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HOLYOKE — On Wednesday, Dec. 9 at 2 p.m., Wistariahurst will host “Invasive Earthworms in New England Forests,” detailing their damage and spread as part of an ongoing series of live, virtual programming. Presented by Justin Richardson, assistant professor of Geosciences at UMass Amherst, this program will be free and open to all. Pre-registration is required.

Forests in New England are under pressure from shifting climates, introduced species, and human uses for fuel and wood products. One largely understudied biological pressure involves invasive earthworms. New England forests largely developed without native earthworms due to the last major glaciation. Since international boat travel, New England forests experienced a wave of European earthworms. Richardson will discuss their impacts on forests where they have been observed, as well as some measures to prevent their spread and potential control mechanisms.

Richardson’s research focuses on forest soils and how humans alter the physical, chemical, and biological nature. His current research focuses on nutrient cycling in perturbed soils, toxic metal transport in New England watersheds, and urban forests.

This program has been designed to address the needs of area seniors, many of whom continue to be socially isolated as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The program is supported through a Community Development Block Grant to address, prevent, and respond to the COVID-19 pandemic; administered through the Holyoke Office of Community Development; and planned in consultation with the Holyoke Council on Aging. Additional support has been provided through NEH CARES Act funding granted by Mass Humanities.

To register for “Invasive Earthworms in New England Forests” or any future programs, visit www.wistariahurst.org or e-mail Eileen Maginnis at the Holyoke Council on Aging at [email protected]. If you have an idea for a topic you’d like to be considered for a future Wistariahurst session, e-mail [email protected]. Future virtual programs will focus on a diverse range of historical and cultural topics including programs on nature, art, history, travel, and social justice.


In order to protect the community and join in public efforts to keep any regional coronavirus outbreak under control, Wistariahurst is cancelling its public offerings, suspending its volunteer program, and delaying its season opening for a minimum of 30 days.

“Along with so many of our peers in this community and across the globe, Wistariahurst is taking our role as a heavily trafficked public site seriously and closely monitoring the situation,” Director Kate Preissler said. “Despite having been in our offseason, we have maintained a high level of activity at Wistariahurst in the last months with school groups, college visitors, and special events. Without shifts in our work, those numbers will only increase in the coming weeks. We are committed to aid in the prevention of the spread of this and other viruses in our region in whatever ways we can.”

The decision aligns with the protective guidelines set in place by the city of Holyoke regarding public gatherings, she said, but also takes into account certain special circumstances at Wistariahurst, including the presence on its staff and volunteer team of people with vulnerabilities to this and other infections; the museum’s dual role as an educational facility and steward of the historic preservation of this site, which brings extra challenges when it comes to thoroughly disinfecting its historic materials; the fact that its audience is an eclectic mix of students, people visiting the area from out of town, and individuals over age 60; and the intimate spaces in the old home, making the recommended distancing of three to six feet between people impossible for large groups.

For now, administrative offices will remain staffed and available for questions by phone and e-mail. In-person archival research appointments are suspended but the city historian will remain available for research inquiries via e-mail and phone.

“Our extended seasonal closure will provide us with the time and space to embark on new projects, virtual engagement materials, and more. Stay tuned for additional updates and communications,” Preissler said. “Thank you to everyone in our community who supports us with your presence, your membership, your volunteerism, and your energies. We are inspired, as always, with the way that our fair city bands together in times of need.”