The students – junior biology majors Courtney Soley of Buchanan, Mich., and Dustin Houghton of West Lafayette, and sophomore civil engineering major Kaylene Boroski of Wakeman, Ohio – are studying the environmental impact of autumn olive at Pierce Cedar Creek Institute, an ecological field station in southwestern Michigan.
“The spreading of invasive species in America is becoming an increasingly big problem,” said Houghton, who is working with Soley to examine how autumn olive affects the behavior and nesting success of American robins and northern cardinals.
Houghton said invasive plants frequently alter the ecosystem of new environments they enter and can devastate native species. While autumn olive was initially introduced at PCCI to help bird populations, it has since spread across the entire 661-acre reserve.
The research of Houghton and Soley is supported by a $3,500 grant from PCCI’s Undergraduate Research Grants for the Environment program, which helps undergraduate students gain experience planning and conducting environment-related studies. Their study builds upon research by another Valpo student, who last summer found that some birds seemed to avoid autumn olive, while others did not.
Houghton and Soley selected one bird that appeared to stay away from the shrub (the northern cardinal) and one that appeared to have no preference (the American robin), then tracked which trees and shrubs each species used for perching or nesting, and how successful the species were nesting in autumn olive versus other trees and shrubs.
The students’ observations indicate both species tend to avoid placing their nest in autumn olive.
“Only one nest from either species was found in autumn olive, and this nest was depredated,” Houghton said. “As for bird activity, early in the breeding season we found that only one of the 34 birds documented spent any time in autumn olive. This is significant evidence that these birds are avoiding autumn olive.”
While the students have yet to complete their analysis, if the data confirms that the shrub does indeed have a negative effect on bird breeding success, than the continued spread of autumn harvest could damage native bird populations.
“Our research is helping determine whether more effective invasive shrub management strategies need to be developed in order to maintain healthy bird populations,” Houghton said.
Boroski also received a $3,500 PCCI grant to help identify what makes autumn olive such a good competitor to native plants by looking at the impact of the shrub on the availability and cycling of nitrogen in the surrounding soil and water.
“As a nitrogen-fixing plant, autumn olive likely fertilizes itself, giving it a significant advantage over the other native plants around it,” she said. “In addition, if this shrub is altering the soil chemistry, it is likely having a harmful affect on the native plants which are adapted to thrive in their native soil chemistry.”
Boroski will continue collecting soil samples through the middle of August before completing her analysis.
She decided to pursue the project after being approached by Dr. Zuhdi Aljobeh, a civil engineering professor who knew she was interested in undertaking an independent research study and learning about the research process. The summer at PCCI has provided an excellent introduction to research, Boroski said, and she’s looking forward to taking part in other research projects in the future.
“I have learned that research doesn’t always go according to plan and, probably most importantly, how to adapt to situations as they develop and use the resources available to obtain the results I need,” she said.
Valpo’s two studies are among 11 research projects involving 17 undergraduate students at PCCI this summer. In addition to the $3,500 stipend for students, the URGE program provides faculty mentor stipend of up to $3,500 that can be used for equipment purchases, general expenses, travel or training needed for conducting the research project, as well as up to $4,000 in room and board expenses for the student and faculty mentor.
Valpo joined PCCI in 2005, and students have previously won grants to support summer research projects involving methods for controlling invasive plants, air pollution in the Midwest, plant genetics and the impact of development on water quality. In addition to their research, Valpo’s students attended weekly seminars on a variety of environmental topics.
Valpo is one of 13 colleges and universities belonging to the consortium that operates the PCCI biological field station – a 661-acre site with forest, wetlands, fields and lakes. The Institute, located south of Hastings, Mich., is open to the public and includes a visitor center, education building, trails and housing facilities for researchers and guests. More information about the Institute is online at cedarcreekinstitute.org.
Dustin J. Wunderlich | Newswise Science News
Flow of cerebrospinal fluid regulates neural stem cell division
22.05.2018 | Helmholtz Zentrum München - Deutsches Forschungszentrum für Gesundheit und Umwelt
Chemists at FAU successfully demonstrate imine hydrogenation with inexpensive main group metal
22.05.2018 | Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg
So-called quantum many-body scars allow quantum systems to stay out of equilibrium much longer, explaining experiment | Study published in Nature Physics
Recently, researchers from Harvard and MIT succeeded in trapping a record 53 atoms and individually controlling their quantum state, realizing what is called a...
The historic first detection of gravitational waves from colliding black holes far outside our galaxy opened a new window to understanding the universe. A...
A team led by Austrian experimental physicist Rainer Blatt has succeeded in characterizing the quantum entanglement of two spatially separated atoms by observing their light emission. This fundamental demonstration could lead to the development of highly sensitive optical gradiometers for the precise measurement of the gravitational field or the earth's magnetic field.
The age of quantum technology has long been heralded. Decades of research into the quantum world have led to the development of methods that make it possible...
Cardiovascular tissue engineering aims to treat heart disease with prostheses that grow and regenerate. Now, researchers from the University of Zurich, the Technical University Eindhoven and the Charité Berlin have successfully implanted regenerative heart valves, designed with the aid of computer simulations, into sheep for the first time.
Producing living tissue or organs based on human cells is one of the main research fields in regenerative medicine. Tissue engineering, which involves growing...
A team of scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg investigated optically-induced superconductivity in the alkali-doped fulleride K3C60under high external pressures. This study allowed, on one hand, to uniquely assess the nature of the transient state as a superconducting phase. In addition, it unveiled the possibility to induce superconductivity in K3C60 at temperatures far above the -170 degrees Celsius hypothesized previously, and rather all the way to room temperature. The paper by Cantaluppi et al has been published in Nature Physics.
Unlike ordinary metals, superconductors have the unique capability of transporting electrical currents without any loss. Nowadays, their technological...
02.05.2018 | Event News
13.04.2018 | Event News
12.04.2018 | Event News
18.05.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering
18.05.2018 | Information Technology
18.05.2018 | Information Technology