Well… looks like I’m only about 4 weeks behind on blogging. Winter & spring is generally the conference season. I took a trip down to Indianapolis on March 30th to present my prairie research at 134th annual meeting of the Indiana Academy of Science. What a breath of fresh air! Hoosier practitioners, academics, and students from every discipline celebrating their passion for the natural sciences.
(Here’s where I’d put a photo of lots of happy people milling about drinking coffee and talking about science… but I never took that photo!)
I was fortunate to have a great set of advisors during my graduate school experience at Taylor University. Prof. Robert Reber and his students have continued to collect data on the prairie restoration that was the subject of my thesis. That made it possible to give a brief update/presentation on year six of the project (my thesis, by design, only had one year of data).
To greatly oversimplify the project… grasses have tended to dominate prairie restorations (reconstructions) over time, pushing out the wildflowers (forbs) that make up most of the species diversity. There are no bison left to graze the grasses they prefer, and it’s logistically difficult to graze with cattle on many of the sites.
To address this, managers must use mowing, grazing, burning, and/or grass herbicide to give the wildflowers a chance. We did an experiment with applications of grass herbicide in conjunction with an overseeding of new wildflower species. We found that the herbicide aided the new species to germinate, grow, and flower, much better than if the grasses was left completely untreated. These effects persisted into year six, three years after we stopped herbicide treatment.
If you are a glutton for punishment, you can read the 2014 study here.
Anyway, IAS is a great place to share ideas, network, and spawn new projects and relationships. Here were a few talks I really enjoyed:
Burnell C. Fischer of Indiana University presented a study redlining practices in Indiana, giving a picture of the extent of environmental racism in the our state. “Analysis using a geographic information system (GIS) was conducted to detect evidence of an ecological legacy of redlining. Using this method, evidence of relatively high-intensity development, low greenspace and forest cover, and disproportionately high incidences of brownfield sites, Superfund sites, industrial waste sites, and Interstate highways were detected in historically redlined zones in Indianapolis.” His abstract can be found here.
Next were studies on various forested ecosystem, specifically at the Hardwood Ecosystem Experiment in southern Indiana. It’s a massive project with plans to last 100 years! Seriously, go read about it. This presentation was about how bats use various types of logged and unlogged forests.
(Forgive me… I’m really out of time to craft a super detailed blog with everyone’s names and research sites appropriately linked. Gotta plug ahead. More pictures!).
Also from the same forest was a study of the species of moths and butterflies. THEY DOCUMENTED OVER 1,000 SPECIES. Yes, read that again. Just moths and butterflies! …. Really!
The next guy talked native bees. We have around 400 species in the state known to science. THEY FOUND OVER 100 BEES IN THIS ONE FOREST! It really is mind blowing how much biodiversity there is, and shocking how little research and basic baseline data is available. I was in the room asking these the top entomologists in the state and… there’s just so much work left to do.
We are scientists… but we love art too! This was the great work from Blue Aster Studio. Go visit their Etsy page and buy all their stuff!
This student-researcher was taking blood samples from river otters to survey the amount of lead that is present in our lakes and streams. The sources included leaded gun shot, as well as previous industrial activities.
Can you tell these are my people? Yes, these are my people. I had such a great time being with my tribe.
I took our all-electric Nissan LEAF to the conference and stopped at the Keystone Mall on the north side of Indianapolis to give it a fast charge (here’s an explanation of the different kinds of EV charging). While I was waiting on the charge, I got some steps in at the mall and… came across a Tesla store. Tesla has become the gold standard for EV technology & charging infrastructure, with all the other manufactures playing catch-up. Their new Superchargers now charge 5 times faster than the “fast” charge I was hooked up to.
I managed to walk away without signing any paperwork, and returned in one piece. Conference time is happy time! It’s important to stay current in one’s field, network with other professionals trying new things, and of course sharing your own work for the benefit of others.
More later … about another and even more amazing conference!