The Soil Ecology Lab here at the Holden Arboretum is all about collaboration! This week members of our lab spent a day in Bole Woods to do site maintenance for one of our ongoing research projects. The Jack-in-the-Pulpit Project (called “JIP”) investigates the interaction between deer herbivory and soil chemistry on jack-in-the-pulpit. In particular, we are interested in these effects on plant demography, which is how a population of plants is changing overtime. We are collaborating with Dr. Juliana Medeiros and Dr. Jean Burns (of Case Western Reserve University) to carry out this work!
To determine the impact of deer herbivory, we use fencing for deer exclusion plots. We compare plant demography for jack-in-the-pulpit in plots where deer are excluded and in plots where deer are allowed to graze as usual. Each year in the spring we check to make sure that the fencing is still intact. Sometimes we need to add a zip tie here or there or replace a corner stake or two… these issues we can handle! But sometimes disaster strikes! As you might expect, a large tree fall can destroy a deer fence! This is where collaboration between different Holden Arboretum departments is helpful!
When a dead tree fell on our fencing last year, we knew who to ask for help! We called in our (then newly minted) arborist tree climber, Jake C, who safely felled the tree without disturbing the plot! We were impressed! The tree had not only destroyed the fencing, but it also posed a safety hazard. Part of the fallen tree was precariously perched over the research plot, leaning on another dead branch. If not for Jake, we would have had to decide between outsourcing the job or losing a research plot.
This year we added some zip ties, replaced some corner stakes, and… found another tree fall! Luckily, Jake was again able to take care of the tree fall so that we could fix the plot! Thanks Jake! One super cool aspect of being a Holden scientist is benefitting from the skills and knowledge of our coworkers in other departments!
Claudia Bashian-Victoroff, MS
I am a fungal ecologist focused on connections between soil fungi and tree health. My research couples field collections with modern molecular identification methods to investigate ectomycorrhizal species diversity and function. As a research specialist in Dr. David Burke’s lab at the Holden Arboretum, I support research on soil ecology and forest pathology. Currently, I focus on the role of soil fungi in urban canopy restoration in Cleveland, OH. Trees growing in urbanized environments are subject to pressures such as habitat fragmentation, exposure to heavy metals, and soil compaction. Mycorrhizal fungi can enhance plant growth, disease resistance, and drought tolerance; therefore, it is necessary that we establish a better understanding of how these fungi might improve outcomes of urban restoration efforts. Beyond this, I enjoy discussing the importance of fungal research and conservation with diverse audiences through teaching, writing, and mentorship.