Research on the Range
First, I would like to introduce myself, as this is my first blog post for the Gardens! I am a graduate student getting my master’s degree in Integrative Biology at the University of Colorado at Denver and conducting my research under Dr. Rebecca Hufft, the associate director of applied conservation for the Gardens.
Chatfield Farms is a place people go to enjoy open space, beautiful flowers, fresh vegetables and cute farm animals, but there are many research projects going on behind the scenes. My project is utilizing long-term restoration plots started by a colleague at the University of Victoria, Dr. Nancy Shackelford, that are in a hay field of smooth brome. I am trying to understand how the two restoration techniques used—herbicide application and seed addition— support pollinator habitat and ecosystem services. I am achieving this by getting absolutely roasted in the sun.
All jokes aside, I am measuring plant diversity and floral availability as a proxy for pollinator ecosystems services—AKA fertilization for the plants. As most of us know, pollinators are crucial to fertilization of nearly all flowering plants (87%) and a third of food crops, so restoring abandoned rangeland will provide food and habitat for these critical critters that are struggling to survive due to land use changes.
I love doing field work and being greeted by the sound of the prairie, singing in my ears, which consists of squawking blackbirds, chirping crickets and children playing in the surrounding neighborhood.
After I receive my graduate degree and complete my part of this larger long-term restoration project, the Gardens will continue monitoring the original treatments. As we learn more, we will continue to add to this research to improve restoration practices to increase biodiversity and ecosystem services, including healthy soil, clean water and air, and pollinator services.
This blog post was written by Mandi Miller, master's student in the Department of Integrative Biology at University of Colorado - Denver. Mandi is interested in conservation and restoration ecology. She is researching restoration of rangelands on plots made at Denver Botanic Gardens Chatfield Farms.
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