2015 Mentor Projects
Insect communities are an important part of ecological interactions, especially involving relationships with plants. Because of this importance, there are especially interesting interactions when species are rare or in decline. To get at some of these interactions, this project examines pollination biology of a threatened plant and the arthropod community of a common, but declining tree.
The tallgrass prairie ecosystem – a vast landscape of grasses and wildflowers – once dominated the Midwest. However, it’s now one of the most endangered ecosystems in North America. Ecological restoration is the only way to gain new prairie habitat, but restoring a diverse and fully functioning prairie is difficult.
Temperature and precipitation patterns are predicted to affect the early growth rates of temperate grassland species such as Prairie Bush Clover, particularly germination responses that are critical to maintaining viable populations. Preliminary population projection models of PBC suggest that both of these factors have strong effects on the population growth rate of this species.
Vulnerable plant species, which are often classified as rare or endangered in certain parts of their ranges, are unique in that they are neither common, nor highly threatened with extinction. However, local populations are often small and fragmented, which makes them ideal candidates for restoration.
Restoration of natural areas and native plant communities is challenging, especially in urban areas. Practitioners often rely on experience and anecdotal evidence when making management decisions to meet their goals. In constructed ecosystems, these rules don’t always apply.
The use of a genetically diverse native plants material in restoration and urban gardens is coming increasingly important. However, producing genetically-diverse native plant material can be incredibly challenging. Each step of production, from collecting the raw material to sowing the seed into a restoration site, has the potential to decrease the genetic diversity of the produced material....
There are only 11 known populations of Castilleja levisecta in the wild. Restorations efforts by multiple institutions has seen plants being reintroduced to sites in Oregon, where until recently it was extinct, and sites in Washington and British Columbia, Canada. These restoration efforts are important part of the recovery plan for this species.
Our studies of Oenothera harringtonii (Arkansas Valley Evening Primrose) have revealed geographic variation of floral scent compounds despite evidence of high gene flow. Scent variation in O. harringtonii is mainly associated with a single compound, linalool; which is sometimes found in large quantities.
To address the loss of prairie ecosystems, ecological restoration is increasingly used to conserve native species and regain ecosystem services. However, despite decades of research and applied restoration, restored prairie habitat often falls short of remnant prairie habitat in supporting species diversity and delivering ecosystem services.
This research project examines monarch utilization of common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) populations along an urbanization gradient in and around Chicago, IL. In response to recent dramatic declines in the monarch butterfly population, a large milkweed planting initiative is underway across the nation.
The objective of this project is to identify ecologically important symbiotic and saprotrophic fungi from understudied seasonally dry tropical forests in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula using cutting edge tools.
Scenic water vistas and diverse aquatic habitat are defining landscape elements throughout the Chicago Botanic Garden’s 60-acre system of interconnected lakes. Beginning in 1999, the Garden has engaged in a systematic rejuvenation of its lake shoreline using innovative bioengineering techniques. These approaches rely heavily on dense stands of native vegetation to control erosion of fragile...
Vanilla planifolia is an economically valuable orchid that is widely used for flavors and fragrances. Worldwide, the Vanilla industry usually encounters recurring threats from Fusarium oxysporum, a fungal pathogen that causes root and stem rot. Studies have revealed that Vanilla farms lose up to 67% of plants when infected by Fusarium oxysporum.
New genomics-focused techniques have allowed us to generate large volumes of data for both phylogenetic and functional analysis. In particular, the relatively new field of phylogenomics has allowed us to improve the resolution of relationships between related species, with the emphasis on nodes that have been recalcitrant with more traditional techniques.
Students will be comparing samples from buckthorn invaded and restored oak savannas to look at Plant-soil relationships.
Habitat fragmentation of Midwestern prairies has lead to many consequences for plant species, including disruption of plant pollinator interactions. Pollinator limitation in fragmented habitats can lead to reduced seed set, subsequent reduction of population size, and higher likelihood of inbreeding. Additionally, orchids are of special conservation concern because they can act as bio-...
Angiosperms, or flowering plants, appeal to various pollinators by exhibiting floral characteristics such as color, scent, and the times of the day their petals open based on the pollinators they wish to attract (Dodd et al 1999) These evolutionary adaptations increase the chances that pollination by a particular pollinator will occur and, thus, increase the likelihood that a seed will be...
Species undergoing range expansions often experience rapid population growth at the range edge. Rates of inbreeding may be high in populations at the range edge due to smaller population size and isolation. Mangroves are tropical woody plants that are currently expanding their range into more temperate zones and have doubled in area in northern Florida in the last 25 years.
The plant tribe Onagreae (Onagraceae; the evening primrose family) and its associated insects pollinators (Sphingidae hawkmoth) and herbivores (Mompha microlepidoptera and Hawkmoth larvae) is a model systems for studying the role of floral scent in shaping the evolution of plants and their associated organisms across western North America.
In Minnesota, tallgrass prairie has been reduced to less than 1 percent of its original extent. Although prairie restorations have been planted to increase the extent of prairie habitat, these restorations sometimes use non-native species. For example, a prairie restoration in our study area in western Minnesota was planted with the non-native Echinacea pallida.