Got Nature? Blog

Hellbender Release

Hellbender release – Purdue biologists help a release attendee place a Hellbender in its temporary holding pen. Photo credit: Marci Skelton.

HellbenderThe Hellbender salamander is North America’s largest salamander. It is fully aquatic, living its entire life in rivers and streams throughout the midwest and southeast. Hellbenders require cool, clean rivers and streams with rocky substrates to thrive and reproduce. Unfortunately, over the past several decades the species has declined or disappeared from many of these areas. In Indiana, the species can only be found in the Blue River in south-central Indiana where there remains only a very small, geriatric population incapable of sustaining itself. In order to save the species in the state, Purdue University and its many partners have joined together to reverse the decline.

On November 1st and 2nd of this year, Purdue FNR’s Williams lab released 80, 4-year old Hellbenders into a site chosen as the best Hellbender habitat in the Blue River. Members from Purdue University, Mesker Park Zoo and Botanic Garden, Columbian Park Zoo, Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo, Indianapolis Zoo, the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, Duke Energy, and more all helped in the task of releasing the individuals into their new homes.

The chosen Hellbenders had been raised in captivity at Purdue University. Unfortunately, captive-raised animals are often times not equipped with the necessary set of skills to survive life outside of an aquarium. However, these were not all aquarium-raised individuals more akin to pets than wild animals. Forty of the individuals were raised in specially designed tanks called raceways that incorporated water flow to mimic that found in a natural river setting. The remaining forty individuals were raised in standard, low-flow conditions. The idea behind raising the animals in these differing conditions is to compare whether or not the individuals raised in conditions that are more natural (i.e., higher flow rates) will be better able to survive the varying water levels they will encounter in the wild than those that are raised without flow.

In order to document success, all 80 Hellbenders were implanted with radio-transmitters. These transmitters emit a signal that allows biologists to detect them with antennae and locate the exact location an individual is hiding. For the next six to ten months, through rain, snow, and shine, Purdue biologists will follow these animals to document their behavior, habitat preferences, and whether or not they survive life in the wild.

Transporting Hellbenders

Transporting Hellbenders – Release attendees work together to transport Hellbenders across the river to be processed before release. Photo credit: Marci Skelton.

The outcomes of this study could help solve two major problems facing Hellbender conservation. The first is that the addition of Hellbenders into the system could help spur natural reproduction and help to start stabilizing the system. This small step is important towards our eventual goal of repopulating the Blue River and other former Hellbender streams. The second problem this study will hopefully address is the issue of poor survival of captive-reared animals when released into the wild. If we find that raising animals in more natural conditions improves survival over those raised in the more common no-flow conditions, this technique could be easily adopted at captive-rearing facilities throughout the nation and help increase the overall success of Hellbender conservation in the United States.

For more information, please visit

Hellbender ID, The Education Store, Purdue Extension
Help the Hellbender: North America’s Giant Salamander, The Education Store
How Our Zoos Help Hellbenders, The Education Store

Nick Burgmeier, Research Biologist and Extension Wildlife Specialist
Purdue University Department of Forestry and Natural Resources

Posted on October 6th, 2017 in Alert, Forestry, Safety, Timber Marketing, Woodlands | No Comments »

Indiana DNR IndentityThe Indiana DNR bovine tuberculosis surveillance team earned the Excellence in Conservation Award from the Midwest Fish and Wildlife Agency for their bovine tuberculosis surveillance and monitoring efforts in 2016.

In 2016, a wild white-tailed deer tested positive for bovine tuberculosis in Franklin County, Indiana. Bovine tuberculosis is a bacterial disease most often found in cattle and captive cervids, but can be transmitted to wild white-tailed deer and other wild mammals. The DNR tested more than 2,000 hunter-harvested deer in 2016 and did not find another bovine tuberculosis positive deer. For more information on bovine tuberculosis in wild white-tailed deer check out our Purdue Extension-FNR webpage: Bovine Tb in wild white-tailed deer: background and frequently asked questions.

Indiana Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) Bovine Tb resources
Indiana State Board of Animal Health (BOAH) Bovine Tb resources
USDA, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service Bovine Tb disease information
Michigan DNR Bovine Tb information
Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Bovine Tb resources
Center for Disease Control Bovine Tb factsheet

Jarred Brooke, Extension Wildlife Specialist
Purdue Department of Forestry and Natural Resources

Posted on July 5th, 2017 in Safety, Wildlife | No Comments »
Female Aedes aegypti mosquito

Photo by: James Gathany, Center for Disease Control and Prevention

While researchers say it is difficult to determine whether unusual weather patterns this winter and spring will lead to larger mosquito and tick populations in the Upper Midwest this summer, one thing is certain – anyone planning to spend time outdoors should take steps to avoid the potentially dangerous pests.

“Every year we face the same risks and every year it is wise to take precautions,” said Catherine Hill, Purdue University medical entomologist. “If you’re going to be outside anytime from early spring to late summer and early fall, you need to be thinking about prevention and protection.”

Both mosquitos and ticks can carry a number of pathogens that could pose a serious threat to people and animals. Mosquitos can transmit several viruses that can cause severe encephalitis (inflammation of the brain and spinal cord), including Zika and West Nile virus, among others. Ticks are known carriers of Lyme disease, which infects about 300,000 people each year, as well as less common but equally dangerous conditions such as anaplasmosis, babesiosis, Powassan and Rocky Mountain spotted fever.

To avoid mosquito bites, the best advice is to stay indoors during peak biting times, which is typically dusk to dawn for the mosquitoes that transmit West Nile virus and during the day for mosquitoes that transmit Zika.

“If you have to be outside during those times, it is best to wear clothing that can help prevent bites,” Hill said. Appropriate wardrobe choices include long-sleeve shirts and long pants tucked into socks. It is also advisable to use an effective repellant, such as products containing a minimum of 20 to 30 percent – of diethyltoluamide, commonly known as DEET. The Centers for Disease Control also recommends products containing picardin, lemon of eucalyptus and IR3535. More information is available on the CDC website at

Mosquitoes breed in standing water and their larvae and pupae need water to develop. Homeowners can help reduce mosquito populations in their back yard by dumping standing water out of buckets and wading pools, keeping lawns mowed and removing piles of brush or yard waste, Hill said.

Ticks can thrive in back yards as well, particularly those adjacent heavily wooded areas, in tall grass and brush and under leaf piles.

Hill said the warmer winter and wet spring could have created ideal conditions for ticks in some areas although conditions vary significantly from region to region.

“We’ve already been getting plenty of ticks,” Hill said. “They’re certainly active.”

The best defense against ticks is to wear light colored clothing with long sleeves and pants and to use a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency-approved repellant. It is also a good idea to check your body and clothing for ticks immediately after coming back indoors.

“If you can remove a tick within 24 hours, you have a very good chance of catching them before they transmit,” Hill said.

Ticks feed on blood and tend to attach themselves to tender areas of the skin, including around the hairline and in the armpit and groin.

For the full article, see Purdue Agriculture News.

Mosquitoes, Purdue Extension Entomology
One Small Bite: One Large Problem, Got Nature?, Purdue Extension-FNR

Darrin J Pack, Writer/Editor
Purdue University Department of Agricultural Communication

Catherine A Hill, Professor of Entomology/Vector Biology
Purdue University Department of Entomology

Posted on May 25th, 2017 in Forestry, How To, Safety | No Comments »

The end of the school year represents not only the beginning of summer but also the start of field season. Time spent out in the field can be fun, informative, and an opportunity to gather important data. Field data can also be difficult to gather as outdoor conditions are often unpredictable. Anyone expecting to do work out in the field must be prepared for anything. In addition to the likelihood of heat stress and the threat of diseases carried by insect assailants (i.e. ticks, mosquitoes), those in the field must prepare for events that come naturally with doing research outside of a controlled environment.

Packing an emergency bag before venturing into the field is one way to ensure that negative ramifications of any accidents are kept to a minimum or eliminated completely. Standard emergency supplies should accompany field researchers on every trip. The nature of the outing should also be considered since additional, more specialized, equipment may be needed in some areas. Typical emergency equipment needed for each foray into the wild includes:

  • Charged cell phone with an extra battery and a charger (stored in plastic bag with some petty cash)
  • Fully stocked first aid kit (large size with an array of bandages and wound wrapping materials) with specialized field supplies (fish hook removers, seasickness tablets, flare gun, mosquito net, etc.) and general forest supplies (sunscreen, poison ivy/oak/sumac cream, insect repellent)
  • Vehicle emergency kit (with vehicle operator’s manual and emergency blankets)
  • Non-perishable, easy to open food stuffs (i.e. peanut butter, beef jerky, granola bars)
  • Water (minimum of 1 gal / person / day of the trip plus an additional 3 days) and water purification tablets or filter devices
  • Plastic Ziploc bags for personal hygiene products (toilet paper, sanitizing wipes, feminine products), extra clothes including a brimmed hat, and electronic devices
  • Local guidebook and ability to identify hazardous plant and native wildlife species in the traversed field region
  • Flashlight (with extra batteries)
  • Two-way radio (if necessary to work alone in an isolated or dangerous area and check in regularly) and handheld weather station
  • Personal protective equipment (safety glasses/goggles, gloves, hard hat, sturdy boots, etc.)
  • Identification (photocopy of driver’s license, medical prescriptions and coverage information, and emergency contact information) for everyone in the field
  • Maps, compass, and GPS unit

Following this list is the first start to a safe and successful field season! Best of luck!

Nature of Teaching-Health and Wellness, Purdue Extension
Benefits of Connecting with Nature
, The Education Store
Orphaned Wildlife, Got Nature?, Purdue Extension-FNR

Shaneka Lawson, USDA Forest Service/HTIRC Research Plant Physiologist/Adjunct Assistant Professor
Purdue University Department of Forestry and Natural Resources

Lenny Farlee, Sustaining Hardwood Extension Specialist
Purdue Department of Forestry and Natural Resources

Lindsey Purcell PruningIn the AgriNews article Pruning ground rules, Urban Forestry Specialist Lindsey Purcell shares some helpful guidelines for pruning trees in the urban environment. In unnatural environments, proper pruning is essential to maintain clearance and safety around street lights, power lines, and other infrastructure. Pruning can also be beneficial for the tree’s growth when done correctly.

To learn more, check out the article Pruning ground rules, as well as the urban forestry publications listed below.

Pruning ground rules – AgriNews
Tree Pruning Essentials – The Education Store, Purdue Extension Resource Center
Trees and Electric Lines – The Education Store
Tree Risk Management – The Education Store
Mechanical Damage to Trees: Mowing and Maintenance Equipment – The Education Store

Lindsey Purcell, Urban Forestry Specialist
Purdue University Department of Forestry and Natural Resources

Posted on June 23rd, 2016 in Forestry, How To, Safety, Urban Forestry | No Comments »

Tree trunk cracked. Trees are lost or seriously damaged every year from high winds, heavy rainfall and other storm-related weather. In addition to physical damage or loss, risk and liability can become a concern to people and the surrounding property. Seasonal storms can cause extensive damage depending on timing and intensity. Stem failure, root failure and cracked branches are just a few of the vital signs that need to be addressed to aid in weather damage.

Once the tree is damaged, deciding on what to do is an important process. Urban Forestry Specialist Lindsey Purcell explains common tree injuries and how to identify them, how to conduct a risk assessment when trees are damaged and steps to take after the storms are over in his publication “Trees and Storms“.

Lindsey Purcell is also featured in WLFI’s video “What to Do With Your Damaged Trees,” where he shares important information on identifying weak areas in trees and Kevin McCombs, Public Information Officer for Wabash Township Volunteer Fire Department, adds additional insight.WLFI - What to do with your damaged trees

Trees and Storms – The Education Store, Purdue Education Resource Center
Expert: Some storm damage can be easily prevented – Fox 59
What to do with your damaged trees – WLFI
Why Is My Tree Dying? – The Education Store
Tree Risk Management – The Education Store
Mechanical Damage to Trees: Mowing and Maintenance Equipment – The Education Store
Trees and Electric Lines – The Education Store

Lindsey Purcell, Urban Forestry Specialist
Department of Forestry and Natural Resources, Purdue University

Posted on May 11th, 2016 in How To, Safety | No Comments »

pesticidePesticides are a great way for farmers and homeowners to protect plants against insects and disease. However, sometimes pesticide ends up where it isn’t supposed to – on neighboring properties like homes, schools, and parks. This is called pesticide drift, and it can be very dangerous to your health and damaging to property. You have the legal right to be free from pesticide drift, and it is important to be able to recognize it and understand what to do next if you are experiencing it. Purdue Extension-Pesticide Program has a new publication titled “Options for Dealing with a Pesticide Drift Incident” sharing resources to help simplify that process, explore what exactly pesticide drift is, what causes it, and what steps you can take to resolve it. The publication is available as a free download in The Education Store, so those interested can take a look and be sure to stay safe and informed about pesticide drift.

Options for Dealing with a Pesticide Drift Incident – The Education Store, Purdue Extension Resource Center
Driftwatch: Watch Out for Pesticide Drift and Organic Production – The Education Store
Agricultural Plant Pest Control – The Education Store
Purdue Pesticide Programs – Purdue Agriculture
National Pesticide Information Center – U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
District Forester (forestry landowners with 10+acres) – Indiana Department of Natural Resources
Directory of Professional Foresters – Indiana Forestry & Woodland Owners Association

Michael O’Donnell, Purdue Extension Educator of Delaware County
Purdue University Department of Botany and Plant Pathology

Roy Ballard, Purdue Extension Educator of Hancock County
Purdue University Department of Agriculture

Fred Whitford, Clinical Engagement Professor of Purdue Pesticide Programs
Purdue University Department of Botany and Plant Pathology

Joe Becovitz, Pesticide Investigator
Office of Indiana State Chemist

Posted on February 8th, 2016 in How To, Ponds, Safety, Urban Forestry, Wildlife | No Comments »

As the weather begins to warm up later this year, the sight of Canada geese returning is pleasant to some as a reminder of spring approaching. It can also be downright irritating to others who experience property damage and other conflicts as the geese concentrate on their property. There are several strategies for dealing with geese listed in further detail at the Indiana Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) website, ranging from mild to severe.

The first thing that is important to know regarding geese is that it is simply not a good idea to feed them. While this act is positive in intention, it is a bad thing for both people and geese. Feeding geese gives them an artificially abundant source of food, which can cause them to delay or skip their migration and instead congregate in areas where they will conflict with people. Furthermore, being fed can cause geese to lose their fear of people, giving them the confidence to stroll across roadways and runways. Finally, large amounts of geese competing over bread and other food of limited nutritional value greatly increases their chances of developing and spreading avian diseases. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service‘s free publication “Caution: Feeding Waterfowl May Be Harmful!” further explains the need to stop feeding geese.

INDNR offers a significant amount of other advice on other methods of handling goose problems. Habitat modification such as adding vegetative barriers or suspended grid systems can be a good long term solution by making your land less attractive to geese. If geese have already begun to settle in, nonlethal harassment techniques like air horns and sprayers can be used twice a day to scare geese away from your property. Nests can be legally removed as long as there are no eggs present. If the situation calls for more severe actions, a permit can be acquired to destroy nests with eggs, or another permit can be issued by a District Wildlife Biologist to capture and relocate the animals. In cases of excessive property damage, a District Wildlife Biologist can also issue an agricultural depredation permit to shoot geese outside of the normal hunting season.

There are many methods of handling nuisance Canada geese this spring, and not one solution for every problem. If there is a goose problem in your area, please view INDNR’s Nuisance Canada Goose Management page to learn more about what you can do and how to acquire permits if needed.

Nuisance Canada Goose Management – Indiana Department of Natural Resources (IDNR)
Solutions – INDNR
Caution: Feeding Waterfowl May Be Harmful! – U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Working With Wildlife: Urban Canada Goose Management – Purdue Extension
Managing Canada Geese – Purdue Plant & Pest Diagnostic Laboratory

Aaron Doenges, videographer & assistant web designer
Purdue Forestry and Natural Resources

Posted on February 5th, 2016 in Alert, How To, Safety | No Comments »
Female Aedes aegypti mosquito

Photo by: James Gathany, Center for Disease Control and Prevention

You may have likely heard of the Zika virus at this point – a new infection on the rise that is drawing many parallels to the West Nile virus that caused 286 deaths in the United States in 2012. Like the West Nile, Zika was first discovered over sixty years ago and wasn’t considered to be a large concern until it reemerged unexpectedly years later. Both viruses are carried by mosquitos, and 80% of people infected display no symptoms and are at risk of unwittingly further spreading the infection. And most importantly, both viruses have no current treatment or vaccination and can be deadly.

When discussing the Zika virus, it is important to know that currently there have been no cases of infection in the continental U.S. While this means there is no need to immediately panic, transmission of diseases are often unpredictable as human population and global travel increase. Zika appeared in Brazil last May and has quickly spread to over 20 countries across Central and South America, causing the World Health Organization to declare the virus an international public health emergency, predicting that Zika could infect as many as 4 million people by the end of this year. With that ominous prediction looming over us, a good precaution to take is knowing how the mosquitos potentially carrying the virus can be controlled and avoided.

Simply avoiding mosquitos is an effective first step. Staying indoors during the daytime when mosquitos feed can help lessen exposure to mosquitos, as well as wearing long sleeves, pants, and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency-approved mosquito repellant when going outdoors.

Another preventative measure you can take is eliminating potential mosquito breeding sites from your area. Mosquitos breed in containers of standing water, and getting rid of them can reduce mosquito population in your area. Dog bowls, birdbaths, potted plants, and similar objects are all potential breeding grounds, and removing them means less places for mosquito eggs to hatch.

Again, the Zika virus isn’t currently an immediate concern for people in the United States, but this information is crucial to know as scientists learn more about how this virus is spread. At any rate, they’re also give good tips for avoiding annoying mosquito bites! To learn more, please check out the Purdue University Agriculture News article “Controlling and avoiding mosquitos helps minimize risk of Zika.”

Controlling and avoiding mosquitos helps minimize risk of Zika – Purdue University Agriculture News
Zika virus and mosquito-borne disease experts – Purdue University News
Mosquitos – Purdue University Medical Entomology
Zika Virus – World Health Organization
Management of Ponds, Wetlands, and Other Water Reservoirs to Minimize Mosquitos – The Education Store, Purdue Extension Resource Center

Aaron Doenges, videographer & assistant web designer
Purdue Forestry and Natural Resources

Tree Pruning ​Urban Forestry Specialist Lindsey Purcell‘s helpful publication “Tree Pruning Essentials” is now available in a Spanish-language version, “Lo Esencial Para la Poda de Árboles.” This publication explores the techniques behind good pruning, from the planning process before planting to monitoring the tree’s response after the pruning cuts.

Trees continue to survive in spite of the many challenges they face in the urban environment. However, to grow from seedling to a mature tree in the urban forest, they need our help. They are the largest, oldest living organisms on the planet and can live long, healthy lives with some assistance. We often place trees in less-than-favorable growing locations that don’t allow natural development and maturity and often require pruning to develop a durable structure, improve clearance and maintain aesthetics.

Pruning has been called “one of the best, worst maintenance practices” performed on trees. The process creates wounds, which have a major impact on plant processes. Improper cutting on a tree causes severe damage or even death. To prune properly, it is important to understand both the proper techniques and how the tree responds to pruning.

Check out “Lo Esencial Para la Poda de Árboles” or “Tree Pruning Essentials” and make sure you are pruning your trees to maximize safety, aesthetics, and tree health!

Lo Esencial Para la Poda de Árboles (Tree Pruning Essentials)– The Education Store, Purdue Extension Resource Center
Instalacion de arboles: Proceso y practicas (Tree Installation) – The Education Store, Purdue Extension Resource Center
Tree Pruning Essentials – The Education Store
Trees and Storms – The Education Store
Tree Risk Management – The Education Store
Prune Your Trees​ – Indiana Department of Natural Resources

Lindsey Purcell, Urban Forestry Specialist
Purdue University Department of Forestry and Natural Reso

Got Nature?