Current Projects Involving Undergraduates:
1) REFORESTATION IN DRY TROPICAL FORESTS. Dry tropical forests have experienced extraordinary historic loss and offer large reforestation opportunities. We have a long-term field study monitoring biodiversity (insects, birds, amphibians, vegetation) and quantifying biomass accumulation in secondary forests and plantation systems in Panama. Students must be enrolled in a Tropical Ecology (Bio427) to participate in this data collection (next taught in Spring 2022).
2) STREAM RESTORATION PROJECT (CREP). We have local restoration projects and experimental studies with native tree species in pasture landscapes in Rockingham County. We are determining tree species survival and growth (biomass accumulation) as well in changes in biodiversity. 500+ tree seedlings are measured every fall. This is a service-learning research project where we work with the land-owners and local foresters and establish new monitoring sites every several years (Restoration Ecology Bio660).
3) CHESTNUT REINTRODUCTION. American Chestnuts have been functionally extinct from the forest canopy for over 70 years due to an introduced fungal pathogen. The American Chestnut Foundation has created hybrids that are potentially resistant to this fungal blight. This species is of interest because it is extraordinarily good at sequestering carbon while also providing food resources for a diverse set of forest species. We have three regional long-term studies monitoring planted hybrid chestnuts planted within experimental gaps in Appalachian Cove forests of West Virginia and the Ridge and Valley forests of Virginia. Students measure chestnut growth and survival every fall.
4) AMERICAN GINSENG REINTRODUCTION. Harvesting non-timber forest products may offset loss from extending timber rotations (increasing carbon sequestration). American ginseng is one of the most valuable non-timber forest products that we have in our forests but has been over harvested throughout Appalachian forests. Students in this lab are conducting regional and local experimental field projects with American ginseng in West Virginia and the JMU arboretum to identify optimal locations and management strategies for reintroduction.
5) MONARCH BUTTERFLIES & MILKWEED SPECIES. Climate change is affecting pollinator species, such as the monarch butterfly. In experimental studies, we are determining monarch butterfly preference and caterpillar growth on eight species of native milkweed which may be increasing in toxicity due to increased levels of CO2. We will determine toxin levels in the plants as well as the caterpillars feeding on them. This may have an effect on the OE parasite that is infecting them. Students count eggs and measure caterpillars on milkweed species in garden plots during the fall semester.Monarch butterflies are also captured to test for presence of the OE parasite. Visit our Monarch Waystation outside of Bioscience! You might see caterpillars and monarchs in September through mid-October.