Why should science matter to our presidential candidates? As you’ll see in the accompanying video,…
The Nachusa Grasslands near Dixon, Ill., just a 45-minute drive from the NIU campus, had a new visitor flying overhead this past summer, but it wasn’t one of the nature preserve’s many bird varieties.
As seen in the accompanying video, NIU professor Holly Jones and her students are using a drone to capture images of the prairie, where bison were reintroduced in 2014. The photographs will help the researchers determine how plants are responding to the bison.
“Using the drone is critical because the scale of Nachusa is huge,” says Jones, who holds a joint appointment with biological sciences and NIU’s Institute for the Study of the Environment, Sustainability, and Energy.
“The preserve has over 700 native plant species and over 4,000 acres of prairie—so remote sensing is one of the few ways to quantify landscape-scale changes,” she adds.
Preserve managers across the Midwest are beginning to reintroduce native grazers such bison into restored prairies. Yet, there is no research on how bison-grazing will impact plant community trajectories.
“In short, we are using cutting-edge technology to address a pressing research question which will help managers better plan for the impacts of bison reintroduction,” Jones says.
Jones’ NIU laboratory also is conducting studies on how the bison’s presence will effect populations of grassland birds, small mammals and deer. Other NIU scientists working at Nachusa include Melissa Lenczewski (water quality) in geology; Michael Konen (soil) in geography; and Richard King (reptiles), Wesley Swingley (soil microbiota) and Nicholas Barber (insects) in biological sciences.