Luther associate professor of biology Beth Lynch, was awarded a $4,980 grant from the Iowa Science Foundation in August 2013. The grant is allowing her to document the occurrences of rare plant species and habitats in Iowa to better observe the impacts of ongoing environmental changes, including invasive plant species, deer herbivory and climate change on rare plant taxa and communities.
Through the grant, Lynch and Luther juniors Anna Burke and Brian Kurtz completed research over the 2013 summer, and Luther sophomore Anne Turco has been working throughout the 2013-14 academic year to prepare the specimens that were collected over the summer.
The research team's goals were to complete vascular plant inventories in wooded seeps, a community rare and unrecognized in northeastern Iowa, and to collect approximately 230 vascular plant species from Malanaphy Springs State Preserve in Decorah.
The preserve is a natural area and popular hiking destination. The survey of vascular plants and bryophytes will be important to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources staff as they make decisions about how to allocate limited resources and protect native species.
In addition to providing an intense research experience for students, the project is helping to develop the Luther College Herbarium collection, which is used for teaching and regional studies. Duplicates of the specimens will be deposited in the Ada Hayden Herbarium at Iowa State University.
The Iowa Science Foundation is a grant program administered by the Iowa Academy of Science. The IAS accepts ISF grant proposals for projects furthering science in three areas: improving public understanding of science, improving science teaching and direct support for scientific research.
This is Lynch's second grant from ISF. An ISF-funded project Lynch completed in 1999 resulted in two oral presentations and an article, "Paleoecological and genetic analyses provide evidence for recent colonization of native Phragmites australis populations in a Lake Superior wetland," published in "Wetlands" in 2002.
Lynch is familiar with flora of the upper Midwest and has taught courses in botany and ecology at Luther College and Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory. She is the curator of the Luther College Herbarium, where specimens will be deposited.
Lynch received a bachelor's degree in biology from Trent University and a doctoral degree in ecology and evolution and behavior from the University of Minnesota.