Associate Scientist in Conservation Biology
Center for Conservation and Sustainable Developmentr
• Conservation Biology
• Endangered Species Recovery
• Restoration and Reintroduction Ecology
Effects of competition and soil microbial communities on rare perennial herbs in restored Ozark woodlands. Albrecht is an Associate Scientist specializing in conservation biology in MBG’s Center for Conservation and Sustainable Development; his research interests include ex situ and in situ conservation, conservation genetics, and seed germination ecology. Temperate woodlands are globally imperiled ecosystems due to a long history of degradation from repeated logging, grazing, altered fire regimes, and invasion by exotic species. At the Missouri Botanical Garden’s Shaw Nature Reserve, long-term observational studies indicate that restoration practices including removing exotic species, reducing tree densities, and reestablishing a prescribed fire regime can reverse ecological degradation and increase native plant diversity. However, rare conservative woodland herbs, which are often restricted to remnant woodlands, often fail to recolonize restored areas. This could be due to dispersal limitation or ecological barriers that prevent reestablishment such as competition from dominant species or an obligate reliance on soil microbes, which may be absent at restored sites. In this REU project, the student will work at the Shaw Nature Reserve on a replicated field experiment that examines whether competition and soil microbial communities influence the demographic performance of six rare woodland herbs. The student will monitor the survival, growth, and reproduction (demographic vital rates) of experimental populations of each species that were transplanted into three restored woodlands, which vary in restoration age (old, intermediate, and young). At each restored site, transplants with whole soil inoculum from either the home site or remnant woodland were planted (autumn 2019) into locations with and without herbaceous competition. Students will use the demographic data to test whether competition and soil microbial communities influence the performance of rare perennial herbs in restored woodlands. Students will learn the basics of field sampling, experimental design, and data management and analysis using the R statistical software package.