The Lion's Rear

New England Forests


Ray Asselin produces Videos as "New Englands Forests", about the ecology of New England and particularly Western Massachusetts.

Now retired from a career in IT, I get to spend as much of my time as I like in the woods of western Massachusetts, a region (surprisingly) rich in forested land. I have always been drawn to the varied forests of this region, which lies in the transition zone between the southern oak/hickory forest and the northern hardwood forest.

We are blessed with a wonderful mixture and diversity of both plant and animal life forms, all of which have fascinated me since my boyhood. Much of my daily time is now spent producing films in these forests to document the remnants of old growth forests we still have.

I also enjoy producing art pieces in wood as a woodturner.

My goal in this blog is to share information, photos, and experiences related to the forests of our beautiful New England. You can watch our films at our New England Forests Youtube channel. Enjoy!

Reading the Forested Landscape

This playlist is a "three-part film featuring ecologist Tom Wessels teaching us how to interpret land-use history in the forests of New England (and beyond), plus a look at the ecology of co-evolved species."

This series is what introduced me to the channel, and Tom's unique brand of "forest forensics", reverse-engineering the history of a seemingly wild forest all the way back to the civil war era and beyond is really impressive stuff to see in action. There was some really interesting information about how forests are cultivated in America, how they re-wild, and how to read the history of the land.

The second video has some interesting stuff about chestnut trees – the American Chestnut has been subject to a blight which nearly wiped it out and that’s only now starting to change. He kind of implies in this video, and I am curious to find out more about this, that the American Chestnut has started to gain a natural immunity to the chestnut blight. I'm not sure if that's a purely native adaptation or if they're just starting to naturally hybridize with the Chinese Chestnut. The American Chestnut Foundation is going to some great lengths to produce American Chestnut which contain blight resistant genes through backcross breeding and CRISPR insertion of a single gene from the Chinese Chestnut which produces an enzyme that breaks down the acid used by the blight fungus to attack the trees, and by directly attacking the blight fungus. I'm not opposed to human intervention in this since it was our fucking fault in the first place, but if the trees have already been able to naturally develop some sort of resistance this would be quite remarkable.

The third video in the series talks about forest fire forensics. The last two videos in this playlist featuring Tom I haven't watched yet, but it did motivate me to look and find Oregon and Washington's Roadside Ecology and start digging more in to this stuff than just walking around with iNaturalist will get me.

Tom Wessels person

Tom Wessels (born 1951) is an American terrestrial ecologist working as a professor at Antioch University New England in the Department of Environmental Studies, where he founded a master's program in conservation biology. He is the author of five books and is an active environmentalist.

New England's Native Oak Trees

This documentary about the various types of Oak trees starts with typology and identification of the 12 species and a handful of hybrid trees but dives in to questions around how they fit in to the ecology of the forest around them, the types of life they support and are supported by. Very neat stuff.