Investigating the presence of co-facilitation between jumping worms (Amynthas spp.) and invasive honeysuckle (Lonicera spp.) in a mesocosm

Emily Snelson, Department of Botany, UW–Madison
Advisor: Brad Herrick, UW–Madison Arboretum

Nonnative earthworms have the potential to alter the soils, nutrient cycling, and biota of temperate forests. The majority of knowledge regarding earthworm invasions focuses on European earthworms, but less is known about the impacts of Asian “jumping worms” (e.g. Amynthas spp.), which are more recent invaders. Previous evidence has shown the potential for co-facilitation between European earthworms and invasive plants such as honeysuckle (Lonicera spp.), but it is unknown if a similar relationship occurs between jumping worms and honeysuckle. To test for this, we will use a mesocosm experiment to determine: 1) if jumping worm success is correlated with honeysuckle presence, and 2) if jumping worm success in honeysuckle invaded environments varies based on the specific earthworm species present. This study will provide insight into preferred jumping worm habitats, will add to our knowledge of the implications of jumping worm invasions, and will provide suggestions for future land management practices.

An Evaluation of Disturbed Populations at Faville Prairie

Mercedez Kennedy, Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies, UW–Madison
Advisor: Paul Zedler, Department of Botany, UW–Madison

Faville Prairie is a remnant prairie adjacent to the Crawfish River in Jefferson County, Wisconsin. The prairie, which significantly flooded in 2008, has been surveyed multiple times, notably before the event, in 1978, and after the event, in 2012. Comparing the surveys shows a severe decline in the populations of several plant species, including Silphium terebinthinaceum and S. laciniatum. This study will evaluate the rate at which S. terebinthinaceum and S. laciniatum start to recover from the population crash likely caused by the flooding disturbance. The quadrats previously surveyed will be surveyed again to determine the two target species’ current presence at Faville Prairie. The general population of the target species located outside of the plots will also be tested for reproduction success by assessing seed output and production.

Restored prairie outcomes and bumblebees (Bombus spp.) in Southern Wisconsin: The effects of upland prairie restoration, management, and landscape context on bumblebee abundance and diversity.

Jade Kochanski, Department of Entomology, UW–Madison
Advisor: Claudio Gratton, Department of Entomology, UW–Madison

Bumblebees (Bombus spp.) are important pollinators and can be indicators of an ecosystem’s ability to support beneficial insects, yet their populations have been declining worldwide. Habitat loss is a driver of these declines. Conservation practices, such as prairie restorations, that restore habitat in natural and agricultural ecosystems are a means of mitigating bee declines. This study aims to evaluate outcomes of prairie restoration and the effects on bee communities. We measure outcomes of prairie restorations by using observational abundance and diversity surveys at sites with one of the following restoration/management practices: 1) non-seeded, or self-regenerating, 2) seeded, and 3) seeded and managed with prescribed fire. We also aim to understand how the strategic placement of restorations in a landscape can mitigate habitat loss for Bombus spp. by surveying at sites that are surrounded by varying amounts of a natural area.

Impacts of prescribed fire timing on oak (Quercus spp.) savanna restoration

Christy Lowney, UW–Madison Arboretum

Fire is essential for maintaining oak ecosystems, and prescribed fire is a management tool commonly used to maintain oak systems in the absence of naturally occurring wildfires. The impact of timing of prescribed fire in oak savanna restorations is an area where research is lacking. This study will examine the impacts of spring and summer prescribed burning, in varying rotations, on oak savanna restorations in Wisconsin and compare them to sites in Southern Michigan.

Effect of Early Bird fertilizer on adult Amynthas earthworms

Brad Herrick and Marie Johnston, UW–Madison Arboretum

Asian pheretimoid earthworms of the genus Amynthas present an ongoing challenge for ecologists, land managers, horticulturalists, gardeners, and the green industry in general. These earthworms feed on organic matter, primarily in the form of leaf litter, and are commonly found in forests, gardens, mulched beds, potted plants, and other green products. Preliminary research and anecdotal observations suggest that these earthworms eliminate the duff layer in forests, modify nutrient cycling processes, out-compete or otherwise displace other earthworm species, and may negatively impact native and ornamental plant growth. Currently, there are no feasible control mechanisms to keep them from reproducing and spreading to other habitats. Early Bird, an organic nitrogen-based fertilizer, has shown to significantly reduce earthworm casts on golf course putting greens. This study will test the efficacy of using Early Bird to reduce adult Amynthas numbers in a sugar maple forest.

Urban Road Salt Study

Jessica Ross, UW–Madison Arboretum

The goal of the Wingra Springs project is to determine if the groundwater supplying Lake Wingra springs are experiencing acute or chronic chloride impairments by assessing specific conductance and chloride levels over time. This project began in 2011 as part of the Urban Road Salt Study, which looked at the accumulation of chloride levels in surface and groundwater due to increased road salts used for de-icing streets and roads. This project will continue to assess long term chloride levels in groundwater at the springs surrounding Lake Wingra.

Deer, ticks, and twigs: Citizen Science tools for monitoring

Don Waller, Department of Botany, UW–Madison

Abundant deer threaten tree regeneration, forest diversity, and human and wildlife health, yet we often lack key data that would improve our understanding of these interactions. We propose to 1) test methods to assess deer impacts based on the height and longevity of twigs on woody shrubs and tree seedlings, 2) collect data on tick densities for sites with known forest structure and local deer impacts, and 3) develop resources to support a citizen science initiative to teach tree and tick identification, ecological concepts, and field methods for collecting data relevant to forest and wildlife managers. The goal is to connect students, teachers, and citizen naturalists with UW researchers and DNR staff to advance public understanding and involvement in key natural resource issues.

Macro-Consequences of Micro-Organisms: Fungal Influences on Forest Responses to Changing Climates

Richard Lankau, Department of Plant Pathology, UW–Madison

Temperate forests are under increasing stress from rising temperatures and variable precipitation. Traditionally, it has been assumed that trees have two options to respond to climate change: range shifts through space or adaptation in place. Our research group is investigating a possible third option—can trees gain tolerance to novel climates by changing their associations with microbial partners in their roots?