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News Release

Date: July 18, 2013

Scientist Honored for Leadership in Rare Plant Management

FORT COLLINS, Colo., July 18, 2013 – U.S. Forest Service Scientist Susan Meyer recently received the Agency’s Excellence in Rare Plant Management Award for outstanding, dedicated leadership in rare plant management.

Meyer, a research ecologist at the Rocky Mountain Research Station Shrub Sciences Laboratory, works in Provo, Utah. Her career-long interest in the ecology and management of rare plants led her down the path in making significant advances in the protection and conservation of two rare plant species, Slickspot Peppergrass [Lepidium papilliferum] and clay phacelia [Phacelia argillacea].

Referenced as a bellwether species, the decline of the small flowering Slickspot peppergrass indicates an early warning sign of environmental damage and ecosystem change. This rare short-lived species grows only in unique microsites known as slick spots within the semiarid sagebrush-steppe of the Snake River Plain of southwestern Idaho [USDA NRCS Plant Guide]. Meyer worked collaboratively over a 16-year period with the Idaho National Guard on studies examining habitat requirements, demography, seed bank dynamics, and long-term population trends. Meyer’s research significantly contributed to the review process for the listing of this species as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

Other research management efforts on behalf of Meyer attribute to the increased survival of one of the nation’s rarest plants, the endangered clay phacelia, known only from two small populations on private land in Spanish Fork Canyon, Utah. Meyer conducted initial germination procedures in 2005 at the Provo Shrub Sciences Laboratory, which resulted in 53 potted plants. Meyer took the plants home where she had a small apiary of blue orchard bees. This natural partnership produced 11,000 seeds, destined as the source of young plants and seeds for planting out on the Spanish Fork Ranger District of the Uinta National Forest in 2007. The most recent generation of seed production resulted in the cultivation of 175,000 seeds. Planting of the seeds at three reintroduction sites have seen seedlings every year. “So far only one plant has survived to flowering and this is a step in the right direction. It’s a slow process that requires a lot of patience,” said Meyer.

The Rocky Mountain Research Station (RMRS) is one of seven regional units that make up the U.S. Forest Service Research and Development organization - the most extensive natural resources research organization in the world. The Station maintains 12 field laboratories throughout a 12 state territory encompassing the Great Basin, Southwest, Rocky Mountains, and parts of the Great Plains, and administers and conducts research on 14 experimental forests, ranges, and watersheds, while maintaining long-term databases for these areas. RMRS research is broken into seven science program areas that serve the Forest Service as well as other federal and state agencies, international organizations, private groups, and individuals. To find out more about the RMRS go to www.fs.fed.us/rmrs. You can also follow us on Twitter at www.twitter.com/usfs_rmrs.


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