Thanks to a recent grant from two organizations, a group from IUP is continuing to reforest and monitor the Flight 93 National Memorial in Stoneycreek Township, Somerset County.

The university recently received two grants totaling more than $12,000 from Green Forests Work and the National Parks Foundation. According to Department of Biology faculty member Michael Tyree, the money will be used to pay three students who will work to monitor the plantings near the memorial crash site that have already been reforested.

The land being monitored was strip-mined from the 1950s through the 1990s, and work has been ongoing for the past five years to reforest the land with native trees and shrubs. It's near the site of the crash of United Airlines Flight 93, in which 44 people were killed on September 11, 2001.

The three students who will work this summer with Tyree—and fellow Biology faculty member Jeff Larkin—on the project are Caleb Brady, of Clymer; Aaron Wolfe, of Penfield; and Kelsey Twining, of Thompson. All three are biology majors in the Ecology, Conservation, and Environmental Biology track.

“The idea is, after the final phase is complete, to watch the forest develop over time,” Tyree said.

Biology faculty member Michael Tyree helped organize the virtual tour of the arboretumThis is the sixth year that IUP faculty and students have collaborated on the project, which is organized by the U.S. Department of the Interior's Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement and the National Parks Service.

By the time the project ends in a few years, more than 150,000 trees and shrubs will be planted on the land. Going into this summer, more than 100,000 have already been planted in the ground.

“Historically, mining companies sprayed a mix of grasses and herbaceous plants to stabilize the soil following a surface mine operation,” Tyree said. “But work by the Appalachian Regional Reforestation Initiative and other groups demonstrated they could plant native trees and shrubs which not only save money, but is more ecologically sound.”

Over the past five years, more than 500 volunteers a year helped to plant the trees and shrubs, and the job for the IUP group is to monitor the growth.

“There's been a lot of interest in this because it is a memorial associated with 9/11,” Tyree said. “You drive right through this section of land to get to the memorial, so it's an important piece of land and a great opportunity to show the public how disturbed land can be reforested.”