The Western Mountains Chapter of the Maryland Native Plant Society will hold its regular meeting at the Appalachian Laboratory in Frostburg on Tuesday February19th at 7:00 pm. The guest speakers will be Dr. Katia Engelhardt and Dr. Steve Keller of the University of Maryland. Their presentation titled “Citizens Restoring American Chestnuts” will begin immediately following a brief chapter meeting. The public is welcome to attend.
Native plant species play critical a role in maintaining ecosystem services within a watershed, such as maintaining high water quality, filtering nutrients, supporting complex food webs, and stabilizing the ecosystem in the face of natural and human-induced perturbations. This program, Citizens Restoring American Chestnuts (CRAC), is a citizen science effort that directly involves western Maryland residents in “cracking the code” to re-establish an important native tree in our forests, the American chestnut (Castanea dentata). The goal of the CRAC program is to increase western Maryland citizens’ awareness and knowledge of native plants and the importance of their restoration by focusing on the American chestnut—a charismatic native species that once dominated our forests but has disappeared as a canopy tree because of a non-native fungal infection called the chestnut blight.
Katia Engelhardt was introduced to ecology and field research as an undergraduate at Oregon State University when she tracked feral horses through the desert of NV and CA for two summers. At Utah State University, she studied Trumpeter and Tundra swans for her MS, and found her love for plant biodiversity during her PhD when she studied the effects of biodiversity loss on wetland ecosystem functioning. Her passion for biodiversity has only grown since coming to the Appalachian Lab in 2000. Ongoing research projects focus on the maintenance of biodiversity in tidal marshes, the importance of genetic diversity in restoration success, and the restoration of American chestnut.
Steve Keller was first captivated by the ecology of native and non-native plants as an undergraduate student at Juniata College in Huntingdon, PA. He did his PhD research at the University of Virginia on how genetic diversity influences invasion success, focusing on species in the genus Silene (Caryophyllaceae) that were introduced to North America with European settlement. Since coming to the Appalachian Lab in August of 2011, he has been excited to start several new research projects focusing on the biology of native plants and their conservation under environmental change, including restoration of American chestnuts to western Maryland forests.
Directions: From I-68 take exit 33 (Braddock Rd & Midlothian Rd). Follow Braddock Rd ~ .2 miles to the entrance to the Appalachian Lab on the left side of the road (301 Braddock Road). There is plenty of parking in front of the building.