Student Research and Independent Study at Cowling Arboretum and McKnight Prairie

Field Ecology worm labStudents may conduct research projects and independent studies during the academic year or over the summer at the Arboretum or McKnight Prairie under the guidance of college faculty.  The expansive restoration areas and natural plant communities provide a wide variety of potential projects.  Summaries of sample projects are below; complete projects may be viewed via the sidebar.

Owen McMurtrey ’12 and Jared Beck ’14. 2010-2013 Summer Research, Grassland Breeding Bird Survey in the Carleton College Cowing Arboretum.

The study is an ongoing project that documents bird species of interest that rely on open, grassland habitat for reproduction (excluding woodland edge species, wetland species, and species nesting in nest boxes and the Eastern Bluebird) in order to establish what birds are breeding in the prairie and explore how they respond to management techniques in the Arboretum.

Marika Xydes ’13. 2010 Summer Research, Chamaecrista Flowering: Environmental and Genetic Effects.

Identifying environmental and genetic factors that effect flowering time in
Chamaecrista in both controlled conditions and in prairies, such as the Carleton College Arboretum, McKnight Prairie, and Weaver Dunes. Weaver Dunes is the genetic origin of McKnight and Arboretum plants. Thus those plants may be best adapted to Weaver Dunes, which may be a reason why Chamaecrista plants at Weaver Dunes were tallest and had the largest number of leaves.

Amy O. Alstad ’09.  2008 Summer Research, Introducing a new arrival to the Arboretum: the seed predator Apion rostrum.

The presence of A. rostrum, seed predator of Baptisia alba  was first documented in the Carleton Arboretum in the summer of 2008. This study documents the distribution and abundance of A. rostrum in the restored prairies of the Arboretum and suggests several questions for future study.

Markael D. Luterra ’07. 2005 Summer Research, Breeding Bird Census of the Carleton College Prairie Restorations.

Grassland birds were sampled throughout the summer and abundance recorded at eleven sites. Five grassland species and six edge/savanna species were detected with some regularity throughout the breeding season. Of particular note was Henslow’s Sparrow (Ammodramus henslowii), listed as a threatened species in Minnesota.

Brody S. Sandel ’04. 2003 Summer Research, Cattle in the Arb?: Suppression of Dominant Grasses by Cattle Grazing.

Experimental grazing of the Arboretum prairie restorations was undertaken to better understand the usefulness of cattle as a management tool in restored prairies.  Grazing appeared to promote forb growth with the reduction of biomass of the normally dominant grasses.