Land Stewardship at Luther College
As Luther’s Natural Areas Land Manager, I am continuing the work that Eric Baack and Beth Lynch started with the land stewardship interns in 2009. Our work concentrates on improving conditions for Luther’s native species and connecting students with the surrounding landscape. A large component of our stewardship work focuses on removing non-native invasive species, including buckthorn (Rhamnus spp.), honeysuckle (Lonicera spp.), barberry (Berberis thunbergii), and garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata). Luther will also be starting several major restoration projects in the near future that will restore prairie and bottomland forest to the floodplain of the Upper Iowa River. Ongoing and new connections between students and Luther’s native landscapes allow students to take part in hands-on stewardship and restoration, as well as getting an opportunity to the biodiversity present on Luther’s lands. These efforts include the Buckthorn Blitz 2010 to remove buckthorn and honeysuckle from an area in Hickory Ridge Woods. Many students, faculty and community members are now using the 5-mile trail that was constructed in 2009.
Personal Research Interests
In my graduate research, I used previously grazed grasslands to study the effects of contrasting dominant species, disturbance, and seed limitation on plant community structure. In perennial grasslands, disturbances may facilitate the coexistence of competitively dominant grasses and non-dominant species, by preferential reduction of the dominant species. However, if dominant species differ between locations (e.g. through the replacement of a native dominant with a non-native dominant species), response to disturbance may differ between locations. This may result from the particular phenology, structure, and native/non-native origin of different dominant grasses. In addition, the response of non-dominant species may be limited by other factors, including low seed production, dispersal limitation, and/or site history such as grazing. This research sought to answer general ecological questions, but also to address difficulties in natural resource management, including maintenance of native species diversity in the presence of non-native invasive species and strong historical anthropogenic influences.