Skip to main content

New Horizons Forum - “The Challenges of Saving the American Chestnut”

New Horizons Forum - “The Challenges of Saving the American Chestnut”

Alfred State College Professor of Biology Dr. Steven Jakobi will present “The Challenges of Saving the American Chestnut” at The New Horizons Forum on Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2011, in the Allegany Room of Central Dining Hall from 7-8:30 p.m. The presentation is open to the public free of charge.

Forum director Joe Flynn, SUNY Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus, notes that the American chestnut provided a stable base for the natural and economic landscape for the Eastern United States for most of its history. It was woven into Native American life. A prolific renewable resource, it provided a quarter of this country’s hardwood and was a vital component for the construction and furniture industries. Chestnut trees formed the backbone of many American barns and help feed a broad range of wildlife in the Appalachian region. Chestnut tables and cabinets are still prized heirlooms. The American chestnut inspired writers and naturalists; in fact, Thoreau’s journals contain many descriptions and meditations on the chestnut, and Longfellow’s celebratory lines on the village blacksmith still echo.

Jakobi notes that chestnut blight or chestnut bark disease, was first identified 1904 at the Bronx Zoo in New York City.

“The fungal pathogen quickly vanquished the defenseless American chestnut. Between 1910-50, an estimated 3.5 billion trees died or were cut down in advance of the westward-moving disease front, causing near total extinction,” he notes.

His research focuses on attempts to restore the American chestnut to its former prominence. A member of the American Chestnut Tree Foundation, he may surprise his audience with some new artifacts from its most recent meeting.

A native of Hungary, Jakobi emigrated to the United States in 1967, becoming an American citizen in 1973. With degrees from the University of Cincinnati, West Chester University (PA), and West Virginia University, he has been a cancer researcher at Temple University and held teaching positions at West Virginia University and Massachusetts Bay Community College. For nearly two decades Jakobi has been a professor of biology at Alfred State.

The New Horizons Forum, sponsored by the School of Arts and Sciences, showcases current scholarly, creative, and public service work by faculty, students, professional staff, and invited guests. It is guided by a campus-wide team of advisers whose goal is to enrich the intellectual life of the institution.