30 November 2012

Lightening Round: Roadside Regional Heritage

The Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior graduate students put on a Friday Noon Seminar, which is essentially a fun/valuable seminar that is planned by a group of the graduate students. Towards the beginning of the semester there were lightening talks given by the professors and post-docs. In these, they had two minutes to give a talk on a question they are interested in. The talks were great, and I was amazed at how well they did with the time. Today, we graduate students have our chance to try it, and I was convinced to do one. The below is an approximation of my two-minute talk concerning a question I am interested in (my slide included below):

These are plants along the side of the road. Their life is complicated. They get mowed, scrapped by snow plows, bombarded by salt. In some cases invasive species have come in and proceed to fight with the system. Humans can make a pretty big mess. We do so with the side of the road. We do so socially with the people marginalized by our society.

One of the areas of a person's environment that they most encounter is the roadside. People associate this landscape with their region, part of their "regional heritage." Much of this regional heritage is based off of what they see out of the windows of their cars. Here in Minnesota much of that was prairie, which has been widely lost. On this map the red is the remaining prairie that used to occupy the whole yellow area.

Yet it isn't completely gone, and maybe, just maybe, we can restore some of it, some of our regional heritage. We also have land along the side of the road. That is what I want to be a part of, and my current little piece is figuring out how to ensure that these plants along the side of the road are able to adapt to these conditions, conditions that likely are in flux. Do they have genetic variation to adapt?

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