Young Researchers Share Their Findings

MONDAY, MAY 3, 2004

Approximately 100 elementary, middle and high school students from Sparta to Hartland to Argyle gathered to share their ecological experiments and observations at “Restoring Wisconsin’s Biodiversity,” the first-ever student ecological restoration research conference.

Sponsored by the Arboretum’s Earth Partnership for Schools program, the research conference began with a welcome from Arboretum Director Greg Armstrong, who shared his excitement about the students’ participation in ecological restoration research.

“Seventy years ago, our local forests and prairies were fast disappearing until a group of concerned citizens—many of them scientists—decided to begin to restore the land that became the Arboretum,” said Armstrong. “They learned a great deal from their efforts, but we have a long way to go. We are just beginning to learn how to restore the natural health of the land. You are an important part of that tradition,” he told the students.

At the conference, several groups of students presented their projects, which included surveys of insect species inhabiting logs; the population density of chipmunks in a prairie; monitoring coyote populations; the effect of cold stratification on the germination of prairie seeds; restoration of a park as a collaborative effort; relationships among insects, colors and flowers; insect varieties in different locations and a study of how a herbicide affects soil bacterial populations.

After lunch, poster sessions included research on shagbark hickory, coyote-human interactions, seed germination and growth and planting a prairie from seed. Two oral sessions, one on measuring salt runoff into Lake Mendota and another on the ages and growth rates of Siberian elm trees in a Wisconsin prairie, stimulated many insightful questions from students in the audience.
A final offering by James Madison Memorial High School senior Nick Schiltz consisted of a live—and lively—presentation of amphibians and reptiles of Wisconsin.

The Earth Partnership for Schools program is a natural outgrowth of the Arboretum’s focus on ecological restoration. Sponsored by the UW-Madison Arboretum and funded through the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Pre-College Science Education Program, the program has involved students from more than 150 schools throughout Wisconsin.

Students learn about their environment by carrying out hands-on activities such as restoring prairies, woodlands and wetlands on their school grounds or by investigating environmental niches.

Located between Lake Wingra and the West Beltline Highway at 1207 Seminole Highway, the University of Wisconsin-Madison Arboretum features the restored prairies, forests and wetlands of pre-settlement Wisconsin. This 1,260-acre arboretum also houses flowering trees, shrubs and a world-famous lilac collection. Educational tours for groups and the general public, science and nature-based classes for all ages and abilities, and a wide variety of volunteer opportunities for groups, families and individuals are available.