Biology Students Evaluate Reforestation Efforts at Flight 93 MemorialStudents in Indiana University of Pennsylvania's Department of Biology are working to evaluate the reforestation efforts at the Flight 93 Memorial in Shanksville.

The memorial is the site of the crash of United Airlines Flight 93, which was hijacked in the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States.

Biology majors Ian Forte, Ross Street, Tarentum, and Cassandra Krul, Pike Drive, Cranberry Township, under the direction of biology faculty members Jeff Larkin and Mike Tyree, are evaluating the success of the reforestation project.

The project to evaluate the health and growth of the trees is funded through a $5,000 grant from the National Park Foundation. A total of 70,000 trees were planted at the site.

For several years, Larkin and a team of IUP students have been part of the thousands of volunteers who worked to plant trees at the memorial each April during the “Plant a Tree at Flight 93” program. The volunteer planting project is ongoing, with the hope that more than 150,000 trees will be planted at the site.

Studying the growth of trees at the Flight 93 MemorialDuring the summer months, Forte and Krul collected data on the 22 species of trees that are currently planted at the memorial. Tyree said that scientists have been concerned that the new plantings will become victim to encroaching plants, deer, disease, or the poor soil conditions. Fortunately, early observations seem to indicate that the deer have not been a problem.

The project also is studying the condition of the 1,300 American Chestnut trees that have been backcrossed with Chinese Chestnut trees to eliminate a blight that has nearly eliminated the American species. Each of these plantings has been mapped out to their specific location and will continue to be monitored to determine their condition.

After this year's monitoring project, the IUP Biology Department anticipates they will monitor the site every four years.

Both students are ecology, conservation, and environmental biology majors in the IUP Biology Honors program, and both are members of the Strategies for Ecology Education, Diversity, and Sustainability (SEEDS) Club.

Ian Forte and Cassandra Krul at the Flight 93 MemorialForte has participated in the IUP Research Experience in Summer Scholars program and the Biology Undergraduate Research Experience, studying “Herbivory Preference on Invasive versus Native Plants Using the Annam Walking Stick.” He has also done research on temperature effects on the growth developments of the Annam Walking Stick. He is a 2005 graduate of Freeport High School.

Krul also has participated in the IUP Research Experience in Summer Scholars program and the Biology Undergraduate Research Experience, studying “Using Native Pennsylvania Plants to Suppress Invasive Japanese Stiltgrass.” Her independent research has focused on using native Pennsylvania plants for green roof applications. She is a 2011 graduate of Mars High School.

PHOTO INFORMATION: Cassandra Krul and Ian Forte, biology majors at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, are part of a project to evaluate the health of trees at the Flight 93 National Memorial site.