Arboretum 2020 Research Fellowship Recipients Announced

View of Curtis Prairie from the Native Plant Garden in spring

Curtis Prairie overlook (Photo: Bob Jaeger)

The Arboretum is pleased to announce the recipients of the 2020 Research Fellowships. Five graduate students were granted fellowships for projects that investigate unique interactions and outcomes relating to conservation issues such as invasive species, stormwater, and ecosystem change. The students receive funding and access to Arboretum land and resources. The Arboretum will also foster connections and collaborations among the Fellows over the course of their projects.

The Leopold Fellowship includes two years of full support. Katherine Charton (PhD candidate, Department of Integrative Biology) received the fellowship to research the effects of management and precipitation on woody encroachment in tallgrass prairie in order to better understand rates of ecosystem change and tipping point thresholds.

Research Fellowships for one year of support were awarded to Erin Crone (MS candidate, Department of Forest and Wildlife Ecology); Skye Harnsberger (MS candidate, Department of Entomology); Nick Hoffman (MS candidate, Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies); and Carson Keller (PhD candidate, Department of Zoology).

Crone’s research will investigate the urban threats of stormwater pollutants and invasive species to herpetofauna in order to better understand interactions and support habitat management. The two-part research will look at how amphibian larva tolerate exposure to pollutants in stormwater pond sediments, and the role of jumping worms in foodwebs of reptile and amphibian predators.

Harnsberger will study the effects of local and landscape characteristics on native prairie butterfly communities. Her butterfly community surveys will add to current efforts to assess biodiversity.

Hoffman’s research aims to reconstruct a fifty-year record of salt, nutrient, and pollutant loads deposited in the sediments of Curtis and Coyote Pond and spread to Curtis Prairie through outflow. This research will provide context for the historical response of Curtis Prairie’s vegetation to reed canary grass invasion and other ecological changes.

Keller will evaluate the effect of invasive species on plant-herbivore and predator-prey interactions. The research will focus on buckthorn and jumping worms and understanding if their presence affects small mammal behavior, and if the presence of a particular invasive species will lead to a predictable suite of behaviors. Understanding how invasions alter ecological interactions can inform management efforts.

These Fellows were selected for their potential to advance knowledge and have a sustained influence in their field, as well as their projects’ relevance to the Arboretum’s mission and work. The recipients demonstrate a passion for conservation and an understanding of the real-world scientific applications of their work. We look forward to sharing more about the Fellows and the progress of their research.