How much and what types of genetic diversity matter when restoring habitat?
We are studying how genetic diversity influences productivity and ecosystem services in wildflower species being used to restore habitat in the western United States. For this, we have measured differences in important leaf and root traits among many individuals from different populations of each species, and during Summer 2018 will be manipulating the amount and type of genetic diversity growing together in small plant communities (i.e., pots grown outdoors at Chicago Botanic Garden). The REU intern will assist in implementing this study and measuring how well communities with different types of genetic diversity perform relative to one another. The student will have an opportunity to work directly with two graduate students working on this project, as well as a research assistant and scientist. They will have an opportunity to help develop their summer research question, fitting within the framework of the larger study, and to work both collaboratively and independently to collect, analyze, and present results of their research to other REU students and members of the Garden’s science department. Results of this research will inform restoration planning practices, and the student will have an opportunity to help communicate the results of their research and the larger project to numerous different audiences both during and after their internship.