Middle School Students Help Make Breaktrough Discovery Concerning Emerald Ash Borer

Middle school students from the Delaware City School District are currently on the verge of an amazing discovery. These students, all members of a summer ecology camp, are teaming up with lead scientists to find the source of resilience in a select number of trees to the emerald ash borer — an invasive insect responsible for the destruction of entire forests — specifically in the Dempsey Middle School wetlands.


21 students that have recently completed seventh or eighth grade were eager to learn more about botany and biology, enrolling in the middle school’s local ecology summer camp. Unlike most summer camps, instead of threading friendship bracelets and playing capture-the-flag, these students are directly involved in real-world science projects, using hands-on experience with forest and wetland ecology to better their understanding in the world around them.

Just last year, the club received an award from the Statewide Expanded Learning Summit for its impressive project-based method of learning and teaching, as well as for their use of STEM programming—a method of teaching encouraged by a coalition of educators seeking to get government officials to recognize how the practices of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics all play in the US.


The emerald ash borer is an exotic beetle first discovered in 2002, and is known nationwide by ecologists for its destructive habits. While adults do little to harm to trees, the baby larvae are known to feed on the inner bark of ash trees, and are responsible for killing millions of trees across the mid-eastern US, including states such as Michigan, Arkansas, Connecticut, and Delaware.


Teaming up with scientists from the US Forest Service Northern Research Station, students have found that the trees inhabiting the Dempsey Middle School wetlands to have a significantly higher resilience against the emerald green borer than the other 55 sites they visited. It is here that students are working closely with Katherine Knight, a scientist from the aforementioned research station, in order to discover the source of resilience among this population of trees.

Paul Olen, the head coordinator of the summer ecology club, says that the equally-resilient students are yet to be put off from working in less-than-comfortable conditions, including persistent insects and consistently horrible weather:

“They’ve been working in mud, heat and mosquito-infested area and they haven’t complained at all. We did some rigorous hiking in rough terrain while getting drenched with water. This was rough to me and I’ve been to Africa and Central America hiking, and they were able to handle it.”

Upon finally discovering the source of resilience in the wetlands of Delaware, these students hope to work with scientists in helping to preserve other areas infested with the emerald ash borer —“This is real science in the real world,” says Olen, “and our students are having a blast being a part of it.”


Researching within nature can be rough. Atmoph gives you enjoyment regardless of whether you leave your apartment: