There is nothing like enjoying the brisk fall air than to be up to your hips in a wetland.
I was able to put my waders to use on a Monday and help my friend collect seeds for her thesis research. But we weren't looking for just any ordinary seeds; we were on a mission, albeit a mucky one, to find and take the seeds of a prominent invasive species,
the water chestnut, Trapa natans.
Earlier this summer we had been at Braddock Bay for coastal wetlands research — I was on the "bug crew" for an EPA-funded Great Lakes Coastal Wetlands monitoring project.
While we were sampling this wetland in early July, we saw the vast expanses of water chestnut rosettes, and we took the initiative to pull them out to try to reduce their potential to spread. Nearly three months later, we still found plenty of rosettes, which is not surprising for invasive species. Many invasive species are "r-strategists
;" they reproduce like there is no tomorrow and so they disperse seeds or eggs with little to no parental care.
So, about our exploration in Braddock Bay? Well, we basically tried to extort these pesky water chestnuts by stealing their seeds! In total, we collected 320 seeds. And did they hurt or what! When we sloshed our hands around in the water to try to find seeds, often we did not have to look to see the seeds. They have four barbs that stab you if you aren't careful, and that's one of them in the photo below. Ouch.
Photo: K. Des Jardin
The next question you might have is, who in their right mind would want nasty seeds? Well, to learn about invasive species and how to limit their spread, it is a necessary first step to figure out how the seeds grow, including what temperatures and light intensities they like or don't like. My fellow graduate student is going to grow these seeds to see if they germinate and under what conditions they germinate.
Here is a bucket of seeds!
Photo: K. Des Jardin
More to come as this research question progresses. Until then, watch where you step if you find yourself in a water chestnut-infested wetland!
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