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Preparing for the emerald ash borer

NSF Award:

Maine's Sustainability Science Initiative  (University of Maine)

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A team of University of Maine researchers, in collaboration with the Maine Indian Basketmakers Alliance, is helping Native American basketmakers, tribes and state and federal regulators prepare for the arrival of the emerald ash borer (EAB) in Maine. This devastating invasive beetle from China kills virtually all ash trees, which Maine tribes have used for centuries to make their baskets.

This group, part of the Maine Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) Sustainability Solutions Initiative (SSI), is the first partnership in the nation to bring together university researchers, tribes, basketmakers, and state and federal governments to develop coordinated, proactive responses to a potential emerald ash borer invasion before the insect arrives. The researchers have developed recommendations to help agencies create state and tribal emergency response plans based on lessons learned in other states and previous collaborations between the tribes, basketmakers, the University of Maine and the Maine Forest Service.

The team's findings contribute to improved policy and implementation, which have been shown to lower the cost of responding to an EAB invasion. More proactive planning also has the potential to improve communication and coordination and broaden the diversity and number of stakeholders involved, all of which can contribute to more rapid and effective responses to this invasive insect.

Originally brought to the Detroit, Mich., area in 2002, the EAB has spread to 14 states and two Canadian provinces, proliferating rapidly, largely due to the movement of infected firewood. Maine Indians, known internationally for their fine art tradition of basketmaking with brown ash and sweetgrass, are particularly concerned about the health of brown ash for economic, spiritual, social and cultural reasons. Because the brown ash tree is an important feature in Maine Indian traditional environmental knowledge, SSI researchers and tribal members are collaborating to help map and protect the species.

The SSI research team uses interdisciplinary sustainability science methods and mapping techniques that place an emphasis on Indian basketmakers' uses and knowledge of the brown (or black) ash tree. The collaborative nature of this research is a hallmark of the emerging field of sustainability science, which addresses the urgent social, political and scientific needs of the public.


  • the maine epscor emerald ash borer project builds connections between researchers and tribal communities
The emerald ash borer project links researchers and tribal communities.
Vicki Nemeth

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