Estimating Impacts of Bison Grazing on Rare Plants at the Nachusa Grasslands
The bison are coming to a prairie near you! The Nachusa Grasslands, the largest privately held reserve in northern Illinois, is bringing bison back to the prairie. The objective of this project is to collect baseline vegetation data in the year prior to bison release as part of a long-term demographic study. We will focus upon the habitat of Lespedeza leptostachya, prairie bush clover, a gravel hill species endemic to just 4 states in the tallgrass prairie region of the U.S. We will be using remote sensing techniques from publically available imagery such as that collected by Landsat 8, as well as fine-scale aerial imagery captured locally at the Nachusa Grasslands (pending funding). The aim is to correlate the characteristic spectral signature of the habitat with on-the-ground vegetation data and population performance measures of prairie bush clover, including rate of population growth, extinction probability, or percent of juveniles. The REU on this project will be collecting and analyzing field data, as well as learning how to analyze and interpret remote sensed imagery data.