The Effect of Light Intensity on Oak Seedling Health

Minali Bhatt
Junior in High School at International Academy
Minali Bhatt is a current junior at the International Academy West. She is an avid photographer and a certified advanced scuba diver, both of which are her main hobbies. She enjoys creating music and working on her unpublished novels in her free time. Stemming from her love of hiking and visiting national parks, Minali hopes to work in the field of environmental science. Minali has been integral to changing the environments around her community. For the past year, she has been developing a plan to remove all invasive species from her school property. She hosts guided hikes in the state parks around her home, as part of the school club Environmental Volunteer Outdoor Organization (EVOO). She uses her photography skills to document the shifting natural areas, with the support of the photography club that she created at her school. Minali is an official Michigan Conservation Steward.
Other presenters/researchers: 
Joanna Thelen University of Michigan Graduate Joanna started as a Biopsychology major at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. After taking a course in Environmental Stewardship, she discovered a passion for environmentalism that drove her to complete a second degree in Program in the Environment. Joanna has conducted research in New Zealand to study the effects of invasive species management on native Hochstetter’s frog populations to inform local practices. Upon graduating, she worked as a research assistant in Greece to study thermodynamic preferences of lizards, as well as the effects of goat herbivory on vegetation and biodiversity. Recently, Joanna assisted in the research of the effect of deer browse on Ann Arbor park health. Joanna is now working at Hudson, an immigration consulting firm, while seeking to attend a Masters of Engineering program to become an environmental consultant.

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.

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