Aquatic ecosystems in the ANF at Audubon’s January 5 First Friday

Photo submitted to Times Observer You can learn about aquatic ecosystems in the Allegheny National Forest at Audubon Community Nature Center’s First Friday Lunch Bunch on January 5 Presenter Nate Welker happily gets wet as part of his work as a fisheries biologist with the U.S. Forest Service.

You can learn a lot about “Allegheny National Forest Aquatic Ecosystems and Communities” at Audubon Community Nature Center’s First Friday Lunch Bunch on January 5, at 11 a.m.

Fisheries biologist Nathan Welker will give a presentation about some of the work being done in the Allegheny National Forest (ANF).

Established in 1923, the 513,000-acre ANF lies within an eight-hour drive of one-third of the population of the United States and is the only National Forest in Pennsylvania. Like most of the eastern U.S., the ANF is working to recover from a “legacy of impacts” including widespread timbering, oil and gas development, industrial pollution, and the growth of the nation.

Fortunately, water quality has improved over the last several decades in many waters that were historically polluted primarily by identifiable sources. However, overall habitat degradation continues to threaten the health of aquatic communities. Increased development and urbanization with their impacts like more road building, poorly managed crop and animal agriculture, and oil and gas development all impact aquatic systems.

Additionally, dams on major rivers and stream crossings on tributaries drastically alter the characteristics of many Allegheny National Forest waterways and result in habitat fragmentation, blockage of aquatic organism passage, and physical habitat alterations.

Today, the ANF’s aquatic ecosystems are recovering and local fish communities have begun to rebound. Unfortunately, non-fish species like freshwater mussels and Eastern hellbenders will be much slower to recover if they can recover at all.

Nathan “Nate” Welker grew up in Sugar Grove, where he graduated from Eisenhower High School in 1990. After a 14-year hiatus away at college, graduate school, and in the Army, he returned to Warren County to take a position with the U.S. Forest Service, Allegheny National Forest. In that role, he has spent the last 13 years providing fisheries and aquatics expertise for a wide range of projects and activities throughout the Forest. Welker also serves on Audubon Community Nature Center’s board of directors as one of his community-minded activities.

A BYO brown bag lunch and conversation follows the program, with coffee and tea provided.

The fee for attending is $8 or $6 for Nature Center Members. Registrations are accepted online on the Programs page at through January 4. Walk-ins are welcome.

First Friday participants may want to make reservations by the January 2 deadline for the 2-4 p.m. program that afternoon on “Apples All Year Long: Choosing Varieties.” Details are on the Programs page at

Audubon Community Nature Center is located at 1600 Riverside Road, one-quarter mile east of Route 62 between Jamestown, N.Y., and Warren, Pa. To learn more, call (716) 569-2345 during business hours or visit the Programs page at

Audubon Community Nature Center builds and nurtures connections between people and nature by providing positive outdoor experiences, opportunities to learn about and understand the natural world, and knowledge to act in environmentally responsible ways.