Arboretum 2021 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 2021 Research Fellowships. Three graduate students were granted fellowships for projects that investigate unique interactions and outcomes relating to conservation issues such as invasive species, restoration, 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.

Research Fellowships for one year of support were awarded to Roberto Carrera-Martínez (PhD candidate, Department of Integrative Biology); Mary-Claire Glasenhardt (MS candidate, Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies); and Dana Johnson (MS candidate, Department of Soil Science).

Carrera-Martínez’s research will explore the distribution of invasive earthworms and invasive plant species in relation to human disturbance and infrastructure. Understanding the impact of disturbance from human-built infrastructure (i.e., trails, roads) on the distribution of invasive earthworms and plants will expand our understanding of the drivers of invasive species establishment and ecosystem change.

Glasenhardt will build on long-term monitoring data from Curtis Prairie—the world’s oldest prairie restoration. This research will identify how the vegetative community has changed over time and evaluate the effects of invasive species and management on plant diversity. Identifying patterns in succession, invasion resistance, or management techniques that reduce invasive species or increase diversity would inform tallgrass prairie restoration efforts.

Johnson’s research will evaluate the effects of invasive jumping worms on fungal communities in Wisconsin forests, focusing on soil aggregation and fungi diversity and biomass. This research will increase our understanding of ongoing species invasions and inform land management and restoration decisions.

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.

They will join 2020 Research Fellowship recipient Skye Harnsberger (MS candidate, Department of Entomology) and 2020 Leopold Fellowship recipient Katherine Charton (PhD candidate, Department of Integrative Biology). Harnsberger will study the effects of local and landscape characteristics on native prairie butterfly communities—adding to current efforts to assess biodiversity. Charton is researching 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. Harnsberger’s work was delayed due to COVID-19 travel restrictions and Charton’s work continues under her two-year award for full support. We look forward to sharing more about the Fellows and the progress of their research.

—Christy Lowney, Research Specialist