MOREAU, N.Y. (NEWS10) – When there’s a threat to a local environment, everyone has a part to play – and an area to search. That’s how 48 people – some professionals, some volunteers – wound up surveying over 650 acres of land in Moreau Lake State Park last month.

Their quarry? A small insect with a huge impact.

The helping hands came together through the “Hemlock Survey Like There’s No To-Moreau” effort, a project designed to evaluate the impact of the Hemlock Woolly Adelgid, an invasive insect that can cause devastating damage to hemlock trees. The program surveyed 886 trees, finding a previously-unknown infestation of the insect. At around one millimeter in length, it can be hard to spot.

“This effort has provided us with invaluable information about the extent of Hemlock Woolly Adelgid currently in the park,” said Casey Holzworth, Natural Resource Steward for the Saratoga-Capital District Region of New York’s state park system. “The information we’ve gathered has helped us understand the health of the hemlock forest and will inform our plans to combat threats in the future.”

The project was organized by the Student Conservation Association, a youth stewardship program bringing high school and college-age students together for environmental conservation projects. Teams of students were paired up with State Parks, DEC and Capital Region Partnership for Regional Invasive Species Management (PRISM) personnel to collect data. The project also gave those students a chance to interact with forestry professionals.

The data gathered will lead to more accurate mapping of Hemlock Woolly Adelgid infestations – and spark a conversation around what happens next. The adelgid has been seen taking down entire forests of eastern hemlock – the most common tree across New York, and roughly 10% of the tree population to the north in the Adirondacks. The insect is believed to have first come to the Adirondacks in the 1950s.