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360° of green: Annual Heirloom Plant Sale funds environmental research

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Five University of Wisconsin-Green Bay students have been selected to receive Heirloom Student Research Grants for the 2013-2014 academic year.

These grants provide outstanding opportunities for students to pursue faculty-guided research in the sciences. In addition to the research grants, 12 students have received travel awards to attend scientific meetings in the United States and Canada during the past year.

Students with a declared major in Natural and Applied Sciences or students in the Environmental Science and Policy graduate program with NAS faculty mentors are eligible to apply for funds. Students can apply for grants to cover the costs of independent research, to travel to scientific meetings, or to invite scientists to the campus to meet with students and to present seminars.

These grants are made possible by the Heirloom Plant Sale that is held on campus each spring. The most recent sale raised more than $7,500 that will be used to promote student research in the sciences at UW-Green Bay. More information about the Heirloom Grants and the Heirloom Plant Sale is available online at www.uwgb.edu/biodiversity/heirloom/. Photos and student updates will be available on the Cofrin Center for Biodiversity Facebook page, www.facebook.com/Cofrinbiodiversity.

Award recipients are as follows:

Cindy Burtley, West Bend — Trees grow in two ways. They grow taller by adding tissue to branches and twigs, and they also grow out by adding radial layers of tissue that increase the diameter of the trunk. Variations in radial growth have important implications for forest productivity and management. Environmental Science and Policy graduate student Cindy Burtley has placed 448 spring-loaded “dendrobands” around trees in the Wabikon Forest Dynamics Plot, allowing her to measure very small changes in radial diameter. Fine-scale variation in tree growth within topographically diverse forests, such as the one at the Wabikon plot, may be used to better predict responses of northern hardwood forests to changes in climate and other landscape level environmental conditions. Faculty members Amy Wolf and Robert Howe are supervising Burtley’s research.

Gregory Holder, Oneida — Three Sisters is an ancient indigenous polyculture system that supports the balance of biodiversity and sustainable soil chemistry and fertility. The Three Sisters include corn (maize), beans and squash. When these plants are grown together, each contributes to a beneficial and sustainable agronomic balance of environmental stability and a healthy food production system. Environmental Science and Policy graduate student Gregory Holder will use his grant to establish a Three Sisters garden on the UW-Green Bay campus, to serve as a sustainable model system that will provide UW-Green Bay students the opportunity to learn about and value traditional ecological knowledge from an indigenous perspective. It will expose students to botanical, horticultural and ecological disciplines of small-scale agriculture, and stimulate environmental awareness and conservation practices beyond the UW-Green Bay campus. Holder’s adviser is Prof. Patricia Terry.

Jessica Kempke, Green Bay — Environmental Science and Policy graduate student Jessica Kempke will be conducting a study of bat migration patterns along the Lake Michigan coast in northeastern Wisconsin using ultrasound recorders or “bat detectors.” These devices record the high-frequency calls of bats, which can be identified in many cases to species. Kempke will compare bat diversity and abundance along the coastline with paired sites 3-5 kilometers inland. Her study will contribute to the knowledge of the distribution of bat species as well as trends in migration and habitat use. Kempke’s project is a collaborative effort with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologists and is part of her graduate research at UW-Green Bay, under the supervision faculty members Wolf and Howe. Kempke also has received a Cofrin Research Grant in aid of her project.

Janalee Nelson — In response to current concerns regarding the potentially devastating effects of global climate change, efforts are being made to reduce the combustion of fossil fuels and to sequester excess carbon from the atmosphere. Plant-derived biofuels, such as ethanol and biodiesel, can be produced using material harvested from native grasslands and have the potential to satisfy both goals without threatening food security. Janalee Nelson, also a student in the Environmental Science and Policy master’s program, will be using her grant to better understand how soils in biofuel grasslands sequester carbon in the soil. She will be working under the direction of Associate Prof. Mathew Dornbush at a site that recently was converted from alfalfa agriculture to biofuel grassland and is managed by the Oneida Biofuel Project.

Matthew Peter, Rothschild — Both non-native and native strains of Phragmites australis (Common Reed) are found within the United States. The spread of non-native Phragmites has been increasingly aggressive and creates many issues with control and habitat management measures. Environmental Science and Policy student Matthew Peter will be investigating populations at two Nature Conservancy properties in Door County to determine whether significant differences in ecology and behavior exist between the two strains. His adviser is adjunct faculty member Patrick Robinson.

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