Cleanup is an annual event in which volunteers collect garbage from more than a dozen sites in Erie County, including Presque Isle State Park.

This year’s cleanup event is scheduled for Saturday, September 21 from 9:30 a.m. to noon. Can you help?  Faculty members and staff are needed to help lead student groups. Community members and children are welcome to participate, too.  Bring the whole family!

Volunteers will meet in front of Reed Union Building at 9:30 a.m.  All necessary materials (gloves, trash bags, etc.) will be provided, and you’ll also get a free T-shirt and a free lunch at Bruno’s after the cleanup.

Word to the wise: wear boots and/or shoes that can get wet & dirty!

If you can volunteer, please contact Ann Quinn at abq1 at by Saturday, September 14!