Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The importance of "thinking bigger"


by Laura Ladwig (SEV)

My first summer conducting dissertation research at the Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge I was determined to figure out the germination patterns of the dominant shrub, Larrea tridentata (creosote bush). It currently invades some grasslands at the Sevilleta, while it remains completely absent from others and I wanted to know why. Part of the investigation involved planting L. tridentata seeds in a variety of grass- and shrubland sites, then watering and monitoring them throughout the season to understand where L. tridentata could germinate.

Going into the project, I knew my freshly planted seeds would have a formidable opponent. Rodents. Abundant and diverse throughout my sites, rodents are known to eat both seeds and seedlings of L. tridentata. Always keeping these furry little critters in mind, I designed specialized seed collars to keep the rodents away from my seeds and hopeful seedlings.