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Training Offered This Spring for Forest Pest First Detectors

Burlington--Vermont's Forest Pest First Detector Program will provide free training this spring for volunteers interested in scouting for the Asian longhorned beetle, emerald ash borer and hemlock woolly adelgid in their communities. Early detection of these invasive pests will help minimize economic and ecological damage to forests and prevent populations from becoming established in the state.

Training will be offered from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on May 17 (rain date May 18) at Twin Valley Elementary School in Wilmington and June 7 (rain date June 8) at Essex High School, Essex Junction. It is jointly sponsored by University of Vermont Extension; the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation; the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.

To register contact Caitlin Cusack, Forest Pest First Detector Program coordinator, at (802) 656-7746 or caitlin.cusack@uvm.edu. If requiring a disability-related accommodation to participate, please call by May 1. Continuing education credits are available for both the online and in-person training.

To become a certified Forest Pest First Detector, volunteers are required to complete seven online modules prior to participating in the on-site classroom and field training day. They also must be able to identify common tree species and be available to respond to screening calls about various pests, visit sites and collect pest samples and serve as a local liaison between their community and federal and state partners. A two-hour commitment per month for a year is expected.

The training will cover a wide range of topics including pest biology and identification, survey protocol and tools for sample collection and how to work with the media and respond to calls from the public about various pests.

Once certified, volunteers will receive a toolkit containing a manual, supplies for collecting samples and other tools and reference materials. They will be invited to participate in additional trainings and research projects and be given access to the National Plant Diagnostic Network's resources.

In the past two years 118 individuals from throughout Vermont have earned certification as First Detectors. These volunteers have logged more than 2,000 hours monitoring their local forests for invasive pests, assisting foresters and agricultural staff with site visits and sample collection, developing a forest pest preparedness plan for their community and increasing public awareness.

For more information, visit www.vtinvasives.org/first-detectors.

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