When I started this summer, I treated gathering my data as the end goal. Like the “X” marking the treasure on a map, I assumed that if I could just get all the data - collect all the samples, measure all the ring widths, cross-date all the trees - that everything else would fall into place.
Do you want to build a forest? Well, I'm here to give you the recipe in 8 simple steps. It will require a lot of ecological succession, or change over time. We'll start with a disaster. Perhaps a fiery tornado has torn through the land and nothing remains, or maybe you want a forest on a lava flow. The first step is to allow primary successors to colonize the land. These are the things that can live on seemingly nothing, think lichen. Then perennials will move in, annuals, small trees, and soon enough you'll have a forest!
My love for science and ecology, specifically, is not a passion many other people have. I go to a school where being an engineer is glorified and studying buisness is seen as prestigious. When people say they are studying engineering or business, to someone they know or to a complete random stranger, they are instantly impressed and praise them. It is always the typical “Good for you!” or “Wow, that must be really hard, you must be very smart”. I am studying environmental science.
The prairie restoration experiment ongoing at the Morton Arboretum is a lot more than just pretty flowers and phylogenetic diversity. In order to study this prairie, and get significant, controlled, results, there is a lot of maintenance work that goes into it. I started at the Morton Arboretum on May 22nd, and every day, we were out in the field weeding. I have weeded before, so it seemed like an easy job to me. However, that was not the case. There are a total of 437 2x2 meter plots on site.
I am the only undergraduate research fellow to be studying something other than trees at the Morton Arboretum. At first, I felt proud. I worked in a prairie last summer, so to have the opportunity to work in a prairie again, while conducting research, was exciting. However, as time passed, I felt like the odds were against me. Prairie restoration is a lot of work. There is a lot of time and effort that goes into the process of maintaining the prairie.