UWS student battle invadersInvaders have dug into Wisconsin Point. Tuesday, students from the University of Wisconsin-Superior began to root them out. Armed with trowels and gloves, they focused on removing spotted knapweed, an invasive plant species, from a three-acre stretch of the point.
By: Maria Lockwood, Superior Telegram
Invaders have dug into Wisconsin Point.
Tuesday, students from the University of Wisconsin-Superior began to root them out. Armed with trowels and gloves, they focused on removing spotted knapweed, an invasive plant species, from a three-acre stretch of the point.
“I hope they take away with them the extent of the problem,” said Nick Danz, assistant professor of biology at UWS. “Hopefully they come to realize that by each of us doing a little bit, we can make a difference.”
Knapweed is one of many invasive plant species that have settled in the Northland.
“There are a handful of bad ones and a boatload of not so bad ones,” Danz said. Knapweed, of European origin, hitched a ride to America with hayseed in the 1890s. The plant is attractive when its purple flowers bloom, but spreads quickly in sandy areas, pushing out native species and sowing seeds that can lie dormant for up to seven years.
Two UWS seniors, Matt Jahnke and Don Lisdahl, served as advance scouts for the operation. As stewardship liaisons, they spent the summer conducting a full plant survey along a half mile stretch of Wisconsin Point, identifying where invaders have footholds.
Tuesday, students in Danz’ Plants and People class pulled knapweed from one-meter-square areas before tackling the rest of the site.
“We’re taking them from the corners of each section,” said freshman Karlie Thomas. “We’re going to find out the biomass.”
The sample, Danz said, will give students a benchmark for the amount of knapweed at the site before clearing efforts start. In future years, retesting the sites will show how effective the cleanup has been.
Freshman Joel Pettingill pulled up a mature knapweed plant, pointing out the long, tapering tap root and the dried seed pods.
“The seeds are going to fall in a few weeks,” he said. The class hopes to pull out as many of the invasive plants as possible before then.
Danz’ students said they enjoyed the field trip and the class.
“We’re learning about how plants affect society,” Pettingill said. “It’s more than you ever thought.”
From biodiesel fuel and clothing to food and building materials, he said, “everything revolves around plants.”
The 50 students in the class will spend one more lab period at the site. Future classes will take up the struggle, which could last up to 10 years. Just taking plants from the site may not be enough, Danz said. He plans to explore the possibility of controlling the invasive plants with beetles. In addition, the class will collect seeds and cuttings from native plants on the point to replant the areas where knapweed has been removed.
The Superior City Council approved the project in early September.
“From the city’s point of view, this is a dream come true,” said Mary Morgan, administrator of the city’s Parks and Recreation Division. “We could certainly not afford the kind of labor-intensive project he’s doing.”
The real beauty of the project, Morgan said, is that the students will learn about stewardship and working with a municipality.
The weeding warriors join about 400 UWS students who are apply what they are learning to meet the needs of organizations, schools, businesses and others this fall. Service learning projects range from creating business plans to building historical exhibits.
The stewardship liaison positions, supplies and bus trips are funded by UWS’ chunk of a $45,000 Great Lakes Innovative Stewardship through Education Network grant, which was awarded to the Twin Ports Cluster – UWS, the University of Minnesota Duluth, Lake Superior College and Northland College in Ashland.
At UMD, students are monitoring a number of streams with the St. Louis River Alliance as part of their service-learning through the grant. One liaison coordinated statewide beach sweep efforts, connecting with beach sweep coordinators in other areas of the Great Lakes.
Stewardship liaisons at LSC are mapping campus stormwater runoff and erosion along Miller Creek as well as investigating water quality at stormwater outfalls. They are also rewording signage on the Miller Creek Interpretive Trail to appeal to a younger audience.
“The stewardship liaisons and the students as well, they see the practical side of this and why this investment in service learning is actually valuable,” said Glenn Merrick, biology and environmental science instructor at LSC. “At least, that’s what we’re hoping.
Professor Pat Schoff with UMD’s Natural Resources Research Institute said the GLISTEN-funded initiatives are excellent. Not only do they offer students a chance to work out in the community, he said, but stewardship liaisons get a hands-on lesson in leadership.
“What they’ve learned is invaluable,” Schoff said.
The grant funding is expected to continue for two more years.