Center for Conservation and Sustainable Development
• Restoration Ecology
• Restoration of herbaceous plant diversity in Ozark glades and woodlands.
• Prairie restoration
Seeds of potential: investigating trends in seed mix design for restoring prairie grasslands. Kaul is a Postdoctoral Fellow in MBG’s Center for Conservation and Sustainable Development specializing in restoration ecology, his research interests include prairie restoration. The practice of restoring native prairie is now almost a hundred years old. In the past few decades, planting novel prairies with a seed mix sown onto bare ground has become very common, however the mixes used are highly variable in terms of how many species, and which species are included. Mixes are created by a diverse community of seed companies, scientists, land managers, and conservation-minded institutions, each with unique goals and limitations. Published research, managers gaining experience, and seed producers increasing availability of native germplasm have all likely shaped changes in seed mix design over time. Little is known about how the features of restoration seed mixes have changed over time, or how they may differ consistently based on the type of organization developing them. Since seed mix diversity and composition are highly influential on restoration success measures, investigating trends in mix design is essential to explain the extremely high variation in prairie restoration success and to help bridge the gap between restoration goals and outcomes. The student will conduct a literature search on prairie restorations and compile seed mix information from relevant studies into a database. For each seed mix we will collect data on the number of species (richness), identity of each species, relative abundance of each species (either by mass or seed number), the year the mix was created, the organization that created it, the location/ state of the organization, and the stated goals of the project. The student will analyze the database to test the following predictions. We predict that seed mixes have become more diverse over time and that more recently designed seed mixes will have a higher ratio of forbs to grasses. Similarly, we also expect that newer mixes will have higher floristic quality (mean C-score, FQI), and phylogenetic diversity. While we predict to find more recent mixes are more diverse, we still expect that across the variety of recent restoration projects, modern seed mixes are still less diverse than representative remnant prairies, which are often used as a benchmark.