The UW-Madison Arboretum | Wisconsin Public Television

The UW-Madison Arboretum

The UW-Madison Arboretum

Record date: Jul 03, 2018

Brad Herrick, Ecologist at the UW-Madison Arboretum, shares the history of the arboretum, the development of the Curtis Prairie, and the restoration the arboretum has undergone. The UW-Madison Arboretum is considered the birthplace of restoration ecology.

University Place Campus: 

University Place Lecture Series: 

University Place Subjects: 

Episode Transcript

- Welcome everyone to

Wednesday Nite @ the Lab.

I'm Tom Zinnen.

I work here at the UW-Madison

Biotechnology Center.

I also work for the UW-Extension Cooperative Extension,

and on behalf of those folks

and our other co-organizers,

Wisconsin Public Television,

Wisconsin Public Radio,

Wisconsin Alumni Association,

and the UW-Madison

Science Alliance,

thanks again for coming to

Wednesday Nite @ the Lab.

We do this every Wednesday

night, 50 times a year.

Tonight it's my pleasure to

introduce to you Brad Herrick

from the UW-Madison Arboretum.

He's going to be here to talk

about a legacy of research

in ecological

restoration at the Arb.

For those of us who live

here in the Madison area,

it seems like the Arboretum

has always been there,

but it hasn't.

Once upon a time

it was just land,

and at one point it

was a run-down farm.

So it's always a good

idea to keep in mind some

of the great things

that are here are here

because people took big risks

and made big investments

long ago and we enjoy them

and so will our children

and grandchildren.

Brad was born in

Cedar Rapids, Iowa,

and then he moved to Minnesota.

And he still cheers for a

team other than the Packers...

[audience laughing]

Even though he

went to high school

at Eau Claire

Memorial High School

in Eau Claire, Wisconsin.

Then he went to undergraduate

at Luther College in Decorah,

Iowa, and studied biology.

Then he got his master's

degree in environmental science

at the University of

Wisconsin in Green Bay.

About 10 years ago, in 2007,

he came to the Arboretum,

and tonight he

gets to talk to us

about this wonderful

legacy going back eight

or more decades.

Please join me in

welcoming Brad Herrick

to Wednesday Nite @ the Lab.

[audience applauding]

- Thank you, Tom.

Thanks everyone for

being here tonight.

So a legacy of research

in ecological restoration

is a pretty big topic

to try and squeeze

into a one-hour presentation.

So this could probably

be a series of lectures

or a semester seminar.

I'm going to do my best to

scrunch it down into an hour,

and so for those of

you who are familiar

with the Arboretum, maybe

know some of the history,

you'll notice big

gaps in my timeline,

especially with the research

and restoration part.

So the questions

obviously at the end,

I'll be able to hopefully

to fill in the gaps for you.

But we're going to move

right along on the timeline,

and a lot of what I'm going

to be talking about tonight

is centered around

Curtis Prairie,

which is our flagship

prairie at the Arboretum.

It's considered the oldest

restored prairie in the world.

It's kind of what

we're known for.

And a lot of the early research

and restoration happened

at that location.

That's kind of what

I'm going to focus on,

and then I'll bring us

all the way up to today

and I'll talk about kind of

what our goals for research

and restoration are.

I like to share this slide

when I give talks like this

because it gives a nice

overview of the landscape

around the Arboretum.

So here, so we're

right in here somewhere

in downtown campus.

Capitol's over here.

The Arboretum is

about four miles,

as the crow flies, south of us.

This is Lake Wingra,

Nakoma Golf Course here.

And so the Arboretum

is really nestled

in the city of Madison;

it's a very urban area.

It's a green space

and an urban area.

Even the Beltline actually

dissects the Arboretum.

There's a 200-acre parcel

here, you can't see all of it,

it goes out of the screen,

called the Grady Tract.

That used to be connected to

the Arboretum, but in the '50s,

when that Beltline went

in, it went right through.

And so we lost some pines

and had some increased

fragmentation there.

So a lot of our restoration

and our research

kind of is either informed

or tries to answer questions

about how urbanization

affects the landscape.

And you'll hear that theme kind of throughout my talk tonight.

A lot of people don't realize

that besides the 1200 acres

of woodlands, oak savanna,

prairie, and wetlands

at the Arboretum here in

Madison, we also do research

and manage about 500 acres

of what we call

outlying properties.

So these are all remnant

pieces of property.

So original prairie, oak

savanna, sugar maple forest.

There's a Finnerud Forest,

up here.

There's a really beautiful

old growth red pine stand.

A lot of these are DNR

state natural areas as well,

and we acquired them over

the last 50 years either

through private

donations or deeded to us

from the Nature Conservancy,

those kind of entities.

So this adds another,

you know, 500 acres or so

of properties that we have

to manage and oversee,

and it's a great resource

but it's also a drain

on our capacity

to do restoration.

So we're doing a lot of work,

not only at the Arboretum

but throughout the state.

And this talk will focus

on just the Arboretum here

in Madison, but

please ask questions

about these properties as well

if you have them at the end.

So the mission of the

Arboretum is threefold.

The first part is to conserve

and restore Arboretum lands.

So that's sort of

our restoration leg

of the mission, if you will.

Advance restoration

ecology, that's the science

of the Arboretum

or the research.

And then, finally,

foster the land ethic.

And for those of you who

are readers of Leopold,

you'll recognize the land ethic.

This is sort of our outreach

and education component

of the organization.

And it was coined by

Aldo Leopold in this book

that you may have seen once

or twice, maybe heard of,

A Sand County Almanac.

And I'll just read

what it says here,

how Leopold defines

his land ethic.

"The individual is a

member of a community

"of interdependent parts.

"His ethics prompt

him to cooperate.

"The land ethics simply

enlarges the boundaries

"of the community to include

soils, waters, plants,

"and animals, which

reflects a conviction

"of individual responsibility

for the health of the land."

So basically what this is

saying is as humans we need

to think of ourselves as

part of the landscape,

not separate from it, not,

you know, sort of over it

and utilizing it

for our purposes.

But if we think of ourselves

as part of the landscape,

then we'll respect it more.

So this is sort of how

we think of our education

and our outreach objective

is to follow the land ethic

and teach that.

Okay, so the idea for

a university arboretum

dates all the way back to

1853 and this gentleman,

who I'm sure you've also

heard of, Increase Lapham.

Increase Lapham is considered

Wisconsin's first scientist.

He was many things,

he was a biologist,

an ecologist before

there was a thing...

a geologist, a meteorologist.

Any ologist you can

think of, he was it.

And he also had this

idea that, you know,

the university here

should have an arboretum

and it should be an arboretum

of Wisconsin plants,

which is a pretty progressive

thought back then,

that it should, you know,

it should be a place

for display and teaching

about Wisconsin plants.

And so, although, you

know, 150 years ago

that idea was

already percolating.

And then I'm going to skip

now ahead about 80 years.

This is what I was

talking about, gaps.

80 years, you know, this

idea didn't really take hold

for many years, until

about the 1920s.

And I'm not going to talk

about the history of sort

of how the Arboretum came to be.

That's a whole other talk, and

there have been books written

about this topic.

But folks like John

Nolen, Michael Olbrich,

were influential in

designing the Arboretum,

getting funds to purchase the

land, working with the Board

of Regents to make

those purchases happen,

so they need to be

credited as well.

But this talk is obviously

focused on research

and restoration, so

I'm not going to focus

on the early parts

of the Arboretum.

So I'm going to fast

forward to 1932.

All right?

1932 was when the first

land purchase happened,

and it was a piece of

land, about 200 acres,

that encompassed where

Curtis Prairie sits now,

as well as areas to

the west and the north.

And I'll show a map of

that here in a second.

In 1932, some of the

land was purchased.

A year later, 1933, the

two directors were named.

And those two, again probably

names that might be familiar

to some of you, were

William Longenecker,

who was hired as the

executive director.

So he sort of oversaw the

operational end of things.

He was a recent graduate of

the horticulture department

here at the time, and his

background was plant sciences,

horticulture, and

landscape design.

And if you're familiar

with the Arboretum,

you know that we have

a true arboretum,

a collection of woody plants

called Longenecker

Horticultural Gardens,

named after William Longenecker.

He designed the gardens.

He planted the famous

crap apples, lilacs.

So his name is attached

to Longenecker Gardens

and the Arboretum forever.

As well as his counterpart

here, Aldo Leopold.

Leopold was the

research director.

So these two worked

very closely.

They were co-directors but

Leopold handled the research end

of things, and this included

all types of research

from his specialty, game

management, to plant research

for the next--

It would have been seven

or eight years or so.

And Leopold was somewhat

of a new face on campus.

As Tom said, he was a

professor of wildlife ecology,

he was the first faculty in

the game management department,

or wildlife ecology

department, excuse me.

And so he brought to

the Arboretum expertise

in field ecology,

game management,

and a vision for what

the Arboretum should be.

A year later was the official

dedication, and we kind

of think of this as the real

kick-off to the Arboretum.

It was dedicated as

the University of

Wisconsin Arboretum,

Wildlife Refuge and

Experimental Forest Preserve.

And at the dedication

in June 17, 1934,

several folks stood up and

gave speeches, Longenecker,

of course, and Aldo Leopold.

And I want to share with you

a few things of what he said,

which will kind

of guide the talk

for you the rest of the way.

So one of the things

that Leopold said was

that the Arboretum

would be an arboretum

in the traditional sense.

So it would be a collection

of trees and shrubs,

sort of like arboreta are,

what we think of them today,

specimens planted

in a certain design.

But it also contain

ecological groupings,

which was a new

idea at the time.

So it wouldn't just be a museum

for individual specimens,

it would be a museum

of communities.

And the real novel

idea here was that

not only would

we have an arboretum,

we would construct this

sample of original Wisconsin,

including a sample of what

Dane County looked like

when our ancestors

arrived in the 1840s.

So no-one else was doing this.

And this was a pretty

audacious thing to try

because it's never

been tried before

and no-one knew how to do it.

And we'll talk about,

throughout this talk again,

about there's two very

different ideas here.

One is to recreate all the

communities in Wisconsin,

or most of the

communities in Wisconsin

at one place here in Madison.

And then the idea of

creating what used to

be here in Dane County.

So I'll come back to this

one here in a moment.

He also said it'll

be done for research,

not for the amusement

of the town.

It'll be for the university

rather than for use

by the public, basically.

He was a research scientist,

a field ecologist,

and he felt that this

place should be a place

for experimentation, for

teaching, for learning,

and didn't want the public

meddling in all of this.

He wanted it to be sort

of a beside the preserve

kind of ecological station,

if you will, to do research

for the university.

And, obviously, that has

changed over the years,

but it's something that

we still sort of struggle

with what we are.

We are a research center,

but we welcome

and encourage the

public to come.

And so there's, you

know, sometimes balancing

those two goals

can be challenging,

but they're both really

important to what we do.

At the end he said,

perhaps we should not call

it an arboretum at all.

It's so different than

the traditional arboreta

of just a collection of trees.

So it was really a novel

idea, a novel goal.

And so, to come back

to this statement,

so if we talk about

what was in Dane County,

what was this part of Wisconsin

before our ancestors arrived

in the mid-1800s, it was

primarily oak savanna.

And the land survey records

from 1835 at the Arboretum

indicate that it was

primarily oak openings.

So, large overgrown oaks

with prairie grasses

and prairie forbs,

wildflowers scattered

amongst the large overgrown

oak trees, as well as marsh.

A lot of the Arboretum

is actually marshland

because it brings a

lot of Lake Wingra,

which used to be bigger.

And so this is what

the arboreta looked like,

and, actually,

Dane County was primarily

oak savanna 200 years ago.

And so this is what he's meaning

when he's saying bring back

what Dane County was when

our ancestors arrived.

But he also said it should

also be a collection

of Wisconsin communities.

And if you think about

the 1920s, 1930s,

it was really hard for people

to get up northern Wisconsin

and see a boreal

forest, for example,

or a real intact pine stand.

It was hard for

students to access

those kinds of communities.

But the idea was let's

bring them to campus here.

And so his idea was let's create

things like boreal forests.

So they actually

planted balsam fir,

as well as all the understory

components of those systems.

This is a jack pine barren.

So northwest Wisconsin,

north-central

Wisconsin is very dry,

a lot of jack pine,

open barren systems.

So they planted jack pines

in part of the Arboretum

as well as some

of the appropriate

ground layers species.

Cedar glades, which is kind

of an uncommon community

but is found in southern

Wisconsin, it just wasn't found

at the Arboretum, but

it's a unique community

that's a very dry community

where bedrock is exposed.

So a very thin soil layer.

And the only thing that can

really grow there are red cedars

because their root can kind

of get into the crevices

of the bedrock.

There's not usually a

lot of fire that runs

through these systems,

historically, although

there is some.

But there isn't a very

robust ground layer

to carry that fire through.

And so red cedars

are able to grow.

And then hemlock

and pine forests.

So these communities were not

in Dane County,

at least very much.

They certainly weren't

at the Arboretum.

But they wanted to try

and create this museum

of Wisconsin communities.

And, again, we'll talk about

what that meant for us,

and it still affects our

land management to this day.

They're sort of out of

place communities here.

Now we know that.

We'll talk more about that

in terms of the restoration

and management goals.

So, like I said, I'm going to

focus the research primarily

on Curtis Prairie.

And so if you're familiar

with the Arboretum,

Curtis Prairie, on this map.

The visitor center

is right about here.

So the original settlement of

the land before Curtis Prairie

was a thing was 1836, and

it was farmed until 1920,

pretty much continuously,

so 90 years or so.

And it was owned by a few

families, the Nelsons,

the Bartletts and the

Noes, and they owned most

of the acreages south

of the visitor center,

where that is now, and most

of what Curtis Prairie is.

And, again, here the land

ownership at the time

of acquisition in 1932.

But most people don't know

that part of Curtis Prairie

is actually remnant prairie.

It was never farmed because

it was either too wet

or just wasn't good farmland.

So this eastern half here

was either a mowing meadow

or just was left unplowed.

So we consider that part

of the prairie a remnant.

It was, like I said,

I was mowed for hay.

Horses did graze

for a few years,

but the soil wasn't tilled up.

And so, after 1920, the

land was left to go fallow.

So it was fallow

for about a decade

before the university

picked it up.

So that's what the

starting initiative was.

It was a lot of

bluegrass, quackgrass,

exotic grasses.

So the first kind

of research effort

on Curtis Prairie took

place by Norman Fassett.

Norman Fassett was

a botany professor.

He wrote lots of books.

He was a very good

aquatic botanist.

He wrote a book called,

I'm blanking on it,

Spring Flora of Wisconsin,

which is a very well-known book.

I went to Luther College

and there's a class there

called Spring Flora

of Northeast Iowa,

and we used that book.

Northeast Iowa and

southern Wisconsin

are pretty much the same thing.

And so he was a great botanist.

And he had the idea, he's

actually credited with being

one of the first people

to float the idea

that the Arboretum should

create this tallgrass prairie.

There's some other folks

that are also credited

with that too, but he was

definitely one of the first.

And so, in 1934, he

proposed this project

to the Arboretum

Committee, which was sort

of the governing body of

the Arboretum at the time.

And the project was called

Prairie Grass Dissemination

by Planting Sods and

Land Now Occupied

by Agricultural Weeds

and Exotic Grasses.

It just rolls off the

tongue, doesn't it?

[audience laughs]

Just super easy.

Basically what he's

saying is let's see

if we can transplant

grasses, native grasses,

on this old farm and see if

we can create this prairie.

And what he was

interested mostly is:

What method should we use?

How do we do this?

No-one knew how to do this.

It's never been done before.

And so he proposed

that in early 1934,

and it took about a

year-and-a-half for

any work to begin

because there wasn't

anyone to do the work.

And then he did get a

student named John Thomson

that started in

the fall of 1935.

And he was charged with

basically collecting

this vegetation material from

places in western Wisconsin,

like Mazomanie,

Middleton, Spring Green,

along the Wisconsin River,

along the Mississippi River,

bringing all that material

back and figuring out a way

to plant them in

experimental plots

that they could actually

track how each method worked.

Of course the problem

still was that

he was just one student,

and it was a lot of work to

get out to western Wisconsin

and bring all these

sod back and seed back.

So, luckily, at the same

time, that problem was solved

with the arrival of the CCC.

And I'm sure many of you

are familiar with the CCC.

But the Civilian Conservation

Corps was a program

by FDR as part of the New

Deal, and it was designed

to put young men back to work

during the Great Depression.

And there were thousands of

these camps all over the country

in the '30s and '40s.

And there were many here in

Wisconsin, and one of them was

at the Arboretum, and it

was called Camp Madison.

And so the CCC provided

all the labor

as part of the

National Park Service.

And so they provided the

flatbed trucks, the shovels,

all the tools needed

to actually get out

to these faraway places,

transport these seeds

and plants back

to the Arboretum.

The CCC also built all the

buildings that they lived in,

and we still have many of them.

They're old cedar

shake buildings

that we use for research.

A lot of our maintenance

sheds are old CCC buildings.

So they're all charming

and all falling apart.

[laughing]

But they're really a

neat part of history.

So this is a picture

of John Thomson out,

probably some place

in Spring Green,

digging up sod to bring

back to the Arboretum.

So he collected sod, hay,

and seeds from several sites

in southwest Wisconsin.

And the hay is basically cutting

standing stems of grasses

in the fall that would

likely have seed in them,

instead of taking time

to collect seed heads.

Just cutting the hay,

transporting it back.

It makes good mulch

over your plantings,

and if there's seed

there, then the seed

would probably get

incorporated as well.

And basically they

had two main findings

with this research that

lasted just one year.

The best survival rate came

from prairie sod accompanied

by prairie hay,

which makes sense.

If you cut, this is

literally cutting

square blocks of sod, maybe

yay deep, with the plants

in them, putting them on a

truck, putting them on a truck,

putting them on a truck, and

bringing all of that back

to Madison and then plunking

them down on the ground.

And for whatever reason,

the chunks of sod

from a sand prairie in

Spring Green worked the best,

and that could be because

they were probably,

with the dryer soil there was

probably less weed pressure

in that soil, and so maybe

they just had a better result

because there weren't weeds

competing with the grasses.

But I'm not sure why

that was the case.

So after that, John

Thomson got transferred

to a different project

for his graduate degree,

so Leopold was thinking this is going to be a huge project.

We need to have a permanent

staff member be the person

that oversees this work

if we're really going

to do it right.

So, in 1936,

Ted Sperry was hired

as the Arboretum's

first ecologist.

He just graduated with his

PhD from the University

of Illinois, where he did

a prairie ecology study.

So he was one of the very first

prairie ecologists probably

in the country, and the

Arboretum was lucky enough

to get him.

So he came on board in 1936,

and Leopold was his boss.

And, basically, his directive

was, "Ted, go make a prairie."

And, you know, that was

basically what he was told.

Leopold wasn't out there

with a shovel digging sod

and bringing it back and

doing a lot of the labor.

He was busy doing

wildlife studies.

He was all over the

country doing work.

And so Sperry was

really on his own to try

and figure out how

to make this work.

And so it was mostly

trial and error.

And they did use Fassett's

and Thomson's

experiment, the results,

and incorporated sod mostly because that was giving them

the best result

but also used seed

because it was so much easier

to collect and disperse.

And, again, he was

mostly on his own out there.

And he had the CCC

labor, which was key.

This wouldn't have

happened without them.

And, again, the National

Park Service provided

these flatbed trucks that were

invaluable to the project.

Here's a photo of some of

the CCC boys probably out

in Spring Green or

some place to the west,

collecting hay and sod.

It looks like it's maybe

in the winter there,

maybe the fall, early spring.

So, according to Sperry,

it was a pretty simple method

that they used.

When they brought the sods

back to the Arboretum,

they tried to get rid of as much of the quackgrass as possible.

They dug a hole,

put the sod in said hole.

That was pretty

much what they did.

There was really no

specific arrangement for

how they wanted to do this.

It was sort of haphazard.

They kind of figured

it out on the fly.

Again, no-one had

done this before.

They were the first ones

trying to figure out, you know,

what species would work,

where to plant them.

And, you know,

Sperry had to decide,

do we want to plant these in

close proximity to each other

to make it look like a really

robust prairie planting,

or do we want to cover as

much ground as possible

so it looks like we're

doing something out here?

And so he decided, maybe wisely,

that they're going to try

and cover as much of this

old farm field as possible

with plants just to get

the plants out there

and get them established.

So this is a drawing

of, kind of an example

of some of the plots

that were planted.

And, as you can see, it's

pretty much just haphazard.

The shapes are all

different sizes,

different shapes.

A lot of the plantings

were monotypes.

They would go out and dig

big clumps of Big Bluestem,

for example, it was

mostly just Big Bluestem,

and plunk it down in one grid.

Rattlesnake master

somewhere else.

And that's just how they did it.

There was some plots that

had more than one species,

of course, but these are just an

example of some of the species.

Big Bluestem, and these

names, if you're a botanist

or know your plant names,

you'll recognize some

of these are older, older

genus, older species names.

Big Bluestem, Little

Bluestem, Baptisia,

Junegrass,

number six is actually

yellow coneflower, Ratibida,

a new genus, Liatris.

So these are just a sample

of a few that were planted.

But they were planted, if you're

familiar with Curtis Prairie,

in west Curtis and

central Curtis,

that was the main planting area.

Another photo of the CCC,

this might be at the Arboretum,

digging holes and

getting ready to plant.

Or it could be, actually,

at one of the remnants,

collecting sod.

This is probably definitely

back at the Arboretum,

digging holes and planting

sod off the flatbed truck.

And I kind of like Ted

Sperry, the gentleman there

in the tie, kind of

directing traffic,

and all the boys are

looking up at the camera,

clearly not paying attention.

So it's obviously a

staged photograph.

[audience laughs]

It's kind of a funny one.

But they did this dozens

and dozens of times.

They'd go out, put stuff on

the truck, bring it back,

and it was hard work for sure.

So they ended up developing

a planting system

that involved both

seeding and sodding.

They used both methods.

And they also set up a nursery.

On that last slide there was

a box that had nursery in it.

I should have pointed it out.

But they developed a nursery

and tried to grow plants

and transplant them.

But that didn't work very

well for whatever reason.

One of the reasons could

be, actually, that during

that first year, there

was a major drought

and a lot of the

plants died, actually.

And so the seeds just worked

better in that environment.

They didn't need as much water.

So those transplants,

even though they were just

a few feet away

at the Arboretum,

just didn't work quiet as well.

And generally, they're trying

to space these plantings out.

They planted them about

four to five feet apart,

these sod clumps.

And they were all

different sizes.

But their goal was to

cover that old farm field.

So some of the common

plants that they planted,

and some of these are

going to be familiar to

some of you I'm sure.

This is Big Bluestem, that was

a real common one they used.

This is Indiangrass,

another common grass

that they transplanted.

Prairie dock here.

Compass plant.

Rattlesnake master,

one of my favorites.

And also the Arboretum

softball team.

I should mention the

Rattlesnake Masters

is our softball team name.

And pale purple coneflower.

So these are just few,

but these are some

of the quintessential

tallgrass prairie species.

And they planted dozens

of different species

during those first few years.

So then, the next person

to sort of get involved

with this research endeavor

was John Curtis himself.

So he came on in 1941.

He was born in Waukesha,

went to Carroll College

and came to Madison and

got a degree in botany.

And then, and Leopold knew

of him and was really excited

to try and get him

at the Arboretum

to help with this project.

And so it took some

persuasion for Curtis to stay.

He was being courted

by other institutions

around the country.

But he ended up staying at

the university in botany

and became the plant

research director in 1941

and was in that position for

20 years until his death.

And so, when he came on,

he and Leopold split the

research directing duties.

Curtis was the plant

research director,

and Leopold became

the wildlife director,

which is what his passion was, especially with game management.

And so that worked out great, both for Leopold and for Curtis.

Curtis had full rein

of this prairie project

as well as other plant research.

This is just a photo of him.

I'm not sure where

this is, actually,

but this looks like he's

inspecting some Indiangrass.

Maybe at the Arboretum

or a nearby remnant.

So once Curtis arrived, the

research really took off

at the Arboretum, especially

in regards to research

around how to get this

restoration going

and maintained.

So one of the really

important papers that Curtis

and his student, Max Partch,

published in 1949, I believe,

or '48, '48, in the

American Midland Naturalist

was the effective fire

on the competition

between bluegrass and

certain prairie plants.

So, Sperry actually was

only there for a year

when Curtis came, and then he

was drafted into the Air Force

and never returned to

work at the Arboretum.

He got a professor

job in Kansas.

But before he left, Curtis

and Sperry recognized

that in order for

this project to work,

they had to do something

about the exotic grasses,

the quackgrass, the

Kentucky bluegrass,

the Canada bluegrass, because

they were really outcompeting

their native plantings

that they were bringing in.

And so they knew that, you

know, fire, historically,

was a major influence

on these prairie

and savanna communities.

And so they thought, you

know, maybe fire could help us

not only reduce the

abundance and competition

of these exotic grasses, but

also help the native species

germinate and spread as well.

So they embarked on

this five-year project,

using fire in different

times of the year

and in different sequences.

And their findings were

fairly straightforward.

They found, and they did

this in a series of plots.

So they had replication and

different treatments in plots

on Curtis Prairie itself.

And they found that

burning did reduce a cover

of Poa pratensis

and Poa compressa,

that's the Kentucky bluegrass

and Canada bluegrass,

and, at the same time, it

allowed these weedy forbs,

so not exactly a rare

plant but they're native,

native plants and some of

the other prairie plant

that they brought in to

spread into those what used

to be exotic grass areas.

And this was compared

to unburned control.

So it was a treatment,

a controlled experiment.

And now, this kind

of seems like,

duh, of course that would work.

But at the time, this

hadn't been done before.

No-one knew, really, how to

use fire for a management tool.

And, there were

probably other folks

doing similar type work,

but it wasn't being published.

And, you know, now

this is something

that everyone sort

of just knows.

If you're a land manager, you

know sort of why you use fire

and you know that

it's very helpful

in controlling all sorts

of invasive species

and that it also helps

stimulate your native plants.

So this is one of the

most important papers,

one of the most important

early papers at the Arboretum.

So I just have a

couple slides here.

Some neat fire photos

back in the day, the '40s.

This photo here is

one of those plots,

one of those burn

plots of Curtis'.

This is John Curtis here

overseeing a burn line.

Some of the early

photos or early fire.

Let's see...

And then this is one too.

It's not a great photo, but this is Leopold here in the middle,

with a couple students,

standing after a burn at Curtis.

And, of course

things have changed

in terms of how we do fire.

Sort of the Wild West back then.

We've got leaks

here in the main hoses.

We've got 10-year-old

kids running around,

still smoldering,

running the hoses.

So we do things a little

bit different now.

This is from a couple years ago.

Our crew, you know, we're

still, we have protocols,

we have safety

equipment, helmets.

Here's a good-looking crew.

[audience laughs]

Radios, no matter

how big the fire is,

no matter how big the unit

is, we're always in contact

with each other.

So, how we do the fires changed,

but why we do the

fire hasn't changed.

And so that's the important

point that, you know,

that first experiment

which really sort of

spearheaded the burning

program at the Arboretum.

So we've been using fire since

the late '40s, early '50s,

on a pretty regular

basis over many units,

not just Curtis Prairie.

And later on I'll talk about

how challenging that can be,

burning in an urban

environment, much more urban

than it used to be.

So, like I said, Curtis wrote

dozens and dozens of papers

on the research at Curtis Prairie, especially looking at

responses to management

techniques on grasses,

for example,

germination requirements

on different species.

I'm going to kind of flip

through these kind of fast.

He was really into orchids,

especially white

Lady Slipper orchids.

He did a lot of research

on orchids at the Arboretum

and other southern

Wisconsin locations,

interested in why,

even at that time,

orchids were diminishing in numbers due to habitat loss.

And so he was trying to

figure out why that is,

what are the habitat

needs for these plants,

what are the germination

requirements.

So, you know, yada, yada,

yada, paper, a lot of research.

At the same time,

he was doing work

at other remnant locations

throughout Wisconsin.

So he was not only

working on the restoration

but he wanted to know

what plans constituted

a remnant prairie or a

remnant any community.

And that helped inform

what plants were planted

at the Arboretum,

at Curtis Prairie.

And so he and Henry Greene,

who I'll get to later,

and other students

went about surveying

as many remnant

communities as possible,

from savannas, prairies,

wetlands, woodlands.

And that culminated

in this book,

which I'm sure you've heard of, The Vegetation of Wisconsin,

which is a classic book, published in 1959,

just before his death,

and it's probably still

the most comprehensive analysis

of any one state's vegetation,

vegetative communities.

It's still used as textbooks.

And so this work informed

many of the Arboretum--

Actually some of

the Arboretum spots,

some of the outlying properties

that the Arboretum manages

were part of this book

that he surveyed for this book.

So he was a really important

part of the research history,

obviously, at the Arboretum.

But one of his good

friends at the time

and also was a really

important character

at the Arboretum was this

gentleman, Dr. Henry Greene.

Dr. Greene was also in the

botany department at the time.

He was a renowned botanist,

especially mycologist.

He didn't, he was someone who

didn't care for committees.

Who does? [audience laughs]

Or administrative work.

So he didn't want to

be a faculty member.

He was happy being

an instructor.

He wanted, basically, to be

left alone to do research

and work with students.

So that's kind of the

person that he was.

But he was an excellent

mentor to us as students.

And, like I said,

like I mentioned,

he was a fabulous mycologist

and produced this paper,

which is, "The Fungi

of the University

"of Wisconsin Arboretum,"

which is a really comprehensive

look at all types of fungi.

And I'm not a mycologist.

I couldn't even tell you what

some of the species were.

They're kind of foreign to me.

But I do have a student

right now that's looking

at some of his specimens and

trying to update his list,

50 years later

to 60 years later.

So these historic documents

are really valuable

in terms of following

up on this research.

And then he and Curtis also

wrote this really great paper

called "Germination Studies

of Wisconsin Prairie Plants."

And, again, there

wasn't a lot known

about remnant prairie

plants at the time.

What were the requirements

for establishing plants

or germinating plants?

They looked at 91 native

prairie plants, and they looked

at what does it take to get these seeds to germinate.

And what they discovered is

that about, I want to say

70 of them needed some

sort of stratification,

cold stratification, and 30

of them absolutely required it

to break dormancy.

And, again, this

was new information.

And now we kind of take it

for granted that of course,

seeds need some

kind of disturbance

to break that hard seed code.

And so, you know, now,

when we seed a prairie,

we often do it in the late fall

so that it gets that

natural stratification

of the freezing temperatures,

and we get a lot better

germination in the spring.

So another good paper there

to help inform

restoration work.

An then this is one of my

favorite papers that they wrote.

This was sort of a summary

paper about what they found,

what their trial and

errors were trying

to reestablish this

prairie at the Arboretum.

And it was published in a

journal called Wildflower,

which I don't even

think exists anymore.

I want to share with you sort

of what their findings were.

It's a nice summary of

what they learned over,

at this point it was

probably 10 years

of working on this project.

So one thing they said was

that it's really important

to make sure that you get

rid of the weeds first.

Don't try and plant

native prairie in a

patch of quackgrass.

Do what you can to get

rid of those weeds

before you start tinkering

with introducing native plants.

And they use all

sorts of methods.

They used direct seeding.

They used transplantation of

seedlings, like I mentioned.

Transplantation of mature

plants from these remnants.

They used plowing,

cultivating, hand desodding.

So basically pulling

invasive species out,

exotic grasses out.

And burning to try

and control weeds.

And all this proved successful,

but most of these were

impractical due to high cost

and just a ton of time.

And so their final

recommendation

for other land managers

at the time

was to use direct

seeding on to a burned

or otherwise scarified

soil surface or both,

and that would give

you the best results.

And, frankly, this is how

most land managers do.

This is what we do if we can.

We always try and burn

a site first if we can.

Preferably in the fall, put

seed down right after the burn,

let it go through the

winter, stratify those seeds,

and we get great

response in the spring.

And so this is what

they're saying.

And if you can't burn, some

other kind of scarification,

either, you know, grating

or raking the soil surface.

The most important

part was getting

that soil seed contact

into what they needed.

So this was a great, sort

of practical paper about

what they found.

They had a couple really

neat quotes, I thought,

that I wanted to share.

This one was: "It should

be noted that weeds..."

and you can read it of course.

"It should be noted

that weeds are pioneers

"in disturbed areas, and that

once a good standard prairie

"species is established,

there will be, in the absence

"of any large-scale disturbance,

no further weed problems."

And that sounds great, right?

And, in general, if you don't

have a major disturbance,

you're going to

be probably okay.

But we've learned it doesn't

take a very big disturbance

to introduce new weed

plants because nowadays,

there's new weeds, new

invasive species always

coming on the landscape.

And basically it takes

constant vigilance.

It's constant maintenance.

I mentioned right away

that Curtis Prairie

is the oldest restored

prairie in the world

and that's true in a sense,

but we don't really

consider it restored.

It's the oldest

restoration in the world

because it's still ongoing.

It's constantly changing and

we're constantly having to

pull invasive

species every year

to make sure that it stays

a high-quality prairie.

So this makes it

sound a little bit,

maybe a little bit easier

than it actually is.

But in the broader

sense, they're right,

that if you don't have

major disturbances

and you get the native

species complex,

that you're going to be okay.

And then, "All in all, there seems good reason to expect

"that museum specimens

of the tallgrass prairie,

"with their vivid beauty

and great interest,

"will be established and

can be maintained in the

Wisconsin Arboretum."

So this is sort of their

eureka moment, I think.

They felt that after 10-12

years they learned enough

that they thought that

we can do this project.

This is a doable endeavor.

It's not going to be thousands

of acres like it used to be

in southern Wisconsin,

but at least there's going

to be a small part of that

that can be used for teaching

and for research and

can introduce students

and people into, you know,

what was Dane County.

This is what was here before

our ancestors arrived.

So I think they felt good

that they had gotten

to this part.

So Henry Greene and Curtis

did a lot of work together,

but one other contribution

that Henry Greene made

that many of you

probably know about

is that he actually

created his own prairie

at the Arboretum.

So this an aerial

view of the Arboretum.

The pink is the

current landholding.

This is Curtis Prairie and

this is Greene Prairie.

So this is the Beltline here

and this is the Grady Tract.

So this is the area

south of the Beltline.

And Greene Prairie is

at the very southern end

of that tract of land.

This is an aerial view here. This is an older photo.

So, you know, Greene had

learned a lot by working

on Curtis Prairie, and so he

went to the Arboretum community

and asked if he could

work on this piece of land

in the southern part

of Grady Tract to see

if he could plant

another prairie.

And he said that he would

do it under one condition:

that no-one would bother him.

[audience laughs]

He wanted to do it by himself.

He trusted only a few

people to help him,

but he didn't want

any public there.

He didn't want any help.

He especially didn't

want the CCC back to help

in any sort of way.

Even though they made

Curtis Prairie happen,

he felt that there

wasn't enough oversight

on that project at times.

And so he took it upon himself,

and this was sort

of his personality.

He was perfectly fine

being out there by himself,

meticulously planting plants.

And he ended up planting over

12,000 plants in a period

of half a dozen years.

Hand-watering them.

There's a well in this area

that he just brought buckets

after bucketful of water,

hand-planted plants.

And he, like I said, he

was a great botanist,

and he took a lot of time

to understand the hydrology

of the site and the

soils of the site,

and he planted plants where

he felt they should go.

So, drier plants that

like drier soil

went in the dry areas.

Wet plants went in the wet

areas and along that gradient.

And so, as a result, the

plants at Greene Prairie

haven't moved that much.

They've mostly stayed

where they were planted

because they were happy

there, where, at Curtis,

things have shifted around

a lot because they were kind

of more haphazardly

just plunked down.

But this is--

So, Greene Prairie

is a 50-acre prairie and

there is disturbance problems

by storm water and

some woody species.

We've done a lot of work on this

prairie in the past five years.

If you've been down there

recently, you've noticed that.

But in the core

part of the prairie

it is a phenomenal

restoration, and it's probably,

it's by far the nicest

restoration that I've

ever seen of a prairie.

And others have said that it's

probably the closest mirror

to a remnant prairie

that's out there,

at least in southern Wisconsin.

It's a very different

feel than Curtis Prairie.

Curtis Prairie is a more

true tallgrass prairie.

It has heavier soil,

more rich soil,

and so the plants are taller.

Greene Prairie,

it has drier soils

and so the plants

are lower stature.

But it's a phenomenal,

phenomenal prairie.

If you haven't seen it,

I definitely encourage you

to check it out.

[member of the audience mumbles] Sorry?

- [Audience member]

Don't disturb it.

- Yes, that's right.

There are trails through

the prairie, so you can

definitely enjoy it.

So now I want to jump

forward another decade or so

to our next ecologist,

Dr. Virginia Kline.

And she was the ecologist

from 1975 to 1996.

And she was a prairie ecologist,

also trained here in

the botany department.

A prairie ecologist and

an oak savanna expert.

And she did a lot of

research at the Arboretum,

but I want to share with you one of her really important projects

and, again, that we kind of

take for granted now

but people just didn't really

know at the time how to deal

with some of these species.

So she wrote a paper called,

The Response of Melilotus alba,

which is white sweet clover,

many of you are

familiar probably,

to burning and

mowing treatments.

So what had happened when we

started burning the prairie

in the '40s, we kind

of got stuck in a rut.

We kind of burned it at

the same time every year, usually early spring.

And what happened was that this

schedule ended up promoting

this invasive forb.

So sweet clover is a biennial,

meaning that it has a

two-year life cycle.

So the first year it

sends up basil leaves,

so just little leaves, and

then those leaves die back.

The next year it sends

up a flowering stalk,

and then produces

flowers and seeds.

And so what was happening is

that they were stimulating

that plant to germinate in

the spring with these fires,

and it might set them back

but then they would have time

later in that same year to

send up a flowering stalk and,

with no disturbance, they would

just drop seeds everywhere.

And they kept doing this

over and over again,

and Curtis Prairie was

becoming a sweet clover field.

And so Dr. Kline came

up with an experiment.

And basically found that

if you change the timing

of your burns, you can

drastically reduce sweet clover

or any biennial because

what happens is that

when you do an early

spring burn, like I said,

it actually won't kill the

plant, it'll set it back

but it'll allow it to continue

growing later on that year.

The following year, you wait

awhile, wait until it starts

to bloom, and then

before it sets seed,

you send a fire through and

you end up killing the plant.

And since they're biennial,

that's the end of

their lifespan.

If you do that

a few years in a row,

you're going to deplete

the seed bank very quickly.

So she found that

burning was the ticket.

Mowing also worked but it

wasn't quite as good as burning.

And burning was

much less effort.

The other contribution

that she made, she made

many contributions,

but one of the most

important ones was

that she wrote a comprehensive

land management plan

for the Arboretum.

And we refer to it

as the Kline Plan.

It was written in 1992.

And it basically described

all of the communities

at the Arboretum, and it talked

about what the vegetation

was at the time of the

writing and what the goals

for each community should

be and how to achieve them.

And it was great, and we frankly still use a lot of it today.

But it is almost 30 years old

now, and things have changed.

And so we're in the

process right now updating

this land management plan

because we have new

challenges, frankly.

Climate change

obviously is a big one.

Storm water is probably the

most important one for us.

We have a lot of storm water

issues being sort of

at the bottom of the

Lake Wingra watershed.

A lot of the water coming in

from the surrounding landscape

comes through the

Arboretum at some point.

We have new pest

species, obviously.

Emerald ash borer, garlic

mustard, all these new things.

Garlic mustard is not new.

Generally urban impacts.

You saw that first

map of neighborhoods

all around the

Arboretum, businesses,

residential areas, the Beltline.

We have these novel conditions.

These are areas that have been

under buckthorn cover for

50 years, for example,

and haven't been restored

because of whatever reason,

resources probably.

You know, how is that

community that is not native

to Wisconsin, how has that

changed the soil structure?

How has it changed hydrology?

How has it changed nutrient

dynamics in the soil?

If we remove buckthorn,

can we actually

restore anything

that was native here?

Are we looking at

something totally novel

that we need to experiment with?

And then we have new techniques.

We have new tools to use

and new management techniques.

So we're updating this plan now.

And, again, one of

the reasons is because

how much the

landscape has changed.

So that number up

there got cut off,

but this is a 1937 aerial,

back when the population

of Madison was around 58,000.

So, again, this is

just for context.

The purple is the current

landholding of the Arboretum.

This is Curtis Prairie.

So what you can see

here is that, really,

Madison was still very rural.

Mostly agricultural.

The Vilas/Nakoma neighborhood

was just creeping up.

St. Mary's Hospital

was over here.

But it was still very wide open.

There wasn't, like,

remnant prairies everywhere,

but it was still a

much more open system.

Very little tree cover, woody

plant cover, as you can see,

except for some native

remnant oak woodlands here,

Noe Woods and Wingra, as

well as some in Grady.

But a much different landscape

than present day landscape.

So, besides being in color

of course, and, again,

the population now got cut

off, it was around 240,000.

A lot more people and just a

lot more impervious surface.

So businesses, the

Beltline obviously

was a major disturbance.

This golf course is now here.

And so every edge

of the Arboretum,

every boundary

is urban. Right?

So that has implications

for, again, storm water,

invasive species, fragmentation,

and it really drives

the type of management

that we're able to do.

It can be really challenging to apply fire in this landscape.

It's hard to get

a permit to burn

because the restrictions

are so tight

on burning in the city.

So it's different

than managing some

of our outlying properties

in more rural communities

where we don't have the

same sort of restrictions

and urban considerations.

So there's four big changes

that we're making to this plan.

And they're really based on,

like I said, what we know

and what we know doesn't work.

So we're moving away

from this idea of

managing at the unit scale.

So these small-- Right now

the Arboretum is made up

of 50 different units,

and that's what we use

for our management.

So Curtis Prairie has four

different units, for example,

west, central, east,

and the nursery unit.

And that's just how

they were built.

We're trying to get away from

that and trying to manage

at a watershed scale.

So they're much bigger

areas to manage,

but it makes our

management more efficient.

We can apply fire, for

instance, at larger scales.

And we can kind of think

a little bigger,

a little more holistically

about the landscape.

We're also moving

away from collections.

So we're moving away from--

And I'm not talking

about Longenecker here, I'm

talking about the other,

the natural areas, if you will.

We're moving away from

having these collections of,

for example, boreal

forests over here,

spruce forests over

here, pines over here.

We've learned that we

can't actually recreate

a pine forest system, like

there is in northern Wisconsin,

for example, or a boreal

forest in Port Wayne.

We can plant the trees.

That's not the issue.

But we can't plant the

complimentary understory species

because soils are different,

the climate is different,

precipitation is different.

And what's happening

is these systems

were basically harbingers

of invasive species.

So buckthorn would

find their way in there

and they'd hang out

there, honeysuckle.

And it made sort of

an artificial edge

a lot of times

with our prairies.

And so we're trying to get

away from these collections,

move away from this

idea of the state

of moving all the

communities of Wisconsin

to the Arboretum,

focusing on what we know,

which is southern Wisconsin.

We want to focus on prairie

and oak savanna and wetlands,

what we know was

there at the time.

And try and get rid

of these sharp edges.

So a lot of these plantings,

like the pine plantings

are planted next

to Curtis Prairie.

They're called Leopold pines,

so we don't want to

get rid of them.

But they make this

artificial boundary

that you wouldn't

find in nature.

You wouldn't find

a pine forest next

to an open prairie

all the sudden.

You would find more

of a gradient between

those two systems.

So like an oak woodland

grading into an oak savanna

into a more open prairie and

then back into an oak savanna.

So we're trying to really

grade these systems

as much as we can to make

them more of a community feel.

I'm not going to go

through all these,

but these are our kind of

guiding management principles

that we use.

And what I want you

to take home today

about our management goals

is that our first priority,

besides not doing more

harm when we use fire

or sometimes

herbicides or mowing,

that's the first thing

we don't want to do.

We want to be very judicious

with our management,

but we also want to make

sure that we're conserving

the high-quality areas first.

So Curtis Prairie, Greene

Prairie, for example.

These are our real gems.

If we feel good that we've

maintained the diversity

of those places first,

and as resources allow,

then we'll move out

from their edges

and try and increase

their footprint.

So try and increase the

diversity around Curtis Prairie,

expanding it out sort

of in circles, right?

And the idea there is that

if we do it that way instead

of moving 500 feet

into Lost City Forest

and trying to clear out

a bunch of buckthorn

to start a project over there,

we're purposely making

habitat that's connected

so that we're making larger

landscape restorations,

which benefits wildlife,

it benefits native plants

by seed dispersal

into corridors.

And so we think it's

a more efficient,

more effective way to manage.

That's sort of our goal now.

So now I want to jump back

into the research realm a bit.

Dr. Joy Zedler was our

research director for 18 years.

She recently retired from

the botany department.

She was research director

in Leopold Chair Restoration

Ecology for that time,

and she really brought a

strong background in wetland

and restoration ecology.

Her focus was on the

sedge meadows primarily

and looking at,

why do some invasive species

invade these intact systems?

And she focused on

reed canary grass,

which is one that is

really common in Wisconsin,

and cattail, especially

hybrid cattails.

So she wanted to know

what are the mechanisms

for the invasions?

And then, what are

the consequences?

What do they do to the system?

And then, on the flip side,

she also looked at how

do we restore these systems

that have been invaded,

either through management or

planting specific

types of species

that maybe are aggressive native

and that can outcompete

invasive plants.

This plant here, on the top

photo, is called tussock sedge,

Carex stricta, and it forms

this early organic tussock.

And her, Joy and her students

found that this tussock

can support a wide

variety of biodiversity,

a wide variety of plant,

just on a single tussock.

And so taking advantage

of what is there

in the system already and

adding to it can help build

in some resilience into

the native community.

And when she got

to the Arboretum,

she also built what's called

the Mesocosm Facility.

So this was, and still

is, a more controlled

experimental site, which is

a nice complement to have

when you're doing field ecology.

It's nice to have some kind

of controlled system as well,

but it's not very easy

to bring field ecology

into the laboratory at the

scale that we need to work at.

And so she made this large

facility with these big tubs.

These are actually

small versions of that.

This is one of her students.

And these tubs she could

use, and others have used,

to mimic natural

hydrological processes.

So they have a plug in the

bottom and you can fill them

with water and you can

fill some half way up,

some all the way up.

You can drain them, you

can add different nutrients

to different ones, and you can

have a replicated experiment

as well as a complementary

field experiment.

And so it just adds a

little bit more robustness

to scientific studies,

especially that are field-based.

So we have lots of folks that

are using this at the Arboretum.

It's just to the east

of the visitor's center.

And so this is a great

contribution that she made.

As well as these great

Arboretum leaflets.

And these are all

found on our website.

And she wrote over 40 of

these leaflets, I believe.

And they were a way to

write about research

that was happening

at the Arboretum

but in a way that wasn't

technical, wasn't scientific,

that the public

could better consume.

And so there's a lot

of these that she wrote

over the last 15 years that

other people have wrote

with her, and they

talk about the research

that she was doing and

that others have done

as well as management and

restoration challenges

and opportunities.

So if you want to learn

more about some of the work

that's been done, especially

in the last 15 or so years,

I encourage you

to check this out.

Again, it's on the

Arboretum website

under research, I believe.

But you can find it there.

And they're, like I

said, they're all PDFs.

They're really

great documents, too.

And they're also

really quick reads, too.

So, it's not too cumbersome.

So now I want to move into

kind of what we're doing now.

So we have sort of

three user groups

that use the Arboretum

for research.

And we're making an effort

to reach out to other folks

that maybe haven't done research for a while at the Arboretum.

For a long, long time,

we were doing plant

ecology research.

A lot of the people that were

involved in the Arboretum

were botanists from

the botany department,

and so we have a really

strong botanical,

plant ecology background,

and that's great and we

will all continue that.

But we also want to do

more work with wildlife,

with citizen science.

And so we're trying

to engage more folks

into the research

community at the Arboretum.

So one group is still and

will always be important:

faculty and grad students.

A few weeks ago, I think,

Susan Paskewitz was here

talking to you about ticks.

This is one of her

students doing a tick

project at the Arboretum.

They've been doing a four-year

study looking at the impact

of buckthorn on tick abundance

in the Lost City Forest.

Dr. David Drake from

wildlife ecology

is doing the Urban

Wildlife Project.

It used to be called the Urban

Canid Project, I believe.

So the Arboretum is one

of those sites as well

where he's trying to

collar coyotes and foxes.

Students doing small

mammal studies.

This is the jumping worm.

If any of you have

heard of jumping worm,

we're doing work on this.

This is a new invasive

species from parts of Asia

that have come to the Midwest.

A lot of my research is

focused on this as well.

A lot of tree and

vegetation studies

and then a project

looking at climate change

and how climate change might

affect the subnivean layer,

which is the habitat between

the snowpack and the ground,

which is really important

for small mammals,

other critters that need that

thermally stable habitat.

And so they have

these greenhouses set

up in the Arboretum

and all over the Great

Lakes area where they

can manipulate

temperature and snowfall

and all these things;

it's really interesting.

And so that's it for

longer-term projects.

And then we have

undergraduate students

as well as grad students,

graduate and

undergraduate classes

that come out

and use the Arboretum.

These tend to be

shorter-term projects,

but they're great teaching

opportunities for students.

And then we also have

Arboretum staff and volunteers.

And so a lot of the

work that we're doing

is monitoring our prairies,

monitoring rare species.

We're doing a lot of work

right now with bumblebees,

plant pollinator

interactions, and a lot

of these have citizen

science components as well.

Dragonflies, again,

invasive earthworms.

We also partner with the

DNR on a lot of projects.

They have an ongoing statewide

bat monitoring program,

their frog and toad survey.

We've been a part of these

programs for a long time.

So we're doing a lot of

different types of research now,

which is really exciting, and

we're partnering with a lot

of different agencies

and other folks.

We also have several

long-term projects

and long-term experiments

that have been going on

since the '50s at least.

One of those is a study of

four succession in Noe Woods.

Noe Woods is probably one of

the longest studied woodlands

in the world.

It's not very big.

It's only 40 acres.

But it's been, the process of

succession has been studied

in Noe Woods since the '50s.

Tom Givnish now, who's a

professor of botany here,

has taken over that project.

And, basically, it was just

looking at, in the absence

of fire, because

it used to be more

of an oak savanna system,

in the absence of fire,

what happens to a woodland?

And they have been tracking

this for 60-plus years now.

And, basically, what they've

found is that it turns

into something that's not

really an oak forest anymore.

It turns into something that

resembles a forest

that doesn't need fire.

So these species, like black

cherry, maybe walnut, elms,

things that are shorter lived

but are not fire

tolerant, for example.

This is an ongoing project.

Another project started in

the '50s by a soil professor,

Francis Hole, a

professor here on campus.

He set up litter plots

in Curtis Prairie

as well as a couple woodlands.

And he ask the question: what

happens to soil structure

and nutrient dynamics

if you manipulate

the litter on the ground?

Because the litter that falls,

the leaves in the woods,

the grasses that

died the year before

and that fall to the ground,

that gets incorporated,

those decompose into the

soil, and plays a big part

in the soil nutrients and the

amount of carbon in the soil.

And so folks from Oregon State,

folks from the

University of Michigan,

all over the country,

have come to sample these plots.

It's probably one of the longest running litter manipulation

experiments in the country.

And we continue

with the treatment.

There's annual

treatments that we do

to maintain those plots.

Curtis and Greene

Prairie, one of the things

that Curtis and Greene,

others did, which was great,

was that they sampling grids

and they monitored the

prairies from the '50s.

And so we have data all

the way from the '50s

until now of abundance,

of frequency of plants.

And so we can really talk about

trends in the communities.

New invasive species,

how are the native species

doing in light of this disturbance or that disturbance.

And I'm not going to,

again, I've given talks just

on that topic alone, but it's

a really important data set

to have, the historic

data, to be able to talk

about what's changing.

Same thing at one of

our outlying properties,

Faville Prairie, one

of the nicest remnants

in southern Wisconsin.

Since 1948 there's been

a sampling grid up there,

and we've sampled

it periodically.

And then phenology,

Leopold, in the '40s,

started collecting phenology

data at the Arboretum

at the same time that he

was doing it at the shack

in Baraboo.

It hasn't been a

continuous project,

but it's been almost

continuous since the '40s.

And we still collect

over 200 phenological

events every year.

So this was the timing

of biological events.

You know, when the first

cardinal sings in the spring

or the first crane returns,

that kind of thing,

which can tell you about

changes in climate.

And then, like I mentioned earlier, we've been a part

of the Wisconsin DNR

frog and toad survey

since its inception, and many

others that I won't go into.

But we have a long history

of long-term projects.

I'd be remiss if I didn't

mention our current director,

who started in October.

Dr. Karen Oberhauser,

who's now the Leopold Chair

of Restoration Ecology and,

you know, she brings a wealth

of knowledge in terms

of conservation biology.

She's a world-renowned

monarch biologist,

especially studying

the monarch migration.

Did a lot of work

with citizen science.

And so it's right up our alley,

what we were kind of

going towards anyway.

And she's already brought

a lot of good energy

and a lot of great ideas for us,

and so it's really

exciting moving forward

at the Arboretum in

terms of research.

So I also want to mention

one of the reasons

why I'm here today is to

shamelessly plug Science Day.

And Science Day

is an annual event

that showcases primarily

student research,

the current student research

happening at the Arboretum

as well as some

postdoc research.

And then, of course, our

web page has everything

that you'd ever want

to know about research,

current studies, what we've

learned about projects.

So, with that, I'm kind

of over my time here,

I want to say thank

you for being here,

and I'll take any questions.

[audience applauding]

Share this page