Partner Spotlight: Dr. Mark Whitmore

For nearly four years, the LGLC has been working to protect our lands from the hemlock woolly adelgid (HWA) – an invasive terrestrial pest that preys on the hemlock tree. From the beginning, our efforts to better understand this best and protect our trees were guided by Dr. Mark Whitmore and the Hemlock Initiative of Cornell University. When the HWA infestations were found on DEC and TNC lands this summer, we were there side-by-side with Dr. Whitmore and the Hemlock Initiative to protect our watershed’s hemlocks. We are grateful for this strong and important partnership that benefits our land and lake.

“We had some idea that hemlocks were important to the lake and what to do to protect them,” said LGLC Executive Jamie Brown. “However, Mark and the staff from the Hemlock Initiative really helped to guide and teach us how important these trees are, what we need to do to protect them, and dispel some of the myths out there about HWA. All of us here in the watershed are so fortunate that he has partnered with us to offer his expertise.”

Dr. Whitmore began studying terrestrial invasive pests in the Pacific Northwest, then brought his vast knowledge and experience to Cornell University. He has built a research program that investigates many of the forest’s pests currently in New York and the Northeast, with a focus on HWA and the establishment of bio-controls for its control. Basically, there are different species of flies and beetles that naturally prey on HWA during different periods of its life cycle in its native habitat of the Pacific Northwest. Dr. Whitmore hand collects these tiny insects in Washington, and brings them back to his lab in New York to rear them and bring them to test sites throughout the Northeast.

Back in 2018, LGLC staff were fortunate enough to visit Dr. Whitmore’s lab at Cornell and see how HWA and the various bio-controls were studied, including several test sites. This insight helped us to gain invaluable knowledge as to what we could expect on our land should we face HWA infestations. It also helped us to understand what the watershed and region would face once HWA was discovered and what efforts would be needed to manage large-scale infestations.

Based on what we learned at Cornell, and in partnership with Dr. Whitmore and the Hemlock Initiative and others, the LGLC began to host workshops around Lake George watershed to help the public to better understand HWA. We also continued to monitor our own land, making sure that no HWA infestations threatened the many hemlocks along our protected stream corridors and wetlands that filtered millions of gallons every year flowing into Lake George.

“LGLC recognized the potential impacts of HWA a number of years ago,” said Dr. Whitmore, “and has been a valuable partner in NYSHI’s efforts to raise awareness and train people to survey the area.”

Once the Infestation at the DEC Glen Island’s Campground was found in August, the LGLC knew that we needed to participate in managing the infestation. We volunteered to help, and worked side-by-side, on the ground with Dr. Whitmore and his staff from the Hemlock Initiative, the DEC, and many other partners to identify infected trees.  We then shifted gears when Dr. Whitmore and LGLC staff discovered another HWA infestation on Dome Island, working with APPIP to manage that infestation. Dr. Whitmore conducted tests there to gather more information in the fight to against HWA.

“Working closely with groups like LGLC, APIPP, and DEC over the past few years,” said Dr. Whitmore, “helped us to develop close communications, which has been key to the rapid and coordinated survey response to the detection of HWA on Lake George. This was exactly what we needed so trees could be treated in time to stop HWA reproduction in spring.”

The LGLC and Dr. Whitmore will continue our strong partnership to protect the watershed’s hemlocks that play a large role in protecting the waters of Lake George. We are grateful for what he and the Hemlock Institute have done in providing knowledge, on the ground assistance, and expertise. Our water is cleaner, and our forests have more hemlocks thanks to Dr. Whitmore.