Potential Research Topics at Nachusa Grasslands
The following is an evolving compilation of research questions pondered by stewards and staff at Nachusa Grasslands. The Friends of Nachusa Grasslands would like to support scientific research that provides insight into the answers to these questions, but will not restrict its science grant awards to research endeavors that address only these specific questions. This list is meant to encourage researchers who are thinking of doing work at Nachusa to consider these and related research topics in their planning.
Impacts and management of exotic invasive species (both plant and non-plant)
- How can Trifolium pretense (red clover), Lotus corniculatus (bird’s foot trefoil), and Phalaris arundinacea (reed canary grass), etc.,be eradicated most effectively?
Resistance and resilience of restored tallgrass prairie to disturbance management (e.g. fire and/or grazing)
- Should bison wallows be over seeded? Is there enough of a seed bank in wallows to recover? If not, what is the appropriate seed composition and weight for overseeding? Or are wallows generally used over multiple years and never re-vegetate?
- How is fire frequency related to insect populations? Regal frittilary butterflies, for example, are abundant at Nachusa, and we do a lot of repeated fire. What is the role of fire with this species? Are the larva surviving our fires, even in units we recently burned, or are larva only surviving in unburned units?
- What effect is repeated fire having on the herbaceous, shrub, and tree layers of Nachusa woodlands?
- What is the effect of fire on tick populations? Does fire at different times of the year have any effect on Lyme disease carrying ticks?
- How do biological, physical, and chemical soil characteristics change over time in various management regimens?
- How does surface and groundwater chemistry change over time as a result of management regimens?
- How can standardized measurements of basic ecosystem function over time be best instituted?
Restoring habitat for rare and declining prairie species (including plants, animals, fungi, etc.)
- We have ongoing random block studies looking at how and whether over-seeding a low diverse prairie can increase its diversity. Would someone like to adopt this ongoing study?
- What’s the best way to turn an old pasture full of brome grass and weeds into a prairie? We have several pastures we are thinking about seeding. What’s the best way to proceed? Round them up first? Use grass herbicide first? Seed directly into the brome?
- What is the role of meso-predators on our turtle populations? Can we learn from DNA analysis of predator scat what their prey are?
- Are remnant dependent insects using the restorations near the remnants?
- What management strategies would attract and maintain a breeding population of bobolinks?
Previously completed inventory studies on turtles have provided useful information valuable in management, e.g. timing prescribed fire in turtle habitat before turtles come out of their hibernaria.
- Further studies to “find out what we have” at Nachusa may provide additional management insight.
- These might include an expansion of our insect inventories, a lichen survey by habitat, or inventories of other flora and fauna suggested by researchers.