Spring was wonderful this year at Ichauway, with the smell of wood smoke drifting through the longleaf pine forests most days and wildflowers blooming all around. Now as we move into a hot summer, things have been especially busy around here. Our research field season is fully underway and construction crews have been hard at work on our new facilities. It’s very exciting to see those take shape day by day. We thought we’d share some of our recent activities here at the Center.
Natural Regeneration Thinning Project
A new project led by Dr. Josh Puhlick is evaluating the use of silvicultural treatments for releasing longleaf pine saplings in dense patches of pine to enhance structure in multi-aged stands. For this project, we will harvest overstory trees near dense patches of saplings and thin saplings within patches, assisted by Brandon Rutledge and conservation fellows Ty Paul and Kurt Sigler. We began work on the demonstration plots in March and April and were encouraged by the ability of the feller buncher operator to cut saplings within patches while avoiding damage to residual saplings. As we add other research plots to the study, we will monitor growth and mortality of residual trees within patches. Our hypothesis is that residual saplings will have higher growth rates and be recruited to the overstory sooner compared to those in patches with no thinning intervention. Such strategies may also enhance forest carbon accumulation and provide benefits for longleaf pine associated wildlife species.
Adaptive Silviculture Entomology Project
Predictions about insect populations and outbreaks are important for adapting forests to future change. We have established protocols for measuring and monitoring insect populations within the Adaptive Silviculture for Climate Change site at Ichauway. We have established transects for detecting downed tree boles across the study area. From these downed trees, we are randomly selecting individual pine and oaks for sampling, cutting cross sections, and collecting insects from these dead wood samples. These monitoring efforts will aid in formulating future silvicultural prescriptions for the study area.
Carbon Workshop
In April 2022, we hosted a workshop on carbon storage and sequestration in longleaf pine ecosystems. Researchers from GA, FL, AL, SC, and MO met to discuss strategies for enhancing carbon accumulation in longleaf pine ecosystems. The workshop was led by our own Joshua Puhlick and Tom O’Halloran (Clemson University) and included on-site presentations, field tours, and virtual presentations on harvested wood products and longleaf pine carbon accounting programs. Keep an eye out for the review paper they will write on carbon storage and sequestration in longleaf pine ecosystems.
National Interagency Prescribed Fire Training Center 
The Jones Center has had a long relationship with the National Interagency Prescribed Fire Training Center, which brings federal agency wildland firefighters from Western states to the Southeast to train them in the use of prescribed fire. Groups spend three weeks at different properties around the region, participating in 10-12 prescribed fires. Every year, we host 2-3 groups for an orientation to fire in longleaf pine. We were excited to be able to work with two groups in February and March. This is a great opportunity to showcase the programs at the Jones Center, the Ichauway property, and our exemplary prescribed fire program. 
Florida State University Fire Dynamics Program 
The Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Institute at Florida State University recently launched a new degree program in Fire Dynamics. This major involves mathematical modeling, fluid dynamics, and environmental factors dealing with wildland and prescribed fires. This spring, we hosted a group of graduate students and post-doctoral researchers from the program, most of whom have backgrounds in computational science, meteorology, or physics. We gave them their first exposure to an actual prescribed fire. It was an invaluable experience for them to gain first-hand knowledge of a phenomenon that they had only experienced from the perspective of a computer monitor, and we learned a lot about the state of the science in fire modeling.
UGA Prescribed Fire Course
We were pleased to host our 20th offering of our prescribed fire short course in collaboration with the University of Georgia Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources. This year’s version was a hybrid, with classroom lectures delivered virtually to students at the University of Georgia. They then traveled to Ichauway for the outdoor portions of the class. Despite the rainy week preventing any prescribed fires, the students dove head-first into the opportunity to learn about fire ecology and management and restoration of longleaf pine. Everyone left with a better understanding of the importance of prescribed fire in the management of southeastern ecosystems.
University of Florida Silviculture Class
For 25 years, the University of Florida School of Forest, Fisheries, & Geomatics Sciences’ silviculture class has made an annual trip to SW Georgia and Ichauway. This class does a great job of exposing students to the full range of silviculture as practiced in the SE US. We always enjoy the opportunity to show them our magnificent second-growth longleaf pine forests and share our knowledge of multiple-aged management for a broad range of objectives.
Whitehead Timber Harvest
We completed a timber harvest in April on the Whitehead portion of Ichauway. The harvest area consisted of 185 acres of natural pine and 113 acres of planted longleaf pine. We thinned the natural pine areas using single-tree selection and the Stoddard-Neel approach, while we row-thinned the planted longleaf pine for the first time. Our objectives included: stand health and improvement, the release and encouragement of longleaf regeneration, improvement of bobwhite quail habitat, the enhancement of foraging habitat for 3 red-cockaded woodpecker clusters, and the improvement of habitat for other longleaf-associated wildlife species. Additionally, in conjunction with Dr. Josh Puhlick and the Ecological Silviculture lab, we installed 2 pilot research plots for an upcoming project investigating the release of longleaf regeneration. At least 2 of the 3 treated red-cockaded woodpecker clusters have initiated nesting after harvest.
Red-cockaded Woodpecker Restoration Program
The 2022 red-cockaded woodpecker (RCW) nesting season for Ichauway officially began on April 11. We have had a very successful season with a large number of Potential Breeding Groups (47), which helped us set a new record of over 80 banded chicks this year. Due to recent efforts to expand the RCW population across the site, we had several nests in areas (the Larke Field, Big Pasture, Mock Woods, and George Place) that have not been occupied by RCWs for at least the last 40 years. We also discovered a new natural cavity off Mim’s Store Road at least 1 mile from the nearest occupied cluster. In early May, a film crew from PBS Nature was on-site to capture some footage of Ichauway RCWs and prescribed fire.
Prescribed Fire Activities & Quail Research Project
We have had a productive burn season thus far and have burned approximately 9,000 acres through the beginning of May. All areas with a 2-year rough have been burned and the remaining focus will be on areas with a 1-year rough and burn units targeted for growing season fire to achieve ecological objectives, such as wiregrass flowering, greater hardwood control, and longleaf pine seedbed preparation. 

With the arrival of spring, the bobwhite quail project moved into a new phase. Our over-winter quail survival rate was 52.8%, with 22 of the 50 original tagged quail killed by various predators. This over-winter survival estimate is in-line with other properties managed for quail in our area. Spring quail trapping was a success with 60 new quail fitted with transmitters. The first radio-tagged quail nest was discovered on April 26. Our summer survival rate is currently 96.3%. Jeff Grayum from our Wildlife Ecology Lab will continue tracking the remaining 78 radio-tagged quail through nesting season.