Posted by: tysonrc | October 19, 2010

Glade Project Update

view of several glades from the sky

The big glade project has been successfully constructed.  we built just shy of 25 acres of glade, spread across 32 glades of various sizes and shapes.  It was a very large undertaking and we thank the many people who came together to make it happen.  Special thanks to Claverach Organic farm and vineyard and The Greater St. Louis Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America for allowing us to place some of these glades on their land.   Thanks also to John Wingo and his crew from DJM Ecoscapes for basically letting us hire them on for several months during a busy time.  I’m guessing he caught up on prairie construction all over the state by now, so hopefully those other jobs aren’t sore at us anymore. 

Nick K. walking the timberjack on a leash

Even though the glades are only a few months old, sampling has already begun as many researchers want to watch how the sites change from cedar clogged woodland to open habitat.  Researchers are looking at changes in the ant community and soil microbe community among other things.

We have been busy working on the glades, also, as we have been spraying johnson grass, tree of heaven and sericea lespedeza to keep those buggers out of these sites.  we feel confident that we have killed most of them before they were able to lay down seed, but it will be a constant paranoia and a fight we will not be backing down from.  We had hoped to burn these areas this winter, but unfortunately, there is just not enough fuel to carry the fire in 75% of them and we are not going to go around setting fire to individual tufts of bluestem.

Finishing touches are being added to the seed list.  We will be adding over 50 species of plants this winter to some of the glades.  This is very exciting because part of the experiment is looking at conservative species, so several of the plants are hard to find species that will be wonderful to grow. 

All in all, It was a huge project to get off the ground and it took a great deal of work from dozens of people.  Good job all around everyone.

–Travis Mohrman

Posted by: tysonrc | October 18, 2010

the oaks are phoning it in this year!

I have been overhearing much discussion about the leaves and their remarkable color changing abilities.  Even though it is a little late, i decided to explain what makes these colors happen and why each fall is so variable.

The leaves have three color ingredients,  chlorophyll (green), carotenoids (orange, yellow)and anthocyanins(reds, purple).  We all know that chlorophyll makes the leaves green and many think that as the green degrades, it shows the colors that were underneath it all along.  This is only partly true, and only for the carotenoids.  If you pay close attention every year, the yellows and oranges are actually pretty similar in amount and intensity.  This is because the carotenoids are there most of the season, beneath the chlorophyll, and their levels don’t change drastically.  This is not the case for the anthocyanins.  The reds and purples are the result of sugars getting trapped in the leaf.  Very sunny days and crisp nights lead to the sugars getting trapped in the leaf surface; the temperature falls too quickly after the sun goes down for the freshly created sugars to move out of the leaf.  This october has been as sunny as they come, and because of this the sassafras, dogwoods and virginia creeper are the prettiest in recent memory. 

It has also been very dry recently and this will lead to a short color season as the leaves don’t have all the energy required to create all the sugars and end up just falling off.  It is fairly uncommon for everything to come together, moisture, daytime/nighttime temps, for the prolonged period to create outstanding fall color.  On top of all that, memories of fall color are usually much more vibrant ,like many memories, and so each fall the trees are rated against a nearly impossible reference.  Luckily, here is Missouri, we have many tree species and every year a few of those species put out a fantastic show.  The best looking trees at Tyson Research Center this year are the dogwoods, sassafras and hickories, who knows what next season will bring.

–Travis Mohrman

Posted by: tysonrc | October 15, 2010

Let the produce flow

This was a terrific year for the newly improved Tyson Organic Garden.  The raised beds functioned perfectly, the plants did their jobs,

Beets and Herbs

and the people enjoyed eating all the fresh produce throughout the summer seminar season.  even though it’s mid-october, we are still harvesting tomatoes, bell peppers, swiss chard, cucumbers, chili peppers, and liana beans.  On top of those tough plants, our fall produce is growing well.  This fall we planted broccoli, two kinds of spinach, various salad greens, beets and garlic.  Much of the fall produce will be frozen and tossed into soups and stews for various fall/winter Tyson functions.

Our numbers this season so far:

Mexican sour gherkin cucumbers

7 lbs. broccoli

10 lbs. carrots

78 lbs. cucumbers

32 lbs summer squash

49 lbs. of salad greens

3 lbs. red cabbage

115 lbs tomatoes

24 lbs beans

our tomatoes runneth over

12 lbs purple tomatillos

32 lbs onions

29 lbs peppers

18 lbs swiss chard

Everyone at the seminars seemed to really enjoy all the super fresh, organic food.  It is special to come out to listen to a great scientific talk in one of the first two living buildings in the world, then relax on a picnic table and eat a burger made from tyson venison with a cucumber and fennel salad straight out of the garden.  Thanks to everyone who helped make the seminars and bbq’s outstanding events this year!

–Travis Mohrman

Posted by: tysonrc | October 14, 2010

Let the recap begin

It has been a very busy summer out at Tyson Research Center.   Forests, prairies, glades, ponds, and cattle tanks were sampled, things were weighed, babies were born, ticks were collected, bites were scratched, puppies were adopted, students became graduates, veggies were grown and eaten, Tiki gods were worshipped, seminars were given, buildings were certified and waterslides were constructed; more on all that later though.

Minke Man finally gettin' a little respect

This blog will be updated frequently for the next two weeks in an effort to catch up on all the exciting things that have taken place this field season.  We’ll start with the ticks…

Dr. Brian Allan, former Tyson post doc and currently faculty at University of Illinois, has proven that the exotic, invasive plant, bush honeysuckle (Lonicera mackii), harbors many more ticks than native vegetation.  He did this research all over St. Louis in city parks, MDC lands, county parks and state parks.  This is very important research because it proves that you(and your children!) are ten times more likely to get a tick borne disease in a patch of honeysuckle as opposed to a patch of native vegetation.  There are no reasons to refuse to cut honeysuckle down now, it has become a human health concern!

for more information on this and to read more in-depth articles, please see the news section on the main Tyson homepage www.tyson.wustl.edu

–Travis Mohrman

Posted by: tysonrc | May 11, 2010

The Big Glade Project!!!

Researchers at Tyson Research Center are very happy to announce a project recently funded from the National Science Foundation that will allow us to restore nearly 25 acres of glades. We will be restoring glades on Tyson as well as on neighboring lands at Claverach organic farm and winery and West Tyson County Park. 

southwest facing hillsides invaded heavily by cedar

 Over the past 50 years or so, glades throughout the Ozarks have become very overgrown with eastern red cedar due to fire suppression, and we have many acres of these degraded glades right here in our neck of the woods—just look at a winter view of the landscape around here using Google Earth, and you’re sure to see large patches of ‘evergreens’ (cedars) clustered together on usually south-southwest facing slopes.  Ever see a cactus in the middle of a forest?  You can in these degraded glade areas. 

Glades are a unique rocky-outcrop ecosystem filled with many species of endemic plants and animals, like prickly pear cactus, eastern missouri tarantula, and scorpions,  that can tolerate hot and dry conditions with little soil (our own little piece of the desert southwest, right here in Missouri).  As proverbial ‘islands’ in a sea of Oak-Hickory woodland, glades also provide a great venue for testing ecological theory in addition to being important harbingers of biodiversity.  The project funded by NSF (PIs J. Chase, T. Knight, and T. Dickson), is allowing us to create 24 experimental glades that vary in their size as well as in their shape, and we will use them to test questions at the interface of biodiversity, conservation, and restoration science. 

Cedar trees worst enemy!

 It is also our hope that this project will attract researchers with interests in a variety of related (and unrelated) questions, from genes to ecosystems, and from lichens to plants to lizards and grasshoppers.  If you’re interested in using these glades for research, please contact one of the PIs…there’s more than enough science to go around for all! 

For those of you interested in the abstract of the NSF grant, read below:

Mechanisms of Species-Area Relationships in Ozark Glades

The observation that larger areas typically support more species is the basis for the species-area relationship, one of the oldest and best known relationships in ecology. Although this relationship holds true across a wide range of areas, and for many groups of species, it often predicts that small habitats should have more species than are actually present. The lower diversity found in small habitats may be a consequence of there being fewer rare species in those habitats than would be expected based on relatively simple species area relationships. A long-term, large-scale experiment will be established to test mechanisms underlying an increased extinction risk of rare species in smaller habitats in experimentally restored Ozark Glade communities. Plant communities in these rocky-outcrop ecosystems will be monitored following experimental restoration, and the demography of several rare species will be followed closely. Additional experiments will test the importance of biotic interactions, such as predation and mutualism, and habitat geometry to the persistence of rare species.

a freshly cleared, medium sized, round glade

Results from this study will have important implications for understanding, and trying to mitigate, biodiversity loss from small habitats, especially loss of rare species. This study will focus on a unique ecosystem type with many endemic species, and will engage practicing restoration ecologists as well as the general public on nearby public lands. Many undergraduate students and local high school interns will participate in the research as part of an informal science education program. Further, the long-term and large-scale nature of this experiment will create scientific infrastructure that will support research on related topics by undergraduate and graduate students, as well as researchers from other institutions.

We will be posting frequent updates involving this project as well as more pictures, so check back often!

–Dr. Jon Chase, Travis Mohrman

Posted by: tysonrc | April 28, 2010

Busy Busy Busy

That early warm-up really got everything popping here at Tyson Research Center.  We have been very busy building glades, getting permits for everyone, shocking fish out of experimental tanks and just generally getting ready for summer.  While this is taking place, the Tyson Organic Garden, sponsored by our local Worms Way Gardening Center, has been growing like mad.

a freshly cleared glade

raised bed full of various greens

The full field season takes off starting on the week of May 17th and it is going to be a packed house!  Along with all the undergraduates, interns and techs we have the high school students participating in the TERF program out all summer as well.  Summer at Tyson Research Center is a very exciting time as there are so many different projects across all aspects of ecological reseach.  As the season progresses, this space will be used to highlight many of these projects so that everyone can truly appreciate what we do here.

Also, it is almost time for another exciting season of the Tyson Summer Seminar Series!  We are finalizing the schedule now and it will be released very soon.  We have some great speakers lined up for what should be an outstanding season of seminars and BBQ!

enjoy the middle days of spring.  Turkeys are calling, bluebirds are everywhere and depressed mushroom hunters are still scavenging for that last morel that is inevitably dried up and snail eaten.

–Travis Mohrman

Posted by: tysonrc | March 26, 2010

Natural Calendar

Many of us agree that it is currently the end of the month of March.  Spring began on March 22.  These seem like rock-solid facts.  The natural world goes on a different sort of calendar though.  This calendar is called Phenology, and it is the natural progression of changes in the environment; such as migrating birds or spawning fish. 

first sighting 3/16/2007

Even though the word phenology is not one that is heard too frequently, the idea permeates many facets of life.  Ever heard “corn should be knee-high by the fourth of July” or “morels are up when oak leaves are the size of mouse ears”? 

The natural world is not dictated by our idea of a calendar.   This is what guides a great deal of research here at Tyson Research Center and it is also why planning a vacation in spring or summer can be next to impossible for a field ecologist.  One early warm up and the frogs start breeding, pollinators start flying, and snakes come out of their den.  No one can accurately predict when that first warm up will occur using our calendar, although many try.

Many outdoorspeople have become very attuned to phenology. 

first sighting 4/2/2008

 They know that when dogwoods are blooming, crappie are probably spawning and, therefore, easy to catch almost anywhere within their range.  In northern Arkansas this might be march 25, but in northern Missouri it is closer to early may, either way the dogwoods bloom and the crappie spawn.  If you time it right, you can drive north in spring a few hours and watch the phenological clock tick backwards as you travel back in time, seemingly.  This is helpful if you missed the serviceberry blooms or trillium flowers in given year because you can just drive back in time and go see them.

Websites exist to watch spring spread out like a fan across much of the nation as well as participate in it.  The USA Phenological Network (http://www.usanpn.org/) is one of these sites.  They encourage you to join them in the observance of the seasons and report back, via the website, about what is happening where. 

first sighting 3/13/2009

This can be a very enjoyable activity or just used as an excuse to get some outside time.  You can also keep a personal journal of what activity is first noticed on what date.   A journal of blooming flowers, or spring peepers calling might seem like a trivial thing, but these can be extremely important data sets for future use and the more detail you keep the better.

The photos in this post show spring beauties through the last four years.  They were all taken in the same spot, about 20 meters square, where they usually come up fairly early on Tyson Research Center.  They all appear to be right around the same time, except for the anomaly of 2008.  I’m  Still not sure why they came up so late in that location that year, they were already blooming in several other locations, just not there.  That is what can make phenology so fun, it always leaves you with many things to ponder on….

–Travis Mohrman
3/15/2010
Posted by: tysonrc | March 15, 2010

A Reason to Celebrate

Gather ’round everyone, I have a story to share…

It was a gloomy, 44 degree afternoon on March 15, 2010.  I had gone out in search of the first native blooming wildflower.  I had looked all around the road edges and not found anything.  I ended my search on the knob at the top of a ridge where Claytonia virginica , Spring beauty, traditionally blooms fairly early.  Hopping out of the truck, I could immediately tell that the leaves of spring beauty in this area did not seem to grow at all during the grey and dreary weekend.  I had hoped to find a patch of fragile, beautiful, white petals and tiny clumps of pink pollen (that’s right, it has pink pollen!)

Alas, after searching and noticing no change in the population or any flowers, I gave up the search for yet another day.  Heading back to the truck, I noticed my assistant, Phillip Jay Fry, was staring oddly at something on the ground not more than one foot from where I exited the truck.  His education runs more towards olfaction than botany, so I pushed him aside.  Hooray, Mr. Fry had indeed found one lonely blooming spring beauty, and we both managed not to step on it even!

The first one of Spring!

I am not entirely sure what made this one plant decide to bloom when all the rest could not muster it.  Maybe it is genetics, wind, something to do with light coming off the limestone road?  I’m guessing the little stick that it was growing next to absorbed and emitted just enough heat to help this little fella out.  Let’s take a closer look at him…

good lookin'!

Confident that I had found the first flower, I drove back to the headquarters building thinking that it was a good reason to celebrate!

oh yeah, on the drive back I saw these…

an older flower showing the pink pollen

 

a spring beauty that is done flowering and is working on a seed!

 

How in the world did I miss these last week?

–Travis Mohrman

Posted by: tysonrc | March 12, 2010

hey, fresh leaves!

Normally, when things start leafing out, it is a time to rejoice.  While scouring the forest floor for the first blooming and native flower today, I came across a shrub that was putting out leaves already. 

honeysuckle tries to be sneaky

 

The problem with these specific leaves is that they belong to Lonicera mackii, or bush honeysuckle.  This exotic invasive plant does large amounts of damage to the diversity of the Missouri woodlands.  Honeysuckle grows thick together and shades out the forest floor and this keeps other plants from getting the light they need to grow and reproduce.  One of the big problems with this plant is that it leafs out so early.  It is so greedy for all the light it can get that it puts leaves out before almost anything else.  

Many of our early spring wildflowers live in the deep woodland where the early spring is the only time when they can get enough light to grow quickly, bloom quickly, put out some seed and die back before the trees put on a thick canopy of leaves and begin to shade the forest floor.  Honeysuckle destroys these plants plans on trying to get a miniscule amount of light by leafing out early, sometimes before they even come up. 

Bush honeysuckle does take one big risk with its early leaf out technique.  when it is the only thing in the forest with leaves, it is the only thing in the forest with leaves!  get it?  It is very easy to see and kill when it is the only green shrub in miles of woods.  This same technique to spot honeysuckle works equally well in the fall because this noxious weed holds its leaves well into the fall.  Many methods exist to kill honeysuckle with most of them revolving around cutting and spraying herbicide on the stump.  It is also very easy to yank these buggers out of the ground because they have puny, inadequate root systems.  (it’s important to mock bush honeysuckle) 

Even though I never came across any blooming native plants, I did find one blooming flower, although it is an introduced plant from europe called microthlaspi perfoliatum.  It’s a tiny little plant and it doesn’t readily invade areas and destroy them like honeysuckle does.  In the photo, the blooms are not fully open, but that is because it was cloudy and raining when the picture was taken. 

one of the earliest blooming, albeit exotic, flowers

An interesting point I noticed while going through the files today is that we are almost two weeks behind last year in flower phenology.  Last year at this time, we had many species that bloomed on this day.  Some of these species were toothwort, trillium, false rue anemone and spring beauty.  With the exception of spring beauty, none of those plants have even begun emerging from the soil and it will be almost two weeks before they bloom. 

so, we wait. 
If you go out looking from spring ephemerals and get frustrated because you don’t see any,  just rip up some honeysuckle; it is a great way to vent that frustration. 
–Travis Mohrman
Posted by: tysonrc | March 10, 2010

we’re almost finished

Beth drilling the frame together

 

Travis cutting the composite boards for the frames

 

Construction is almost complete on the 12 raised beds for the Organic garden this season. they are easy to build, the problem is digging them down into the ground. Digging a two foot hole in an old limestone road bed can be a bit of a pain. 

If you have any questions or want to know how we built these so that you may replicate them, please send us an email and we are happy to help. These beds, with the use of composite decking boards, are not only more eco-friendly than traditional wood, but will not rot and therefore last many years longer without the use of harsh sealing chemicals. 

sinking the posts several feet underground makes them "hurricane proof!!"

 

Gnorme is excited to offer protection for the upcoming season

 

–Travis Mohrman

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