Invasive Field Research

Last Friday, I had the opportunity to go out and do some field research with a student who is finishing his thesis on an invasive plant known as Japanese stilt grass. I was excited for a little change in terms of working atmosphere, although it was supposed to be pretty hot that day (it turned out to be pretty nice). The only down side about the situation was having to dress in such a manner to decrease your chance of catching ticks, chiggers, and other parasites. It was uncomfortable wearing my socks over my pants and feeling sticky from the spraying myself with deet,  but I’ll do whatever it takes to stay healthy and pest free.

We visited three sites near VCU’s rice center and  two other sites right off of route 5 (one was near Lake Harrison). We laid out 30 X 30 meter transects at each location along which we gathered data. The data reflected the plant diversity and distribution of each area, with a focus on the percent coverage and height each plant constituted along each meter of the transect. We also looked for deer droppings along the transects to possibly give one an idea of the deer population at each location. All in all, it was a great experience at four out of the five locations, because it wasn’t too hard to lay down the transects. However, at the Harrison Lake location, we were walking through some dense bush, and to top it off, there were certain plants with thorns. I still have the scars to prove it.

The only real challenge was setting up the transects along a straight line, which was definitely a challenge at the Lake Harrison location. It’s not as though you can walk around any obstacles in your path, you have to go under them, through them,  or move them to keep the transect straight. I can’t count how many times I ran into or narrowly avoided spider webs or had to nearly result to crawling on my knees to get by certain obstructions. However, despite the challenges, I really enjoyed doing field work and would like to hopefully be able to do some for my own research project.