Using native winners to improve restoration outcomes on the Colorado Plateau
Restoration of habitat degraded by invasive species, wildfires, or other disturbances is occurring on a large scale in the western United States. These restoration efforts are often limited by lack of knowledge about which species will perform best in these degraded sites, and limited availability of affordable, appropriate native seeds. Research at the Chicago Botanic Garden is being carried out with partners across the Colorado Plateau as part of the Colorado Plateau Native Plant Program (including the Bureau of Land Management, US Geological Survey and other government and academic partners) to identify species and seed sources that can help improve restoration outcomes (we refer to such sources as native winners). Work includes seed viability and germination lab studies at Chicago Botanic Garden, collecting seeds of target species in the Colorado Plateau, and establishing study plots to compare genetic differences among native species, and sources within these species, in performance traits, e.g., germination, establishment, and competition with invasive species like cheatgrass. This REU will be exposed to all aspects of our collaborative research program and its applications to restoration, and will work with mentors at Chicago Botanic Garden and in the Colorado Plateau for a lab and field-based research project. It will involve spending 3-4 weeks working with mentors to collect data at field sites in the Colorado Plateau. Remaining time will be spent at Chicago Botanic Garden conducting lab-based research and working with mentors to analyze, visualize, and communicate results.