|Restored marsh area.|
Despite what Starbucks is trying to tell you, fall doesn’t officially start in the Northern Hemisphere until September 22nd at 10:29 pm (equinox party anyone?). And yet I felt now might be a great time to reflect on the summer. At this point, if you’re a semi-regular reader you probably know a bit about my interests, but today I want to share a peek inside my summer work. It was fun, it was muddy, and it was also just a ton of work!
|I'm just for scale, look at the height on that hybrid Spartina!|
But before I can really tell you what I did, I need to tell you why I did it. As a PhD student, I’m nurturing a little research agenda that I hope will mature over time. Right now, it’s at that horrible tween stage where it wants to be a grown up research agenda, but I keep driving it to the mall and embarrassing it in front of its friends. Regardless, when people ask about my work at parties or family functions, I tell them I study the impacts of invasive plants in tidal wetlands. Tidal wetlands are hugely important in terms of impacts to biodiversity (nursery habitat for many organisms) and ecosystem services (carbon storage, flood abatement, water filtration, and the list goes on…). Ironically, in California, only about 10% of our historic tidal wetland area remains, and to add insult to injury wetlands are one of the ecosystem most impacted by invasion.
But, why invasive plants? Plants are primary producers, hanging out at the base of the food web, and when they change, other things change in really interesting ways. My master’s research focused on the impacts of an invasive plant on songbird food webs. I found the plant impacted the insects, which the birds ate, thus impacting the birds. I was intrigued! That’s how I knew a PhD was right for me, after my MS, I have about 1,000 more questions. In my current research, I try to understand: How do changes in invasive plant density impact the effects these plants have on ecosystems? How does restoration approach impact ecosystem recovery after the removal of an invasive plant? How does understanding the function of invaders in ecosystems impact management choices? I have approximately a billion other small questions that I try to address, but those are the biggies.