In addition to invasive species and wildlife issues, the Forest and Grassland Research Laboratory is conducting research to address additional questions asked of us by our stakeholders.
- Prairie dogs and prairie dog towns are keystone species and habitats in the northern Great Plains. Many sensitive species are dependent upon prairie dogs and their colonies for survival, not the least of which is the most endangered mammal in the US, the black footed ferret. Despite the ecological significance of prairie dogs, many consider the prairie dog to be a pest. This creates conflict over use of public lands that must be addressed using sound, unbiased scientific knowledge. We are developing an understanding of the impacts prairie dogs have on the vegetation on- and off-town sites and how the prairie dog ecosystem relates to grassland ecology and management.
- Disturbances on the Black Hills National Forest, such as wildfire, fire breaks, and logging roads, are rehabilitated post-disturbance. This is often done by reseeding, but due to lack of local seed sources, it is done from seeds originating in locations other than the Black Hills. By introducing ecotypic variation into the ecosystem, we may be threatening the genetic integrity of native plant ecotypes. We are investigating the native grass and forb species that can be readily collected and germinated, and then easily reproduced to supply the Forest with local seeds for restoration.
- Theodore Roosevelt National Park in southwest North Dakota is experiencing an expanding population of elk. As part of the Ecological Impact Assessment required to address this problem, we are collaborating with NPS and USGS to develop vegetation monitoring tools that can be used quantify the ecological impact of a growing elk population on the vegetation resources.