Sunday, October 13, 2019

STIP Student Cameron Dow becomes Involved in Ecological Restoration with the Herbicide Protection Pod

I became interested in the topic of ecological restoration through personal experiences in my life. Growing up in a town just over an hour away from D.C. I have seen my community transform from a rural setting to a commuter town. With this change has come rapid development and the green spaces I knew and loved growing up have steadily been turned into new houses, restaurants, and shopping centers. This has inspired me to investigate how these lands can be restored to their former glory. In America, grasslands are one of the most threatened ecosystems out there. Because of this, I began reading literature specifically about grassland restoration techniques and found a relatively new method being researched, the herbicide protection pod (HPP). 

The HPP was developed to protect desired grass seeds from herbicide so grasslands can be reseeded and treated with herbicide simultaneously, a method that could not be done in the past. The herbicide must be sprayed to combat invasive grass species which out-compete the native seedlings and dominate the ecosystem, decreasing biodiversity and chance for wildfires. My research expanded on the previous work which focused exclusively on grass seed and asked the question, can the HPP be applied to other plant groups like wildflowers, without negatively effecting seedling growth? If the answer was yes, the HPP could potentially be used in other ecosystems where invasive species were out competing the natives. To test the effects on wildflower seedlings, I planted several replicates of bare seed and several replicates of seed incorporated in the HPP. My daily tasks were simply to water the seeds several times a day, and make sure no other factors could be confounding the effect of the HPP. Over the course of this project I learned that a lot of things can and will go wrong and you must always be paying attention, and willing to be persistent.

I also learned how hugely important initial study design is. Knowing what I know now, I would have changed several things to make my results easier to interpret and analyze. Overall, I’m proud of what I accomplished and will take what I learned forward with me as I aim to find a career in ecological restoration research