Project: Research project

Project Details


NON-TECHNICAL SUMMARY: Plant invasions are an increasingly serious threat to agricultural and forest ecosystem sustainability. Despite this ongoing threat, a disturbing workforce demographic is unfolding: we are not training an adequate number of new scientists to fill agency positions and help mitigate the problem. We propose to develop an area of excellence in graduate education with an explicit aim to provide comprehensive training in the spectrum of relevant empirical and quntitative skills needed to effectively address the many-faceted problem of invasive plants.Two doctoral students will be trained through the funding in this program which addresses TESA AREA 2: Natural Resources and the environment.

OBJECTIVES: Our training program will prepare two doctoral students funded under the National Needs Program and an additional two doctoral students through a match with The Pennsylvania State University to address the critical problem of plant invasions. The student training in our program address the needs outlined in TESA area 2: Natural Resources and the Environment, Discipline C: Conservation and renewable resources. Our program is a unique one as it will blend a rigorous quantitative approach with a strong applied orientation. Students will also see the problem through the eyes of federal and state agencies challenged with managing this national threat. To this end, National Fellows will work closely with University as well as agency scientists and policy makers.

APPROACH: Through funding from this program and matching support from Penn State, four Plant Invasions graduate students will pursue a holistic PhD education spanning (i) plant taxonomy, (ii) experimental field ecology, (iii) quantitative methods, (iv) integrated management strategies, (v) the interface between policy and implementation and (vi) research, leadership and professional development. Plant Invasions Fellows will benefit from an already strong quantitative course plan and newly designed field taxonomy and sampling courses. In addition, through collaborations established through this project, students will apprentice with federal and state agency scientists and those scientists will serve on their graduate committee. Policy implications associated with the threat of invasive species will be further studied by Plant Invasions Fellows through a uniquely designed course that will include time in Washington, D.C. studying the process of decision-making at the federal level with agencies engaged in invasive plant management. Our Plant Invasions program is unique in several important ways. The intimate involvement with agency scientists and policy makers described above is one such way. Another is the degree to which it will bridge somewhat disparate interdisciplinary labs and people. We have what is arguably one of the strongest quantitative ecology groups in the country. We also have a strong program in weedy plant monitoring and management: what is lacking here and elsewhere is a holistic approach that spans theoretical, to field ecology, to quantitative analysis to management and associated policy. Our proposed Plant Invasions Fellowship Program will train students to meet a growing need. The Joint-lab Experimental Ecology of Biological Invasions course is a critical activity for all Fellows in the program. Through the joint-lab course and the seminar series that will take place each year, we will be sure to have agency and non-governmental organization representatives in for the Careers Program and for discussions and seminars. It is our intention to have the Fellows develop thesis topics that relate directly to plant invasion problems in the region and to interact with key government agencies and researchers/mentors throughout their degrees, which will facilitate their smooth transfer into appropriate careers. Our Plant Invasions Fellows will also benefit from established international exchanges underway amongst participating laboratories. All Fellows will have a significant international travel/study experience during their degree program. We strongly believe that Fellows graduating from this program will be well-positioned to address the critical shortfall of trained scientists in this area. The unique blend of empirical, quantitative and policy study will position our graduates to address the threat of plant invasions and do so in a holistic way.

Effective start/end date1/1/0812/31/12


  • U.S. Department of Agriculture: $153,000.00


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