We are in the Department of Fisheries, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities.
We focus on applied problems in plant ecology, particularly related to invasive species management and ecological restoration. We are interested in how plant communities respond to species invasions, anthropogenic disturbances, and other drivers of change, and how we can improve our ability to restore diverse, resilient, high-functioning ecosystems.
Our study systems include lakes, wetlands, and prairies. We use observations, synthesis, and experiments to (1) understand the contributions of plant communities to key functions, (2) investigate causes and consequences of plant species invasions, (3) evaluate the extent to which restored habitats perform desired functions, and (4) develop guidance for restoration, conservation, and invasive species management.
- After a busy fall semester for PhD student Mike Verhoeven (and his committee members!), Mike successfully defended his Master's and advanced to doctoral candidacy by passing his written and oral preliminary exams. Way to go, Mike!
- How do biotic and abiotic factors influence plant invasions in restored prairies? Evelyn Williams' new manuscript in Basic and Applied Ecology shows that, at the neighborhood scale at which plants directly interact with each other, invasions were mediated by biotic factors: invasive species that were more closely related to the resident community were more likely to invade (consistent with Darwin's pre-adaptation hypothesis) and neighborhoods with more resident species were less likely to be invaded (consistent with the biotic resistance hypothesis). At the larger, site scale, invasibility was driven by abiotic factors: soil organic matter, soil pH, and soil heterogeneity.
- A continental analysis of North America's vascular plant flora led by Jesús Pinto-Ledezma, and published in Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution, integrated taxonomic, functional, and phylogenetic approaches to examine how patterns of beta diversity correspond to biome boundaries.
- Congratulations to our own Carli Wagner, recipient of the Conservation Sciences Master's Student of the Year award for 2017-2018!!!
- How can we do a better job training citizen scientists to contribute to invasive species surveillance and response efforts? By "flipping the classroom" based on our analysis of two UMN Extension programs reported in the Journal of Extension.
- A chapter led by Andrew Hipp in the new book Phylogenetic Diversity details our efforts to construct a robust experiment for testing the effects of phylogenetic diversity on restoration outcomes, i.e., not conflating phylogenetic diversity with phylogenetic identity (a.k.a., there are an awful lot of Asteraceae spp. in prairies!)
- We are excited to welcome some new faces to the lab! MS students McKaylee Duquain and Sara Nelson will be conducting research related to wild rice conservation (McKaylee) and response of native vegetation to common buckthorn removal using goats (Sara).
- We bid a fond farewell to 2016-18 postdoctoral researcher Ranjan Muthukrishnan, who has moved to Indiana University as a Fellow in the Environmental Resilience Institute.
- Speaking of Ranjan, his paper predicting risk of starry stonewort invasion in Minnesota and Wisconsin lakes based on water chemistry is now out in Aquatic Botany. This research was conducted in collaboration with Robin Sleith and Ken Karol of the New York Botanical Garden.
- A busy spring of workshops with Extension colleagues Megan Weber and Pat Mulcahy led to the minting of 96 new AIS Detectors! Giving us a great distribution of over 200 AIS Detectors throughout Minnesota:
- How can we predict how quickly plant species used in restoration will germinate? By using information about seed traits and evolutionary history, as Becky Barak demonstrates for 32 prairie species in a new paper in Ecology and Evolution (check out this artwork by Julia Ferguson!)
- New review paper on starry stonewort biology, ecology, and management from the Nitellopsis Working Group (UMN, New York Botanical Garden, Central Michigan Univ., Univ. of Geneva, Univ. of Wisconsin, Minnesota DNR) now available in Aquatic Botany.
- New paper in Journal of Ecology on diversity-invasibility relationships in Minnesota aquatic plant communities! Led by Ranjan Muthukrishnan, in collaboration with Nicole Hansel-Welch of MnDNR's Shallow Lakes Program, and covered by MPR News and the A.P.
- Our paper on starry stonewort management in Lake Koronis, led by Wes Glisson, is now out in Lake and Reservoir Management and was covered in an Associated Press story.
- Exciting action shots from under-ice sampling of starry stonewort phenology
- Our project on ecological and human dimensions of wild rice conservation has been funded by the University of Minnesota's Grand Challenges program. I look forward to working with our project team (led by PI Crystal Ng) and partners!
- Great to have new graduate students Rafael Contreras-Rangel and Carli Wagner join the lab!
- Welcome Jesús Pinto-Ledezma! Jesús is a Grand Challenges postdoctoral researcher co-advised with Jeannine Cavender-Bares.
- Congratulations Rebecca Tonietto on her start as an assistant professor in Biology at University of Michigan-Flint!
- Rebecca T. also has an exciting new meta-analysis out in Journal of Applied Ecology showing that wild bees broadly benefit from ecological restoration efforts.
- It was a thrill to see how great the phylogenetic prairie restoration experiment at Morton Arboretum looks 1 year after planting!
- Our MnPhrag project investigating distribution, reproduction, and management of non-native Phragmites australis (common reed) in Minnesota has begun. Julia Bohnen started as project manager on this collaboration with fellow FWCB faculty Sue Galatowitsch and Laura Dee.
- A new paper in PLoS One predicts distribution of the invasive alga starry stonewort under future climate scenarios for Minnesota.
- A fun, busy spring of AIS Detectors workshops culminated with our 8th and final workshop of the year in Brainerd.
- Dr. Rebecca Samantha Barak, Ph.D. successfully defended her dissertation!
- Holy cow! Mike Verhoeven received an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship! Congratulations, Mike!
- Becky Barak will become a Smith Fellow after she defends this spring! She'll be working with Lars Brudvig and Kay Havens on Effective seed mix design for ecological restoration. Congratulations, Becky!
- In other Becky Barak news.... her dissertation work showing that restored tallgrass prairies had lower phylogenetic diversity than remnant prairies is now out in Journal of Applied Ecology.
- A new paper in Soil Biology and Biochemistry from Paul Hartzog's dissertation shows strong "bottle effects" during a denitrification assay---calling into question the method's reliability for assessing relative differences in denitrification potential. This research was done in collaboration with John Kelly's lab at Loyola University Chicago.
- A paper led by Vicky Hunt on our Phragmites invasion crowdsourcing project, PhragNet, has been published in Wetlands Ecology and Management.
- Ranjan Muthukrishnan and Carli Wagner presented on starry stonewort research at the Midwest Aquatic Plant Management Society annual meeting. Ranjan's ecological niche modeling predicts regions of high invasion risk in Minnesota and Wisconsin. Carli's work shows high potential for reinvasion via bulbils following summer 2016 management on Lake Koronis and earned her a poster presentation award.
- Erin Vander Stelt's work on Isoëtes butleri has been published in Aquatic Botany.
- Becky Tonietto has a new paper in Ecological Applications from her disseration work on bee community responses to prairie restoration.
- Phragmites invasion genetics paper with Jeremie Fant and Amy Price now out in Diversity and Distributions.
- Welcome Mike Verhoeven! (PhD student)
- Welcome Wes Glisson! (Research Fellow)
- Welcome Ranjan Muthukrishnan! (Postdoc)
- Becky Barak was awarded 1st place for Oral Paper Presentation at the North American Prairie Conference, where she talked about "Shopping for a prairie: Diversity and composition of commercially available seed mixes for prairie restoration." Way to go BB!
- Starry stonewort ecological niche model led by Luis Escobar was published in Scientific Reports.
- Our paper on incorporating phylogenetic considerations into plant ex situ conservation was published in PLoS One.
- It was great to see Dr. Paul Hartzog again at his hooding ceremony!