2013 Mentor Projects
The Plants of Concern (POC) program (plantsofconcern.org) monitors and assesses long-term trends for over 200 species of the Chicago Region's endangered, threatened, and rare plants species, and provides this data to partner landowners and managers for conservation decision making. POC also contributes to regional projects aimed at understanding and conserving native flora.
This past summer I worked as a conservation project management intern with Andrea Kramer, Executive Director of BGCI (Botanic Gardens Conservation International) to manage two different conservation projects that were in the progression/development stage.
Natural areas are managed using aboveground methods, but these methods have profound influences on belowground processes. Decomposition is an important process that is driven by soil organisms and determines nutrient availability for next year's plant growth. This project investigates how restoration methods influence decomposition and fungal decomposer communities.
Neutral genetic diversity within plants is often used to track important evolutionary processes including gene flow, species and population divergence, and evolutionary ancestry.
Microbial interactions between bacteria and fungi exist in nearly every niche on the planet, such as lungs of cystic fibrosis patients, catheters, crop roots, soils, and concrete buildings. They are expected to have enormous impacts on our society, ranging from treating persistent microbial infections, to drug discovery, to biotechnology, to driving numerous biogeochemical cycles.
Recent studies of genetic diversity in two of the five known populations of Cirsium pitcheri present opposing picture of the state of affairs. One population had low diversity and high inbreeding, while the other had high diversity and low inbreeding.
Castilleja is a taxonomically tricky and morphologically variable plant genus in the western United States. The species in this genus have been known to naturally hybridize and have overlapping ranges yet are considered distinct from one another.
Isoëtes butleri is an endangered lycopod (fern ally). In Illinois this species has exhibited recent population declines, and managers are interested what factors influence population size.
Golden paintbrush is a small, charismatic, hemiparasitic plant that historically grew in the prairies of western Oregon and Washington. Extirpated in Oregon since the 1940s, current efforts for reintroduction show promise for recovery.
In western Minnesota prairie restorations have been planted near native prairie remnants. Two non-native Echinacea species (E. pallida and E. purpurea) have been planted in restorations. We want to know the extent to which the non-natives affect reproduction in the native species.
In this project, an REU intern will have the opportunity to explore the community ecology of mycorrhizae (plant-fungal symbioses) in the seasonally dry tropical forests of the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico.
Research in the Wickett lab makes use of high-throughput (next generation) DNA sequencing and bioinformatics to gain insight into how genome and gene-family diversification is related to the evolution of morphological, ecological, and molecular novelty in plants.
Orchids belong to one of the most abundant families on earth and tend to be very specific in their habitats. Many exotic species are commercially grown in greenhouses, but our local terrestrial species are not so easily domesticated. As a result, their preservation is challenging, and conventional reintroduction and restoration techniques are intractable for many species.
Ecological niche modeling, also known as species distribution modeling, has emerged as a powerful tool in ecology and evolutionary biology. The technique combines occurrence records of a species together with climatic or other environmental variables to produce a model of the species fundamental niche.
The Chicago Wilderness Society is working a new project called "100 Sites for 100 Years" to record changes across natural areas in the Chicago Region. One aspect of habitat quality we are interested is changes in soil characteristics associated with management.
The plant genus, Artocarpus is distributed from South Asia east into Oceania, and is the third largest genus (55 68 spp.) in the Moraceae family (fig and mulberry). Artocarpus contains several species of economic and agricultural significance throughout the tropics.
Reproduction in the purple coneflower, Echinacea angustifolia, occurs each July in western Minnesota. Peak flowering varies from year to year by several weeks. In a large experimental planting of Echinacea in a prairie restoration, we have observed that seed set starts high and declines during the flowering season. We want to know why.
Most large-scale restoration projects are conducted using seed mixes. Knowledge of seed viability (ability of seeds to germinate) is important both in calculating seed required and evaluating establishment success of individual species or genotypes in a restored community.
The Plants of Concern (POC) Program (www.plantsofconcern.org) monitors 237 species of the Chicago Region's endangered, threatened, and rare plants, assesses long-term trends in rare plant species, and provides data on plant response to management activities and environmental threats to over 112 partner landowners and managers for conservation...
Buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica) is an invasive species which crowds out wildflowers in the forests of the Midwest. There are many different management techniques have been employed to control the plant, however re-invasion is a big issue. Some observation have shown that mulching can provide some resistance to r-einvasion, including using buckthorn chips - which are thought to be allopathic.