Appalachian Laboratory to host American chestnut event as part of Watershed Moments series

October 3, 2018
Photo Credit: US Forest Service

American chestnut trees once dominated the forests of the eastern United States, where they grew to towering heights and served as an important local economic resource by providing quality lumber for construction and serving as a reliable source of edible nuts for people and livestock.  Then, around the turn of the twentieth century, a blight destroyed billions of these trees, and to this day, continues to kill new shoots that grow from the still living root systems.

On Thursday, October 18, at 6:30pm, as part of the Watershed Moments Community Learning Series, the Appalachian Laboratory’s Katia Engelhardt will present on current research efforts to restore the American chestnut, and citizen scientists William O’Neill and Mary Kahl from the Citizens Restoring American Chestnuts project will share their experiences as part of a volunteer effort supporting American chestnut research. 

Katia Engelhardt is an Associate Research Professor at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science’s Appalachian Laboratory.  Trained as an aquatic ecologist, her areas of expertise include restoration ecology, maintenance of biodiversity, and invasion ecology, among other topics.  Dr. Engelhardt holds a Ph.D. in Ecology and an M.S. in Fisheries and Wildlife Ecology from Utah State University and a B.A. in Animal Science from Oregon State University.  She serves as science lead for the Laboratory’s Citizens Restoring American Chestnuts project. 

Citizens Restoring American Chestnuts, initially funded through a grant from the Chesapeake Bay Trust, is a citizen science project that distributed American chestnut seeds and seedlings to interested community members.  In exchange for these seeds and seedlings, community members agreed to collect and submit data regularly on their trees to researchers at the Appalachian Laboratory.  The project, which began in 2013, eventually grew to include more than 100 volunteers, many of whom continue to report on the growth and overall health of the American chestnuts they planted.  Their willingness to plant, care for, and report on the seeds and seedlings distributed through the project has contributed much needed data to ongoing restoration research efforts.   

Watershed Moments events are free and open to the public.  Seating is available on a first-come, first-served basis. Doors open at 6pm.  For more information and event updates, visit or call 301-689-7102. 

About UMCES Appalachian Laboratory: The Appalachian Laboratory, a research center of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, is located at the headwaters of the Chesapeake Bay watershed in Frostburg, Md. Scientists conduct research on terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, including air and water quality, wildlife management, and land conservation throughout the world, with an emphasis on the rich and diverse environments of Western Maryland and the broader Appalachian region. Visit or Follow UMCES on Twitter @UMCES.