2017 Conference Poster Presentations

Ely Area Invasives Team Grows a Network

Two years of work has strengthened the network of public agencies, non-profit organizations, the First Nation of Anishinaabe, local leaders, and volunteers that form a collaboration providing public education and action against aquatic and terrestrial invasive species in northeastern Minnesota. Team building, leadership, resources and experience are drawn from networking outward to funding and resource providers and materials are fashioned with available funding into an annual action plan to engage paid field workers, deployed volunteers and concerned citizens and businesses.

Bill Tefft

Ely Area Invasives Team

Exchanging knowledge to improve forest resilience and health, while securing water availability in western USA

Worldwide as well as in the U.S.A., fire is challenging its usually expected intensity and behavior by becoming more unpredictable and devastating. Today, more than two-thirds of the U.S. forests have altered fire dynamics. In the recent past, there has been greater awareness among landowners, local and federal governments, indigenous groups and conservation NGOs, as well as land management agencies in general, of wildfire's devastating consequences on native forests due to weather pattern changes and limited or deficient forest management. This unique fire training program (TREX) brings both international and local Spanish bilingual forest experts together to share and learn about controlled burns, fire management and conservation practice on grasslands and forests. This program also strengthens local partnerships and forest health in New Mexico and the USA while improving forest resilience overseas. These events are hosted by the Fire Learning Network (FLN), The Nature Conservancy (TNC), and Santa Fe National Forest (USFS).

Rodolfo Zuniga-Villegas

The Nature Conservancy

Exploring soundscapes to understand biodiversity in nature preserves

The accelerating pace of conversion of natural landscapes to human-dominated ecosystems requires us to consider new ways to explore and understand natural areas. One approach is to study soundscapes, which are the collective sounds of environments; that is, sounds generated by animals, geophysical processes such as wind and rain, and humans and their activities. We studied the dawn soundscapes of forest and grassland sites at multiple Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy preserves over the summer of 2015 to assess whether acoustic diversity varies within and between sites, and in particular, how forest and grassland soundscapes differ. From our recordings, we calculated acoustic diversity indices, which have been shown to be indicators of biodiversity of sound-producing organisms. The analysis of soundscapes provides a novel and rapid assessment tool for monitoring biodiversity in natural areas.

Sharon Gill

Western Michigan University

Microbes and Ecosystem Function: Innovative Directions for Invasive Phragmites Management

Invasive plants are a global problem and require significant funding to manage. Phragmites australis (hereafter Phragmites) is a high priority for resource managers as it continues to invade wetland habitats, creating dense stands that impair wetland functions, reduce property values, and limit recreational area access. A growing body of literature indicates that microbes (e.g., fungi, bacteria) and their symbiotic relationships with plants contribute to invasions. Evidence suggests that microbial interactions benefit Phragmites by enhancing nutrient processing and tolerance to disturbance. However, many aspects of plant-microbe interactions and the roles they play in invasion remain unclear. This presentation summarizes the efforts of the Collaborative for Microbial Symbiosis and Phragmites Management to promote the study of plant-microbe interactions and the development of microbial-based control strategies for Phragmites and other invasives. This presentation also outlines several research questions and an agenda for future work on applied techniques and technologies that reduce Phragmites competitiveness.

Daniel D. Engel


Restoration of Native-Dominated Plant Communities on a Spotted Knapweed-Infested Site

We studied the effects of seeding, site preparation (mowing, mowing + clopyralid, mowing + glyphosate), hand pulling of spotted knapweed, and burning on native plant community restoration on a degraded site in western Michigan. Native species established on all seeded plots, regardless of site preparation method. Persistent hand pulling provided the most effective knapweed control. Burning increased relative cover of native graminoids, while hand pulling and burning in combination increased relative cover of native forbs. After eight years, relative cover of native grasses and forbs was only 12.7 ± 3.7% in untreated areas, but ranged from 59.1 ± 3.8% on seeded plots that received only site preparation to 89.9 ± 2.4% on seeded plots that also received hand pulling and burning. The restored communities had greater numbers of native species and higher values of C̄, FQI, and Shannon’s diversity index than untreated areas, all indicators of a successful restoration trajectory.

Neil W. MacDonald

Grand Valley State University, Biology Department

Road-Stream Crossings: Characterization and Remediation

The White River Watershed Partnership (WRWP) is leading an effort to characterize road-stream crossings (RSXs) in the Upper White River (western Michigan) both before and after remediation. The major goals of this work are threefold: 1) to identify and prioritize RSXs most in need of remediation due to their impact on stream connectivity, hydrology and erosion; 2) to facilitate remediation by enhancing public awareness and assisting in fund raising; and 3) to conduct pre- and post-remediation surveys and modeling that document the benefits of RSX improvements for the benthic macroinvertebrate community, hydrological characteristics, and reduction of erosion/sedimentation. The methods employed in this effort include: 1) RSX assessments using protocols standard to the Great Lakes basin; 2) physical surveys of stream profiles, flow characteristics, and substrate texture; 3) Stream Quality Indices based on indicator organisms; and 4) both modeling and measurements of erosion and in-stream sediment transport.

Thomas Tisue

Muskegon Community College, White River Watershed Partnership

The Michigan Dune Alliance: Restoring Eastern Lake Michigan Coastal Ecosystems

The Michigan Dune Alliance (MDA) was formed in 1999 to protect the 500+ miles of Eastern Lake Michigan’s dunes, wetlands, and coastal forests by building a coordinated coastal effort and creating a unified vision for coastal conservation. Made up of federal, state, regional, and local partners, the Dune Alliance has implemented a landscape-scale “early detection and response” (EDR) program to effectively eradicate the highest-threat terrestrial invasive plants in this ecosystem. The Dune Alliance is also taking the necessary steps to define and achieve complementary conservation goals for this system, including strategic land protection, support of sound environmental policy, and testing sustainable financing mechanisms.

Kaldis Grants

The Nature Conservancy

Using mobile GIS for gathering and mapping field data of deer impacts on vegetation

The use of the Collector for ArcGIS app offers a powerful tool for field data collection. The app, available for smartphones and tablets, allows setup of field data sheets for collecting GPS-tagged data and photos. Data sheets can incorporate existing plant inventories or use custom-designed plant lists, can be tailored to constrain choices to a required vocabulary, or allow for free text fields of species names, sizes, or notes. Data for each point can then be tracked for subsequent data collection while data can be analyzed and displayed using standard GIS analytical tools. However, the advance setup required can be challenging (it can be difficult to predict all contingencies), and retrieving and matching data for analysis requires a well defined workflow. We will present an example of the benefits and challenges of mobile GIS as used for collecting data on deer impacts on vegetation in Ann Arbor.

Jacqueline Courteau

NatureWrite LLC

Biochar and the Viability of Local Production and Distribution

Biochar is a highly sustainable soil amendment that has three major benefits: It sequesters carbon dioxide, increases crop yield and soil fertility, and the process by which it is produced can be used to heat and provide electricity as a renewable alternative to fossil fuels. Based on other biochar projects and proposals around the world, and the lack thereof in the midwestern region of the U.S., I propose the implementation of a community-based network wherein biochar can be produced and distributed at a local level, minimizing economical and environmental costs. Unused piles of woodchips can be used as biomass to fuel biochar production, and that biochar can then be distributed to local farmers, CSAs, garden centers, etc. I have adapted this proposal to fit the needs and local conditions of Ann Arbor, Michigan, choosing specific entities that could participate in such a network, as well as a cost-benefit analysis.

Grace Pernecky

University of Michigan

Poster File: PDF icon biochar_poster.pdf

Characterizing attractive and productive habitat for monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus) in agricultural landscapes

Eastern monarch butterfly populations have recently declined, partly due to reduction of common milkweed in the North Central US. Formerly, milkweed growing in crop fields may have been highly attractive and low-risk breeding habitat. Due to effective weed control, milkweed is now largely confined to roadside edges and other grassland habitats with potentially greater predation risk. We used sentinel milkweed plants and sentinel eggs to measure wild monarch oviposition rates and egg predation rates in crop and non-crop habitats. Monarchs laid the most eggs on milkweed in corn and the fewest in soybean (~0.05 versus ~0.001 eggs/observation, respectively). Egg survival was comparable in corn, soybean, turf, and fallow plots but much lower in grasslands (mean 72-hour survival 56 versus 10%, respectively). Results suggest monarch conservation efforts should account for lower survival in grassland versus cropland habitats.

Andrew Myers

Michigan State University Department of Entomology

Curb-Cut Rain Garden Research

Plaster Creek, running from Caledonia to the Grand River just north of Roosevelt Park, is known as the most contaminated waterway in West Michigan. The main problems – high E. coli levels, heavy sediment loads, thermal pollution, and excessive nutrients – are all triggered and exacerbated by stormwater runoff. Plaster Creek has for years been subject to mistreatment and neglect, a trend that the Plaster Creek Stewards is working to change. One approach Plaster Creek Stewards has taken to decrease stormwater runoff is the Curb-Cut rain garden project. During the summer of 2015 thirteen curb-cut raingardens were installed in the Alger Heights neighborhood in southeast Grand Rapids. The purpose of these rain gardens was to collect storm water runoff from adjacent roadways, allow it to percolate and become transpired into the air using the deep root systems provided by native plants. The accumulated impact of numerous rain gardens like these can diminish the amount of stormwater that reaches the creek, while also supporting increased levels of biodiversity in places where people live, work and worship. Since the initiation of this project, there have been many questions from residents about ongoing maintenance and many requests for additional gardens. Because this is a relatively novel project and many of the native plants had never been used in urban restoration projects before, we developed an experimental design to test the relative success at both a garden and species scale. Our research evaluated all 13 gardens planted in 2015 and tried to answer the following four questions: 1) Which native species survived best in curb-cut raingardens? 2) Which native species performed best in curb-cut raingardens? 3) Which gardens exhibited the greatest survivorship? And 4) Which gardens scored highest for performance? These questions were addressed by measuring multiple variables in each garden, including measurements like height of the plant, leaf number, number of stalks of the plant, number of buds on the plant, the plant’s clump width, and the plants clump length. For performance, each plant was also given a qualitative “performance rating.” We found that Wild bergamot, Ohio spiderwort, and Pennsylvania sedge had a significantly higher survivorship than average, and Wild lupine, Butterfly weed, and Nodding wild onion had significantly lower survivorship than the average. This research also showed that both survivorship and performance ratings were highest in gardens that had received a compost amendment.

Patrick Jonker

The Plastic Creek Stewards

Poster File: PDF icon posterdraftdwsecondedits_1.pdf

Ecosystem Knowledge and Stewardship among Adult Conservation Volunteers with Varied Outdoor Recreation Backgrounds

MSU Extension’s Natural Resources Work Group aims for greater stewardship engagement through citizen science programs to advance conservation. In past decades, this work has been done by “traditional” outdoor groups composed of hunters and anglers. Yet, there have emerged new, enthusiastic ecosystem-minded volunteers to contribute toward this necessary and vital aspect of ecological restoration. Volunteers taking part in the Michigan Conservation Stewards Program (CSP) come to the program with varied backgrounds in outdoor recreation. Many of the adult learners who attend this program want to get more involved in ecosystem restoration, but how do their learning outcomes vary by their previous outdoor background? Pre- and post-program, online surveys of participants provide data regarding stewardship changes as a result of the CSP. This analysis specifically investigates whether water-based outdoor recreation participation prior to the course affects participants’ learning about aquatic ecosystem and stewardship.

Darren Sacks

Michigan State University

Effects of fire season and temperature on a spotted knapweed infested grassland

Grassland ecosystems face imminent threat from a variety of sources, including invasive species. Chief among these invasive species is spotted knapweed (Centaurea maculosa). We devised a study to examine the effectiveness of fire as a control agent of spotted knapweed and the allelopathic chemical it produces, (±)-catechin. We conducted our experiment in part of a restored prairie ecosystem at Pierce Cedar Creek Institute in Barry County, Michigan in summer 2016. Our experiment consisted of burning established 1m² plots at high and low temperatures across spring and summer seasons, then planting six native prairie plant species as a bioassay for the presence of (±)-catechin. Overall, spotted knapweed removal was more effective with summer burns than with spring burns and planted native species established slightly better in burned plots than unburned plots. Results suggest that prescribed burning may be an effective tool for removing spotted knapweed and may aid native species establishment.

Zack Pitman

Grand Valley State University

Fall Phenology of Invasive Shrubs of Southeast Michigan

Invasive shrubs are a growing problem in Michigan forests. One hypothesis of how these species that are seemingly adapted to open, high light environments manage to survive in understory conditions is through an extended growing season. While spring phenology has been extensively studied, the long period of extended fall phenology, where shrubs may continue to photosynthesize for weeks or even months after canopy leaf fall, is less well documented. Using a comparison of native and invasive shrubs at Adrian College's Walden West Biological Station, we compare the extended period of leaf presence of these plants.

Olivia Herrera

Adrian College

Identifying regional knowledge and remaining unknowns about fire and invasive species in the Lake States forests

Invasive species are an increasingly common component of tree-dominated ecosystems in the Lake States region, and managers are often tasked with developing strategies for eradicating these species. The Lake States Fire Science Consortium citation database was searched for publications addressing invasive, non-native, and exotic plant or animal species. We located approximately 15 publications that addressed fire and invasive species in tree-dominated ecosystems between 1979 and 2015. This literature review will not only provide a compilation of current knowledge for managers to consult when faced with invasive species concerns, but will also identify gaps in knowledge about the effects of fire on invasive species and provide inspiration for future research.

Emily Caretti

Department of Forestry, Michigan State University

Life in the Concrete Jungle: Land use surrounding nature preserves influences nest box occupancy and reproductive success in a migratory songbird

Urbanization fragments natural landscapes from pristine forest and grassland into concrete urban centers. For birds, increased urbanization decreases area of suitable breeding habitat, with potentially negative consequences for reproductive success. We hypothesized that land use surrounding natural areas affects occupancy and breeding success of a common migratory songbird at 10 sites across southwest Michigan. We focused on cavity nesting house wrens (Troglodytes aedon) and used GIS technology and field observations to ask at what spatial scale do land use and land cover variables best predict the number of males singing at a given site, as well as the number of females attracted to these males across sites. Finally, we compared reproductive success of wrens breeding at five sites within Kalamazoo County to explore whether patterns of reproductive success matched occupancy patterns. Such information helps us understand how animals use natural areas within and near cities and the value of urban nature preserves for reproductive success.

Erin E. Grabarczyk

Western Michigan University

Michigan native plants to attract beneficial natural enemies in agriculture

We are increasingly aware of the severe consequences of habitat loss for many animals and plants, and yet we must also continue to provide nourishment for a large global population. These two realities often place conservationists and growers in conflict with each other. We can integrate the interests of each by understanding and promoting the use of restored native plant habitats to support beneficial insect populations that will provide pest control and pollination services to farmers. Native wildflowers may provide multiple benefits to natural enemies of agricultural pests, such as nectar and pollen supply, alternative hosts, and undisturbed nesting and overwintering sites. This study surveyed the attractiveness to beneficial insects of 54 native and 2 non-native perennial plants for potential use in habitat restoration for agricultural pest control and pollination.

Dan Gibson

Michigan State University

Protecting the soundscape: A partnership between a university and a land conservancy

Soundscapes are inexorably linked to physical properties of an ecosystem as they contain valuable information regarding biodiversity, habitat quality and ecological processes. The acoustic resource thus becomes an important consideration for stakeholders whose quality of life can be influenced by certain sounds, and for conservationists invested in protecting rapidly declining ecosystems. Passive acoustic monitoring can be used to monitor biodiversity and develop conservation strategies; however, there remains a disconnect between the science and application. To begin to tackle this gap, we developed a partnership between university researchers and a land conservancy. We present preliminary findings from recordings taken at Chipman Preserve (Kalamazoo County, Michigan) over a 24-hour period in June of 2015. We explore acoustic patterns which vary over forest and grassland sites and record vocal species richness which increases as sample number increases. Finally, results of acoustic indices provide an explanation of the biodiversity found at this preserve.

Jonathan P Eiseman

Western Michigan University, Department of Biological Sciences

The Effect of Light Intensity on Oak Seedling Health

Oak regeneration has been declining throughout the northeastern U.S. for several decades. Several factors have been hypothesized to lead to the decline, including deer herbivory and fire suppression, which allows fire intolerant species to compete for resources and has led to the development of denser forests with more shade. This study was conducted to assess the light conditions under which oak saplings thrive, and thereby improve oak seedling management. The task was completed using seedlings from a deer browse study commissioned by the city of Ann Arbor. Oak seedlings were studied in several parks around Ann Arbor, Michigan, containing 10-20 pairs of fenced and unfenced oak seedlings. Light, percentage ground cover, and understory/canopy plants were measured to infer plant health and environmental conditions. We discovered that dense shade from either overstory or understory trees, as well as dense understory competition, affects oak seedling health.

Minali Bhatt

Junior in High School at International Academy

The Green Team and the Restoration of Plaster Creek

Urban youth are spending less time outdoors in nature. This past summer, Calvin College's Plaster Creek Stewards (PCS) continued its Green Team program, employing a group of high school students who live in the Plaster Creek Watershed to install and maintain green infrastructure projects. The objectives of this program are to promote interactions with nature, work to restore Plaster Creek with green infrastructure projects, and demystify the college experience for at-risk urban youth. This program achieves these objectives through classroom learning, on-site restoration work, greenhouse plant propagation, seed collecting, invasive species removals, and research shadowing. The Green Team model has been replicated in the Rogue River Watershed. Once a week, both teams worked together on a common project. This program has been richly successful, and many participants have commented on how they not only built great friendships, but also learned so much about the environmental justice issues in their watersheds.

Micah Warners

Calvin College, Plaster Creek Stewards

Poster File: PDF icon green_team_poster_2016.pptx_.pdf

The Impact of Graduate Student Leadership on Land Management Work at Blandford Nature Center in the Summer of 2016

Interns provide many benefits to natural resources managers, but they also require a lot of the land manager’s time and attention. As part of my Master’s program in Biology (Natural Resources emphasis) at Grand Valley State University, I supervised three undergraduate land stewardship students for my graduate internship at Blandford Nature Center, a non-profit organization located on 143 acres in West Michigan. Prior to the internship, I completed training in herbicide application, butterfly monitoring, and chainsaw use. During the internship, I was able to focus on working with and supervising the undergraduate students, allowing the land manager to target other stewardship and land management activities. This tiered model of supervision resulted in a three-fold increase in productivity of tasks. Activities by the undergraduate interns included completing a natural areas quality index, invasive species treatments, and GIS mapping. Supervising others taught me effective communication, problem solving, and organization skills.

Emily Dunnigan

Grand Valley State University

Utilizing GIS to Locate Endangered Gravel Hill Prairies of the Wabash River Valley

The Gravel Hill Prairies (GHP’s) of the Wabash River Valley are an endangered ecosystem in Indiana and provide optimal growing conditions for seven state endangered plants. Currently only four remnants are known to exist near Lafayette, IN, found by a previous study conducted in 1980. These ecosystems have been found to occur on soils classified as Rodman Gravelly Loams and Strawn-Rodman complexes which occur predominantly along the outwash terraces of the Wabash River and its tributaries. This research effort aimed to develop GIS maps to scout for and discover areas of unknown GHP remnants. The goal of the project is to assist conservation groups in the development of a strategy to preserve previously undiscovered remnants. Analysis have located a total of 809 areas of interest, of which 47 have been visited. These field scouting trips have found four GHP remnants, one tallgrass prairie remnant, and numerous high quality open-oak woodlands.

Ryan Schroeder

Purdue University

Poster File: PDF icon schroeder_ghp_tsn2017conferenceposter.pdf

Variation in Plant Attractiveness to Pollinators in Three Regions of Michigan

Much of the world relies on the ecosystem services provided by insect pollinators, yet many pollinators are threatened by increased land-use intensification, leading to a reduction in the availability and diversity of native habitat required by both managed and wild bees. Recent attempts to support pollinators focus on the incorporation of native flowering plants into landscapes where pollination services and pollinator conservation are imperative. Re-integration of native plants can support pollinators, but optimizing this approach requires knowledge of relative plant attractiveness to different bees, floral phenology of native plants, and combinations of plants that can provide resources throughout the pollinator foraging season. In this study, I assessed the relative attractiveness of 54 native and 2 non-native plant species, at 3 independent locations across the state of Michigan. My results demonstrate regional variation in pollinator attraction to Michigan flora, and suggest that optimizing floral mixes to aide pollinator conservation requires regional knowledge of plant attractiveness.

Logan Rowe

Michigan State University

“Initial alteration of soil nitrogen influences competition between spotted knapweed and Indian grass”

A greenhouse experiment was conducted comparing biomass of Indian grass (Sorgastrum nutans), a native warm-season grass, and spotted knapweed (Centaurea stoebe), an invasive forb, with different amendments used to alter the initial nitrogen levels of the soil. This experiment used a multifactorial design, with three levels of initial nitrogen (low, normal, and high) and three levels of plantings (Indian grass only, spotted knapweed only, and both spotted knapweed and Indian grass). The nine treatment combinations were repeated in five randomized complete blocks. The aboveground biomass of the two species and the final available soil nitrogen concentrations were compared using correspondence analysis, a multivariate statistical technique. The ordination of the correspondence analysis showed a trend that suggests high soil nitrogen favors spotted knapweed biomass and lower nitrogen favoring Indian grass. This trend implies reducing soil nitrogen as a restoration effort in spotted knapweed infested areas should promote native grass dominance.

Steven Munson

Grand Valley State University