Sorry that it has been so long since my last post! Juggling research, teaching, and classes is exhasuting to say the least. This year though I am going to do my best to share updates regularly, so hopefully I will follow through with that!
It is hard to believe that I am a second-year graduate student... hard because that first year went by so quickly and also hard because I still do not know exactly what I want to study. And that's scary. As much as I tell myself that is fine, that other people are in the same position, my brain does not want to agree. And so, here I am still reading papers and making color-coded flow charts, praying for divine inspiration (at least that's what it feels like).
I am happy to say that I have a great field site to start my research at (Richmond Field Station), which is serious progress! It has this amazing chunk of native coastal prairie (an incredibly endangered habitat type), and no one is using it. Yep, no one (except for me, of course). I spent a good part of the summer exploring the site and setting up a permanent grid so that I can conduct vegetation surveys in the spring when everything is beautiful and in bloom.
Although the site still has tremendous native plant diversity, it--like so many other native grasslands throughout California--is being invaded by aggressive non-native species. The worst of these at RFS is Harding grass (Phalaris aquatica). Like many native grasses, it is also a perennial, and not much is known about its effect on ecosystem services, which I hope to explore. There are also many questions stemming from how best to control it and what can be done to conserve the remaining prairie. The more time I spend at the site, the more interested I am in these restoration questions--which practices will be most effective... how will these affect the plant & invertebrate assemblages... how will this alter nutrient storage and movement in the soil...
Stay tuned for more updates as I continue to work at RFS!
Also, if you are interested in learning more about coastal prairie, I am sure I will write more in the future, but for now, I recommend checking out this website.