Endangered Orchid -- Wendy Dorman
My original intention was to investigate reports of an endangered orchid species in Mud Lake Bog, the eastern prairie fringed orchid, P. leucophaea, monitor these orchids, and compare their characteristics to those of other known populations. The orchids that I found in the bog were unfortunately the common white fringed orchid, which appears very similar to eastern prairie fringed. I searched other nearby locations that were likely candidates to support P. leucophaea and communicated daily with botanists teaching at the field station, but we could find no eastern prairie fringed orchids. I was able to confirm for the Michigan Natural Features Inventory that this species was truly once present by going through the collection of pressed flowers at the UMBS and examining the original sample collected from the bog.
I then contacted the caretakers of a nearby refuge, the Waldron Fen, which is similar to locations in Southeast Michigan where I am also currently monitoring orchid populations, and obtained permission to conduct research in the fen. I installed five peizometers in the fen, and measured their water levels several times over three weeks. I used ArcGIS to interpolate water levels across the fen, and checked these against the measurements I took in the fen. I will use the methods developed through studying the fen to evaluate proposed orchid reintroduction sites in the Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge and the Saginaw Wetlands Sanctuary.
In addition to being able to conduct this research, physically being at the station meant I was surrounded by amazing, helpful, brilliant ecologists all summer. Jason Tallant served as an incredible mentor and I am very grateful to have his guidance as this project goes forward. He guided me and provided technical support in other aspects of the project such as the creation of a digital elevation model from LiDAR data, and the interpolation of water levels. Tony Reznicek is an amazing botanist with a passion for eastern prairie fringed orchid conservation, and he is now working on the reintroduction effort with me! These relationships will strongly influence and enable my research going forward.
As a result of a partnership between U.S. Fish and Wildlife, the Michigan Nature Association, and Great Lakes Orchids, LLC., 200 P. leucophaea seedlings will be planted in the Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge and the Saginaw Wetlands during the spring of 2016. P. leucophaea has never been successfully propagated before now and if this reintroduction effort proves successful it could serve as a blueprint for P. leucophaea recovery. These organizations have asked me to monitor the orchid populations over the next year. Without the experiences I had this summer I would not have been prepared to participate in this study, and I am incredibly grateful to the Ann Arbor Branch of the Woman’s National Farm and Garden Foundation for enabling me to aid in this amazing effort. Thank you!!
Wendy Dorman, M.S. candidate in geography and geology, Eastern Michigan University
Pitcher's Thistle -- Jaclyn Inkster
I want to thank the Ann Arbor Woman's National Farm & Garden Association for funding the fellowship that allowed me to work on my master's thesis data collection at UMBS this past summer. I had a great field season looking at the plant-insect interactions of the Pitcher's thistle and I have a very good story to tell for my thesis defense next spring.
I grew up in Martinez, CA, a suburb of the San Francisco Bay Area. I was lucky to have excellent science teachers in high school who encouraged me to pursue a career in STEM. I attended Humboldt State University in northern California, earning a BS degree in environmental science, ecological restoration and a botany minor. I worked as a seasonal botanist for land management agencies in Oregon, Utah and California. After spending a couple of summers surveying rare plant populations I decided to take the next step in my career and pursue a masters in biology at East Carolina University. I was drawn to ECU by my advisor, Dr. Claudia Jolls, who has studied the Great Lakes dune ecosystem and Pitcher's thistle out of UMBS for several decades. I hope to continue working with rare plants in a land management position once I graduate from ECU in May 2016.
Pitcher's thistle is a threatened species endemic to the dunes and cobble shores of the western Great Lakes. The plant lives for 4-8 years, flowers once, then dies. It has no means for vegetative reproduction and relies solely on seed set for population persistence. A non-native seed head weevil has appeared that reduces seed set of the Pitcher's thistle. I tracked dozens of plants at three sites in northern lower Michigan through the season for weevil impact. About 35% of heads have at least one hole where the weevil laid an egg. About half of the time, this egg develops into a weevil larvae that damages 40-50% of the seeds. I tested an insect deterrent called Surround WP, a clay/water solution used in organic farming, applied to the heads of the
Pitcher's thistle to act as a physical barrier against the weevils. I found significantly reduced oviposition on claytreated heads compared with the water control. Pitcher's thistle also provides floral resources for the duneflower visiting insect community. I collected insect visitor observations on all the flowering plants in the dunes, to quantify the entire network of plants and insects. I found that Pitcher's thistle has more species visiting and more frequent visits than any other flowering plant. This indicates that Pitcher's thistle, while rare, may still be significant and serve as a keystone species in the dune plant-insect visitor network.
Over the next few months I will complete analyses of my research and prepare my written thesis and defense. I will be presenting my work at ECU's research week as well as at the annual meeting of the Association of Southeastern Biologists in early April 2016. I plan to publish at least two papers in scientific journals associated with this work your fellowship has allowed me to complete. Support from AAF&G for women in plant science is hugely valuable for young professionals like me starting a career. I cannot thank you enough for the financial assistance and encouragement you provided.
Jaclyn Inkster, M.S. candidate in biology, East Carolina University