Biology majors evaluate Flight 93 reforestation efforts in Shanksville

Tyler Miller The Penn

Cassandra Krul (senior, biology) and Ian Forte (senior, biology) are working to evaluate the reforestation efforts at the Flight 93 Memorial in Shanksville.

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

Under the direction of Dr. Michael Tyree and Dr. Jeff Larkin, both from the Indiana University of Pennsylvania’s department of biology, Krul and Forte are making certain that the reforestation of the memorial is going as smoothly as possible.

The “Plant a Tree at Flight 93” program is an ongoing volunteer planting project that has planted 70,000 saplings of 22 different species of trees to date with the hope of reaching a goal of 150,000.

This program sparked the idea for the evaluation of the reforestation project. The program, started in 2012, has had thousands of volunteers, including Krul and Forte for the past two years, Larkin and a team of IUP students working to plant various trees at the memorial for two days each April.

The area for planting is broken down into four separate phases, each of which are planted with roughly 20,000 trees. The phases are then broken down into plots for evaluation.

A benefit of the reforestation occurring on a mine site is the reintroduction of 1,300 American chestnut trees, whose natural habitat is that of the mine site, that have been bred with Chinese chestnut trees to eliminate a fungal blight that has nearly eliminated the American species.

The job of Krul and Forte is to survey surviving trees.

“Each tree was evaluated for key factors to determine overall health and survivability,” Forte said.

“These included vigor, height, diameter and deer browse.”

By determining these factors, they hoped to provide the Pennsylvania State Parks service, Department of the Interior and the American Chestnut Foundation with an accurate means of restoring the abandoned mine site to its natural state.

The project, proposed by Larkin, is funded through a $5,000 grant from the National Park Foundation and a $7,000 grant from the Green Forests Work.

“Preliminary results show that the trees are not growing as fast as predicted, but are doing quite well overall,” Forte said.

Krul and Forte “completely took this as a solo mission and are doing a terrific job,” Tyree said.

The duo is now entering an analysis portion of the project, which is estimated to take a couple of months to complete.

The area is planned to be reevaluated every four years once Krul and Forte are finished.

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