2022 Fall Member Meeting — Speakers and Presentations

Tom Molnar — Associate Professor at Rutgers University SEBS-Plant Biology

Rutgers University Hazelnut Breeding Program: Exciting Progress and New Cultivars for the Mid-Atlantic Region

Presentation Description:  Tom Molnar will give an update on the Rutgers University hazelnut breeding program, which after more than 20 years of effort recently released its first disease-resistant cultivars for growers in the Mid-Atlantic region.  He will also discuss progress in breeding more cold-hardy hybrid hazelnuts with high-quality kernel traits for more northern regions. To learn more about Hazelnut Breeding at Rutgers: https://agproducts.rutgers.edu/hazelnuts/

Speaker Bio: Tom Molnar is an Associate Professor in the Plant Biology Department at Rutgers University.  He obtained his Ph.D. from Rutgers in 2006, and today is responsible for the Rutgers’ program dedicated to hazelnuts and woody ornamental landscape plants.  The main focus of the hazelnut program is developing trees resistant to the disease of eastern filbert blight, the primary limiting factor of hazelnut production in the eastern United States.  Tom has been working on this project since 1996 and has traveled widely across Europe and Asia in search of new germplasm.  As a result, many new resistant plants have been identified and used in breeding, and the first new cultivars were released to farmers in 2020!

Jessica Ray  — Staff Scientist with the Center for Environmental Studies, at Raritan Valley Community College

White-tailed Deer Population Impacts on Northern NJ Forests 
Presentation Description: This talk will focus on the changes in Northern NJ forest understories from deer, invasive species, and historic land use. A comparison will be presented on historic forest data (1948-1973), when deer populations were lower, to comparable present-day forest conditions. We will discuss various methodologies for estimating deer population numbers, effective methods to reduce deer populations, and prioritizing areas for management.

Speaker Bio: Ms. Jessica Ray is a, where she manages a variety of projects involving ecological research and restoration. She holds a  B.S. in Ecology, Evolution, and Natural Resources from  Rutgers University and, since 2015 Jess has been gaining experience with the forest ecology project at RVCC and rare plant species research in New Jersey with the New Jersey Department of  Environmental Protection, Office of Natural Lands Management. In her spare time, Jessica enjoys hiking, camping, rock climbing, mountain biking, and, of course, botanizing in New Jersey’s beautiful natural areas.

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Mike Van Clef — Stewardship Director, Strike Team Program Director for Friends of Hopewell Valley Open Space.

Impacts of Invasives on the Ecosystem

Presentation Description: Mike Van Clef of the NJ Invasive Species Strike Team is known for his work in eradicating invasive species for the protection and conservation of rare species, including plants and wildlife. This talk will include a discussion of the problems that invasives cause in the ecosystem and their impacts on natural areas. Identification and control of invasive species will be discussed.

Speaker Bio: Mike is the FoHVOS Stewardship Director and also serves as our Invasive Species Strike Team Program Director. He joined FoHVOS in 2007 and co-founded the Strike Team in 2008 with the goal of bringing greater efficiency and effectiveness to invasive species management. Mike has a Ph.D. in ecology from Rutgers University and over 25 years of experience in land stewardship, planning, and research, working extensively in the evaluation and management of rare and invasive species and deer management. He has consulted with over 30 organizations in NJ including the NJ Invasive Species Council for which he prepared the New Jersey Strategic Management Plan for Invasive Species. Read more here: https://www.fohvos.info/american-chestnut-restoration/

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Sara FitzsimmonsChief Conservation Officer, North Central Regional Science Coordinator, The American Chestnut Foundation (TACF)

Deregulation and Rollout of Darling 58

Presentation Description: The USDA, EPA, and FDA are all working to evaluate the safety of the release of the transgenic American chestnut event developed at SUNY-ESF referred to as Darling 58 or D58. How will SUNY-ESF and TACF be working together to provide these materials to members and the public if and when deregulation is announced? Sara will cover what is currently known about that process, as well as what has yet to be worked out in the month ahead of an expected 2023 deregulation announcement.