February 22, 2013

IDNR funds research projects at SIU

by Andrea Hahn

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Researchers at Southern Illinois University Carbondale recently received funding from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources for two separate research projects.  Both student-led projects are funded from the IDNR’s Illinois Wildlife Preservation Fund. 

Doctoral student Lauren Schwartz, with undergraduate research assistant Travis Neal (Yorkville), working with David Gibson, a professor of plant biology, have a grant for research titled, “Population Dynamics of Endangered Ireseine rhizomatosa (Juda’s bush).”  Juda’s bush is also known as bloodleaf.

Graduate student Kimberly Schmidt, and Eric C. Hellgren, director of the Cooperative Wildlife Research Laboratory and a professor of zoology, have a grant for research titled, “Population Characteristics and Habitat Use of Ornate Box Turtles in Remnant and Restored Tallgrass Prairie.”

The goal of the Juda’s bush research project is primarily to study potential population changes of the plant, which is state-listed as “endangered” in Illinois.  Schwartz noted that southeastern Illinois is at the northern end of the plant’s range.

Schwartz noted that, even though Juda’s bush has been documented in Southern Illinois since at least the early 1960s, very little data of any kind exists in scientific literature. This research project will provide some of the basic data and analysis that is lacking, with the idea of protecting the species where it is endangered.

The ornate box turtle research project also tackles an understudied species.  Though the ornate box turtle is vital to prairie ecosystems such as those that at one time existed in areas of the Midwest including sections of Illinois, Schmidt said, not only have they been relatively understudied, but also their status is more precarious than their status as “threatened” in Illinois may indicate.

The research will focus on gathering and analyzing data pertaining to ornate box turtle habitat needs, including overwintering and nesting sites, and to define the demographics within a specific habitat.

The Illinois Wildlife Preservation Fund was established in 1983 to promote the study of threatened and endangered species in Illinois.  Some of the funds are from contributions made on Illinois State income tax refund forms.

The two research projects outlined here are currently under way, with at least preliminary analysis of data collected expected this year.