Jim Doherty, PhD, botany, presents at Science Day 2014

Science Day:
An Annual Research Symposium

The 15th-annual Science Day was February 5, 2015, from 9 to 11:30 a.m. The symposium on current research at the Arboretum includes talks, a keynote address, and posters. The event is free and open to the public. See sidebar for presenters, topics, and abstracts.

15th-annual Science Day spotlights research on Arboretum biota

Science takes the stage every February at the Arboretum, when researchers describe their latest findings to naturalists, students, faculty, Friends of the Arboretum, and the public. Where else can one learn news about Arboretum mammals, ticks, invasive plants, invasive worms, wetlands in Curtis Prairie, and water quality in stormwater ponds—all in a morning of talks and posters? For the past 15 years, graduate students have revealed new information while honing their “information delivery skills.” Their presentations follow, along with those of undergraduates (*) and other personnel (**).

Kristina Bartowitz asked where small mammals would eat more native plant seeds in relation to buckthorn dominance. She placed known quantities of seeds in plots with and without buckthorn, then started trapping and checking for seed removal. More mammals were found with buckthorn and, usually, more seed removal.

Sarah Betzler trapped small grassland mammals to document their presence in restored and remnant prairies. These animals are usually assumed to self-restore, but their arrival is rarely documented and they are rarely a specific restoration goal. More information will appear in her forthcoming MS thesis.

Jordan Mandli discussed the Arboretum’s growing deer tick populations. He and Kristina Bartowitz estimated tick abundance and provided permethrin-treated bedding for white-footed mice. Preliminary results suggest that placing treated bedding in plots without buckthorn reduced tick abundance. In a related study, Nathan Wong* tested how tick-control might affect bees that nest in abandoned mouse burrows containing permethrin-treated bedding. Bumble bees were not adversely affected by the chemically treated bedding.

A microcosm experiment and field studies by Jiangxaio Qiu and Joe Bevington* showed that the Arboretum’s newly invading jumping worms reduce litter depth, especially during peak worm density. Invasive worms changed basic soil structure, as well as chemistry (carbon and nitrogen dynamics).

Continuing a series of herbicide experiments in Curtis Prairie, Nick Galleguillos found that applying the grass-specific clethodim in July killed reed canary grass shoots without harming the native awl sedge. This herbicide shows promise for giving native species an advantage, although a second application might be needed in early fall to kill resprouts.

Anna Knezic* documented that hybrid cattails have overtaken Wingra Fen. This young clone (perhaps 5 years old) expanded about a foot more in 2014. Tall leaves indicate that the patch will likely continue expanding in 2015. Wingra Fen and South Shore Fens are two of the five fens that John Curtis used to exemplify the state’s fens in his 1959 book, Vegetation of Wisconsin. Both Arboretum fens have succumbed to exotic invaders.

Chris Hirsch concluded that a small native cattail marsh in eastern Curtis Prairie is a suitable restoration reference site, based on vegetation criteria established by WDNR and ACE. A nearby stand of the invasive hybrid cattail, however, suggests the need for annual surveillance to protect the native marsh.

Mark Wegener**, Database Manager, and Dr. Joy Zedler**, Leopold Chair, mapped wetland vegetation in Curtis Prairie. Using GPS and GIS technology, several volunteer mappers, beginning with Dr. Madeline Fisher in 2009, helped them learn that more than 22 percent of Curtis Prairie is wetland. Implications of wetland status are in Leaflet 36 at uwarboretum.org/research.

In Marian Dunn Pond, Alex Linz and Sam Schmitz* found that adding alum (aluminum sulfate) to settle particulate phosphorus has not yet affected bacterial diversity. Since additions just began in August, monitoring should resume in spring 2015.

In her keynote talk, Dr. Joy Zedler summarized 17 years of research at the Arboretum and urged continuing adaptive restoration (field tests of alternative methods) to fulfill Aldo Leopold’s 1934 vision. Restoration can always improve; the work is never “done.”

—summarized by Dr. Joy Zedler