Where mycorrhizae meets management
I strive to deepen our knowledge of the role mycorrhizae play in forest regeneration under different regimes of nutrient limitation, management practices, and global stressors. I hope to inform how we may fold mycorrhizae into adaptive silviculture, conservation, and assisted regeneration practices. I hope this research will not only conserve the diverse array of mycorrhizal communities across the world, but also help conserve and regenerate the world's forests, which all depend on mycorrhizae for their continued resilience.
Mycorrhizal-mediated Silviculture at Clement Woodlot in VT
For my senior honor's thesis, I explored how various harvest management practices (quarter-acre clear cut plots and selectively harvested plots), affect the ability for mycorrhizal communities to assist in seedling regeneration in a northern hardwood forest in Vermont.
In the summer of 2021, I found that AM- associating seedlings (planted in a field trial by PhD candidate Amelia Fitch) displayed higher survival at the edge of clear-cut plots rather than at the center, and that they appeared to recieve more nitrogen from mycorrhizae (measured from foliar 15N) at the edge of clear cut plots. Fitch also found that AM-associating trees had a significantly higher survival rate in plots with an AM mycorrhizal legacy. This inspired my own field experiment, which looks more granularly at how proximity to mature trees may affect seedling regeneration through resource transfer via arbuscular mycorrhizal networks.
In the summer of 2022, I planted almost 600 sugar maple, black gum, and black cherry seedlings in selective harvest and clear cut plots, and established various levels of exclusions from mycorrhizal networks through trenching and root severing. I’ve collected leaf samples for nitrogen isotopes, collected soil samples for C and N content, measured the moisture and temperature of the soil in the plots, harvested some seedlings for mycorrhizal colonization and, perhaps most importantly, assessed the growth and survival of all my seedlings.
This research takes place at the Clement Woodlot, an experimental forest owned by Dartmouth College and managed by Kevin Evans, Dartmouth's forester, and is part of an ongoing research project happening at the Clement Woodlot called Adaptive Silviculture for the Emerald Ash Borer, managed by Dr. Tony D'Amato, professor and director of the University of Vermont's department of forestry. I have also had the chance to connect with the people that call this area home, presenting my research at the Corinth Conservation Commission December meeting, and planning future collaborations, such as building a science-education trail throughout the Clement Woodlot so that the public can enjoy the forest, and learn about ongoing research in this special place.
If you're interested in reading more about this research project, you can read this article I wrote for the New England Society of American Foresters Quarterly. This article (and this research) was done in collaboration with Amelia Fitch, a 5th year PhD candidate in the Hicks Pries lab, someone without whom none of my research would have happened.