Understanding our environment
Photo: Before the March 1 burn at the KU Field Station's McColl Tract, KU faculty member Melinda Adams (right) led the group in a celebratory recognition of burning practices by Native peoples. More in the KU Field Station section of this issue.
This is the internal newsletter for the Kansas Biological Survey
& Center for Ecological Research community. 
Please email regarding any errors or omissions.
Comings & goings
We welcome three new members of the Bever/Schultz Lab:
  • Chaiane Schoen, postdoctoral researcher from Brazil, arrived in early March and will be here for six months;
  • Audrey Nelson and Megan Heffernan, postbaccalaureate scholars, joined the lab in January and will be here through this summer.
Marcela Paiva Veliz, graduate student in indigenous studies in the Kindscher Lab, has been awarded KU's Sherman and Irene Dreiseszun Scholarship, which provides $5,000 in support, by the Office of Graduate Studies and the Harry S. Truman Good Neighbor Foundation. Kelly Kindscher is a senior scientist and professor in the Environmental Studies Program.

Vadim Karatayev, postdoctoral researcher in the Reuman Lab, received this year's KU Postdoctoral Achievement Award, which carries $5,000 in funding. His current research is funded by an NSF postdoctoral fellowship. Dan Reuman is a senior scientist and professor of ecology and evolutionary biology (EEB). See the KU News story on the Research Achievement Awards.
Eric Duell, postdoctoral researcher in the Bever/Schultz Lab, shares a new paper: "Role of plant relatedness in plant–soil feedback dynamics of sympatric Asclepias species," published in Ecology & Evolution.

Jim Bever shares a new paper: "Spatial structure within root systems moderates stability of Arbuscular Mycorrhizal mutualism and plant-soil feedbacks," published in American Naturalist, lead author Jacob Hopkins, formerly of the Sikes Microbiology Lab (Ben Sikes, associate scientist and associate professor of EEB). Jim is a senior scientist and Foundation Distinguished Professor of EEB.
Four researchers presented at the Kansas Natural Resources Conference in February (photo of our booth, bottom of this section):
  • Ashley Wojciechowski, student in the EEB doctoral program and member of the Baer Lab, gave a talk titled "Long-term restored prairie functions similarly to native tallgrass prairie and environmental heterogeneity promotes resilience to drought." The photo just below shows Ashley's research site at Konza Prairie Biological Station near Manhattan, Kansas.
  • Jennifer Moody, senior research assistant, and Dana Peterson, assistant research professor, presented their poster, "Mapping Kansas Ecosystems: Using field and satellite Earth observations to create a new ecosystem map of the modern Kansas landscape."
  • Craig Freeman, senior scientist and senior curator of KU's herbarium, gave a talk titled "Specimen digitization at the R.L. McGregor Herbarium: Mobilizing two centuries of legacy data."
News articles, whether they originate at KU or are generated by other sources, are presented in a section at the bottom of our website's homepage. Some stories focus on our research projects; others simply include interview comments by our researchers.

The article "Monarch butterfly numbers plummet despite recovery last year, but one year never tells the whole story," published in January by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, provided information on the overwintering monarch population in Mexico based on preliminary data provided by Monarch Watch, as well as a discussion of population trends and factors affecting them.

The Lawrence Times story "
Monarch Watch founder and his wife give ‘seed money’ to cement organization’s legacy," published in February, covers Chip and Toni Taylor's gift for Monarch Watch, plus background on the program and its reach. Chip Taylor is founding director of Monarch Watch.
KU Field Station
Many activities and events are taking place; see the next section down.

KU Community Garden
KU students participating in the garden planted seeds in the Monarch Watch greenhouse on West Campus at the end of February. Grad students Reb Bryant (doctoral program in EEB, Bever/Schultz Lab) and
Ashley Wojciechowski are co-presidents of this group. The garden is part of the KU Native Medicinal Plant Garden site. Students grow vegetables there to donate to the local Just Food pantry, and garden plots are available to KU students, faculty and staff in exchange for participation in a few work days each season. Contact Reb or Ashley to find out more.
KU Field Station
In 2023, the KU Field Station celebrates its 75th anniversary as a research site—marking the time since naturalist Henry Fitch's arrival in 1948—with public events held throughout the year. These events are in the planning stages, and we will share information as soon as plans are made.

Meanwhile, several upcoming public events are scheduled at the field station:
  • Saturday, March 11, 1 p.m.–3 p.m.: Demonstration garden volunteer clean-up at the KU Native Medicinal Plant Garden;
  • Saturday, March 11, 5:45 p.m.: American Woodcock viewing, Armitage Education Center;
  • Sunday, March 19, 2 p.m.: Science Sundays: Beekeeping with the KU Beekeeping Club;
  • Tuesday, March 21, 6:45 p.m.: American Woodcock viewing, Armitage Education Center;
  • Sunday, March 26, 9:30 a.m.–1 p.m.: Workshop on prescribed burning, Armitage Education Center.
These events, with details, are posted to the KU Calendar and linked to the Events section near the bottom of our home page.
The new KU Field Station newsletter was initiated in February, and the first two issues are linked on the field station's newsletter web page. The newsletter provides information on public programs and volunteer opportunities for the upcoming month, as well as highlights and photos from previous events. Contact Wendy Holman (, education program coordinator, for more information or to offer suggestions.

Spring burning
A group of about 40 people gathered March 1 for a prescribed burn (photos below) at the McColl Tract. This area included the labyrinth developed by artist Janine Antoni, who participated in the burn, through the field station's collaboration with the Spencer Art Museum. Melinda Adams, Langston Hughes Assistant Professor in geography and indigenous studies, provided an overview of cultural burning practices by Native peoples and invited participating KU students and staff from various tribes to introduce themselves. A KU graduate student and lecturer shared a family song before the fire was lit.
Monarch Watch
The leader board
It's worth noting that Monarch Watch received more gifts—390—this year than any other department or unit during One Day. One KU., the annual university-wide day of fundraising, held Feb. 16. Other popular units trailed by 49 gifts or more, including KU Athletics (341 gifts), the College (216), and the schools of engineering (176), business (160) and law (151).

Candidates for Directorship & Professorship
Two candidates are currently being interviewed for this new position. We will share information on a decision as soon as it's available.

Open House & Plant Sale fundraiser
This annual event is scheduled for Saturday, May 13, 8 a.m.–2 p.m. More information is on the program's website.
One Day. One KU. 2023
On KU's annual university-wide day of fundraising, One Day. One KU., held Feb. 16 this year, 37 donors made gifts totaling $11,111, primarily for our featured beneficiary, the KU Native Medicinal Plant Garden. This site, immediately north of Lawrence, was established in 2010 as part of a study of native prairie plants’ medicinal properties and uses by Native peoples. The garden quickly became such a valuable teaching and outreach site for KU students and the public that our research center made a commitment to maintain it permanently.

Many students from KU and Haskell Indian Nations University have worked together at the garden as environmental studies interns. Student groups maintain the KU Community Garden and beehives. Several ecological research projects have taken place here, as well as KU student research in other disciplines including journalism, art and engineering. The Douglas County Extension Master Gardeners have worked with us since 2015 to maintain the demonstration garden area and have restored a small prairie plot.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the site, which is open daily, dawn to dusk, served as an outdoor refuge for visitors.

Thanks to everyone for your diverse contributions to our research center.

Your photos
Dan Hirmas, former KU faculty colleague in the Dept. of Geography and Atmospheric Science, is a committee member for Lola Klamm, graduate student in the doctoral program in EEB in the Billings Lab (Sharon Billings, senior scientist, Dean's Professor and University Distinguished Professor of EEB). Dan visited KU the first week of this semester to teach Lola how to quantify soil structure using multi-stripe laser triangulation. Soil structure matters because it impacts the availability of water and nutrients. The photos below show: 1) scanning in progress, and 2) one of the soils scanned. Dan has just been named the B.L. Allen Endowed Chair in Pedology at Texas Tech University.
Mission: To serve Kansas and the global environment through 
world-class ecological research, education and outreach.

Vision: To lead scientific discovery that fosters appreciation of 
the vital interactions between humans and the environment. 
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