Bio students research the sandplain at nearby Camp Johnson


bio students

(left to right: Devin Latremore, Nicholas Salvas, Jennifer Labrenz and Aerielle Matsangos)

Four Saint Michael's College biology students will document the plant and invertebrate communities in the largest remaining stand of sandplain forest in Vermont, which just happens to be adjacent to the SMC campus at nearby Camp Johnson. The research will advance ways to protect the threatened forest community of natural life. The four students will receive $4,000 summer research stipends from the John C. Hartnett Endowment Ecological Internship program to carry out the research.

This work is necessary as preparation for a controlled burn of the sandplain forest that will take place in 2013 as a regular maintenance procedure for this threatened forest community. Interestingly, this unique natural habit is located adjacent to Saint Michael's College on property of the Camp Johnson Army Guard Facility.

The student researchers will carry out this new research initiative this summer through careful examination and documentation under the direction of Saint Michael’s biology professors, Dr. Valerie Banschbach and Peter Hope.

The internship recipients are junior Jennifer Labrenz of Poukeepsie, N.Y., sophomore Devin Eileen Latremore of Chazy; first-year student Aerielle Matsangos of Baltimore, Md., and first-year student Nicholas Salvas of Barre, Vt.

Professor Banschbach explained that the Camp Johnson property supports the largest remaining stand of sandplain forest in Vermont, a threatened forest community that thrives in sandy, low-nutrient soils and that requires regular fires to be sustained.  As part of the long-term management plan, some sections of the Camp Johnson sandplain forest were burned in the mid to late 1990s.

A living laboratory of sandplain forest recovery

“This approach will provide a living laboratory of sandplain forest recovery right next door – something that students and faculty will be studying for years, and perhaps decades, to come,” Professor Banschbach said.

Each fall for the last six years, Saint Michael's students taking the Introduction to Ecology and Evolution biology course have studied plants and invertebrates in both the burned and unburned sections of the forest to see how they differ.

In a new research initiative made possible by support from the Hartnett Endowment, a new section of the forest will be burned in spring of 2013. This not only will provide an outstanding research opportunity, but it also will benefit the management and maintenance of this rare forest community.

The student researchers and their professors will provide background information needed for future studies of forest recovery by documenting the plant and invertebrate communities in areas to be burned in 2013 and in adjacent sections of the forest.  Each student will work full-time on research at Camp Johnson and receive a $4000 stipend as well as accommodations on campus at a reduced rate.

In addition, first-year students taking Introduction to Ecology and Evolution in the fall of 2012 will also be providing critical foundational data in preparation for the burn.

Cooperative project of Saint Michael's, Camp Johnson, Vt. Agency of Natural Resources, Nature Conservancy

For several years, the Biology Department has had a cooperative research relationship with Camp Johnson. This new research initiative includes additional collaboration among the Biology Department, Camp Johnson, the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources, and The Nature Conservancy

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