New podcast on forest invaders and the researchers who aim to stop them

Produced by the USDA and supported by MSU Entomology, the first season of Forestcast features scientists and their work with the most damaging forest insects in the Northeast and Midwest.

Forestcast logo

Podcast listeners have a new resource to learn about forest health and the scientists studying ways to slow pest invaders. The podcast, named Forestcast, is a production of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service with support from Michigan State University’s Department of Entomology. Its premier season is titled “Balance and Barrier,” a reference to early invasion ecology work by renown scientist Charles S. Elton. Listeners learn about scientists and their work to address the most destructive insects challenging forests in the Northeast and Midwest.

The series’ first episode explains how insect invasions progress and introduces scientists like Therese Poland, an MSU adjunct professor of entomology, who leads a Forest Service team of invasive species experts. In the following episodes, her team describes challenges and methods of addressing invasions of some of America’s worst forest pests.

In the opener, forest economist Bob Haight shares some striking numbers that indicate there are relatively few bad players in the forest’s non-native insect world. But no one wants these worst of the worst. “If you look at non-native forest insects, there's about 450 known to be established in the U.S. Most of them do not cause detectable damage. We estimated that about 60 of those 450 have been reported to cause noticeable impacts to live forest trees, and then a very, very small number are extremely damaging. We call them ‘poster pests’ because they're really mean critters, [they] are like the emerald ash borer, the hemlock woolly adelgid and gypsy moth.”

Sharon Hobrla and Jane Hodgins with the USDA Forest Service Northern Research Station’s Communication and Science Delivery unit collaborated with MSU graduate Jonathan Yales who produced the series.

“We were looking for a new way to raise public awareness of the threat non-native pests pose for our forests. Jon Yales works with our Forest Service unit via a research joint venture agreement with Michigan State University, and his expertise has made Forestcast a very professional and extremely engaging podcast,” said Hobrla, a public affairs specialist with the Northern Research Station and co-editor of Forestcast.

Check out the series by listening to Episode 1: A Slow Explosion of Damaging Forest Insects on the Northern Research Station’s website. Additional episodes are available via Spotify, Apple Podcasts and many other podcasting apps.

Next up, the soon to be completed season 2 episodes will focus on restoring iconic tree species decimated by invasive species.

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