Mohonk Preserve

Mohonk Preserve

Ridgelines #181

Winter 2016  #181


Winter is wonderful at Mohonk Preserve! In this issue of Ridgelines, we’ll celebrate 120 years of weather tracking on the Shawangunk Ridge, introduce the Preserve’s new Director of Conservation Science, and meet a father and son team who are rising to the challenge of Rock The Ridge together.

Whether you prefer a brisk hike, cross-county skiing or snowshoeing, the Preserve is the place for you. And don’t forget that our Visitor Center is open year round, with special activities and exhibits for all ages. We look forward to sharing our winter wonderland with you and your family.

Daniel Smiley's descendants taking weather observations on January 1st, 2016.

Celebrating 120 Years of Weather Records at Mohonk Preserve

On the first day of 2016, the Mohonk Lake Cooperative Weather Station began its 120th year of continuous operation. In terms of days, that's more than 43,800 days of volunteer observers personally recording the weather for the National Weather Service as a public service.

This unique national weather station was established at Mohonk Lake on January 1, 1896, by the United States Weather Bureau, with Mohonk Mountain House’s co-founder, Albert K. Smiley, as the first official Observer. The location of the weather shelter, thermometers and rain gauge has always been in the same location since 1896. Each month, the daily weather data is sent to the National Weather Service. From it, Mohonk Preserve Conservation Science staff prepares a monthly weather summary, Natural Science Note, that compares the current monthly weather with the previous 119 years of data for the same month. These summaries, started by Mohonk Preserve co-founder Daniel Smiley and Mohonk Preserve Research Director Emeritus Paul Huth in 1982, are now shared digitally with nearly a hundred individuals and agencies and are also available on the Preserve's website.

The weather station is located in the center of a large natural study area established Daniel Smiley. He and his brother Keith began recording bird arrival dates with young students at the Mohonk School in 1925. Now, 90 years later, the Mohonk Preserve Conservation Science team is still recording bird arrival dates, plant bloom dates, and mammal and insect emergence in the same study area.

As a climate scientist from the Atmospheric Sciences Research Center asked many decades ago, if weather data is showing climate change over time, we should ask, what are the species doing? In a rare scientific convergence, Mohonk Preserve’s Daniel Smiley Research Center has both detailed longitudinal weather records and species phenological records showing significant change over time. In fact, the Mohonk Lake Cooperative Weather Station is showing a 3°F average temperature rise in its 119-year record, and our earliest bird arrivals and plant blooms are trending earlier by over two weeks. Preserve Research Associates have used this information in articles published in international scientific journals.

As we go forward, there are plans underway to fund the automation of this historical weather station. This will enable digital data collection to be made more widely available to the public in real time. It will also enable more information to be collected. The highest priority is ensuring an uninterrupted continuum of high-quality weather data collection. The 120-year old legacy of exceptional volunteer effort demands no less!

To learn more about Mohonk Preserve’s weather data collecting, visit the Conservation Science - Climate Trackers web page. This program is looking for volunteers interested in being a part of history by contributing to the 120-year long dataset! Interested volunteers may contact Citizen Science Education Coordinator Christy Belardo at for more information.


Bird and Butterfly Expert Leads Mohonk Preserve Conservation Science Team

Dr. Elizabeth Long is a natural fit for her new position as Mohonk Preserve Director of Conservation Science. A rock climbing enthusiast, she also studied Peregrine Falcons, one of the Preserve’s conservation success stories, for her Master’s thesis. On January 6, 2016, she participated in the release of a rehabilitated Peregrine on the Shawangunk Ridge.

Elizabeth’s doctoral dissertation focused on the ecology, evolution and genetics of mimicry in Checkerspot Butterflies, a subject she’ll be covering as part of the Shawangunk Ridge Biodiversity Lecture Series on Feb. 25 at SUNY New Paltz. For more information, click here.

“One of the many things I’m looking forward to at the Preserve is the opportunity to work with a 40-year data set of butterfly surveys in the Daniel Smiley Research Center’s collection, and compare it with newly collected data this spring,” Elizabeth noted.

Prior to joining the Preserve, Elizabeth was doing postdoctoral work at UCLA’s La Kretz Center for California Conservation Science and the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County. During that project, she studied butterfly conservation and habitat use in an urban environment and became very involved with citizen science outreach, an important focus of the Preserve’s Conservation Science program.

Elizabeth developed a citizen science program called Butterfly Scan aimed at studying insect biodiversity within the city. Through Butterfly Scan, a crew of citizen scientists learned to identify local butterfly species and gather data on them while walking regular transects in different neighborhoods around LA and entered that data into citizen- science website, an international site modeled after

“I really enjoyed working with citizen science volunteers, and am excited to join the Preserve’s established program and expand it, working with volunteers to continue to add to our phenology database and expand the types of data collected,” Elizabeth said.

Mohonk Preserve’s diversity of habitat types makes it a great area for nature study. “The Preserve’s meadows, marshes, foothills, and forests each offer an opportunity to study a wide variety of species, including butterflies,” Elizabeth noted.

“Butterflies are considered an umbrella species,” she explained. “In an ecological context, they are at the top of the ‘umbrella,’ in that people can see, appreciate and document them. And by protecting butterflies, we protect other species ‘under the umbrella.’ They are also important pollinators, don’t bite or transmit disease, and, as a bonus, they are beautiful.”

In 2016, Elizabeth and the Preserve’s Conservation Science team plan to implement a “Big Year” model based on bird counts to document butterflies on the Preserve. “While we have a great historical record, we are still compiling a comprehensive list of butterfly species in all of our different habitat types,” she explained. “A main goal this year is to identity as many species as possible and put together lists for all of the different habitats. This information can help visitors notice and appreciate butterflies, as well as understand why it is important to preserve habitat for them.”  

Not only will the Preserve be organizing specific butterfly walks, counts and other events, we will also be encouraging use of, where members and visitors can record their sightings at the Preserve. 

“I consider myself a traditional biologist who employs natural history,” Elizabeth said. “Now more people are seeing the value in continuing this tradition, and I’m happy to be at a place with such a rich history and to help further the vision Dan Smiley had over a century ago.”


First-Time Ridge Rockers

Mohonk Preserve’s Rock The Ridge Endurance Challenge is an exceptional ultramarathon that attracts many elite athletes, but at the heart of the event are the “everyday” Ridge Rockers who participate at their own experience levels.

Father and son team John and Tim Hogan discovered Rock The Ridge while researching hiking opportunities online. “Tim is the youngest of my four children and I was looking for an activity we could do together,” John said. “We had been to the Gunks last September and we were both blown away by the amazing scenery.”  

Still, signing up for a 50-mile event was a big decision for the pair. “We’re active people but the only real hiking we’ve done is with our dogs on the nearby Ward Pound Ridge Reservation – definitely nothing of this nature,” John said. “We weren’t sure if we were going to do it or not,” John added. “We had to figure the out math and how to train for it.”

“Tim and I went for a 12-mile hike and afterward I asked him, ‘could you do three more of these?’ And at that point, we couldn’t, but we decided to keep trying and come to decision by end of the year,” John said.

A turning point came in November when the pair signed up for a “Taste of Rock The Ridge” training hike led by Preserve Deputy Executive Director for Strategic Advancement Joe Alfano.

“After walking the 10 miles and learning about the event and the Preserve from Joe and Sarah Topping, a three-time Rock The Ridge participant, Tim and I both decided to give it a try,” John said. “Joe was so calm and encouraging, and meeting Sarah was very reassuring. The ‘Taste’ hike was a safety net that reaffirmed our decision.”

John and Tim also look forward to fundraising for the Preserve. “I think it is a great cause,” John said. “Mohonk Preserve is very special place that is kept up tremendously well. You don’t find places like that often and when you do, you should cherish and support them.”

While John and Tim do have a goal of finishing the event in around 17 hours, they fully intend to take in the spectacular scenery. “We want to stop and enjoy the beautiful things along the way,” John said. “This is a perfect challenge for both of us, and we’ll be making lifelong memories together.” 

For more information about how you can get involved with Rock The Ridge as a participant, volunteer, or supporter, visit the Rock The Ridge section on the Preserve’s website and check out the Rock The Ridge Facebook page. Another free “Taste of Rock The Ridge” run/hike is scheduled for March 19, so register, set your personal goal, and sign up today to Rock The Ridge on April 30, 2016!

Seasonal Updates

PHOTO GALLERY. View seasonal photographs by our volunteer photographers. See more photos by the Mohonk Preserve Volunteer Photographers on their Facebook page.

GET INTO NATURE. See a full list of upcoming programs including Thursday Tales at Ten: Story Time at Mohonk Preserve, The Correlation Between Ancient Native Americans, Stone Features And Concentrated Flows Within Groundwater, and The Shawangunk Ridge Biodiversity Partnership (SRBP) Lecture Series.

IN APPRECIATION. Go to our listing of Memorial and Honorary Gifts, Premium Members, and Business Members received October 1 through December 31, 2015.

CHECK THIS OUT. Let the adventure begin! Mohonk Preserve summer camp registration opens February 1st. To register, click here.

MOHONK PRESERVE MEMBER REWARDS PROGRAM. Show your valid Mohonk Preserve annual or life membership card at over 30 local businesses listed here, and receive a discount or special offer. We welcome our new business members who joined between October 1 and December 31: