Citizen Science: Somme Woods Plot Study.
Patrick: This is our first citizen science project for the Illinois Mycological Association.
Reid: I joined the Illinois Mycological Association in December, when there was nothing going on. And I kinda just jumped into it, because I figured there's no better way to do it.
Stephen: We're in Somme Woods in Northbrook. It's a 250 acre forest preserve where restoration has been going on since 1980. We know a lot about the birds and the wildflowers and the trees, and we don't know so much about the fungi. We'd really like to understand that part a lot better.
Patrick: We came out here with Stephen Packard and he showed us around the different areas with the different kinds of oak; showed us a buckthorn area; showed us this swamp white oak area; and gave us an idea of what kinds of variations in habitat were.
Reid: It's an interesting site because it's going under a lot of restoration. There's different areas of high concentrations of different species of oak.
Stephen: And a lot of the rare animals and plants, and fungi, have a relationship with oak trees. If the oak trees go we loose them.
Reid: They're doing a lot of controlled burns, trying to open up the forest floor.
Patrick: This was an opportunity for us to get plots into an area with a lot of buckthorn, and see what the fungal diversity is underneath the buckthorn, because buckthorn and garlic mustard are two plants that are invasive and they also secrete chemicals into the soil, which inhibit fungi and the other plants. The plots give us a defined area to base species diversity on.
Reid: From the greater environmental perspective, Paul Stamets talks about diversity being the immune system of the planet: less diversity, greater risk of catastrophic failure.
Stephen: This would have been doomed as an ecosystem if ecology and conservation biology hadn't figured out something's wrong here. We're losing all the species. We thought we leaving it alone would be nature, but in fact, here nature required fire.
Patrick: We're hoping to get three years of data in the buckthorn area and three years of data next to that area in buckthorn that's going to be cut out this year and burned, so we'll have data to compare the difference between restored areas and not restored areas. And then we can compare that with other areas that don't have a buckthorn problem. Today, that's what we were doing is scouting out where to put in the plots. and we'll come back another time to actually put in the flags.
Reid: The mushrooms, again, an important thing that nobody's really looking at, so we're interested in seeing how these restoration efforts impact that diversity and quantity of mushrooms.
Patrick: This is an opportunity to get the club members involved in a science project. Our other previous plot studies were done with museum people and student interns, summer interns, undergraduate students. So we had different funding source for this. This is all volunteer work with the club and myself and Reid to come into Somme Woods and hopefully do a three year project here.
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