Past Research Projects

Edlefson, Elijah. (2022) Floristic Quality and Pollinator Assessment of the Powerline Right-of-Way at the Lillian Anderson Arboretum 

Pollinating insects are necessary factors to the survival of most flowering plants, forming symbiotic relationships wherein pollinators are rewarded with food while the plants use the pollinators to propagate. Pollinators are an important and often overlooked aspect of agriculture, particularly that of crops requiring biotic pollination. Global agriculture stands to lose billions of dollars with the decline of pollinators. A large contributor to these declines is from homogenization of large expanses of land for farming, creating hostile monocultures that cannot support pollinators and prevent their traversal. Thus, bolstering local wildflower populations is an excellent way to support local pollinators. A study by Russo et al. in 2020 showed that powerline Right-of-Ways (ROWs) are prime locations to enhance habitats for native pollinators with minimal work through common maintenance practices like weeding, selective herbicide application, and seeding native plants. This study was conducted to document the progress made by an enhancement project within the Lillian Anderson Arboretum (LAA), Kalamazoo, Michigan in 2019. Led by Amy Cazier, the study established a baseline list of wildflower species present along the powerline ROW, providing a standard with which to compare as the project progressed. It was found through weekly plant and pollinator surveys that the floral quality of the LAA Powerline trail is high, as calculated with a Floral Quality Index, and supports several highly conservative plant species. Number of floral visitors increased between survey years, indicating a more attractive habitat for pollinators, though insects of the order Hymenoptera constituted a smaller percentage than Cazier’s baseline. Improvement of the ROW is projected to continue with the removal of invasive species and repeated disturbance to limit aggressive homogenous plant growth. 

Silber, Elizabeth. (2022) Urban or Rural? Does it matter to bumble bees An analysis in Kalamazoo, MI 

Bumble bees are important native pollinators that help maintain healthy ecosystems. Bumble bee species are declining in vast geographical areas due to many factors, including reductions in suitable nest site locations and floral resources, as land uses shift toward urbanization and agricultural intensification. The potential for urban areas to support bumble bees is understudied. The purpose of this study was to see how environment type impacts bumble bee species richness, abundance, and diversity in both urban and rural environments. Data from private and public spaces was gathered through the usage of citizen science. Observations were solicited under a previously established iNaturalist citizen science project, Southwest Michigan Bee Watch, and past data from this project was analyzed alongside observations submitted in summer 2022. Alongside citizen science data, I documented bumble bee species abundance and richness at fifteen sites along an urban to rural gradient in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Sites were categorized as either urban or rural through percentage of green space within a 1km radius of the site, as well as site distance from the center of Kalamazoo. Bumble bee photos within the citizen science database were properly identified to species by me and other contributors to iNaturalist. A total of 1040 individual bumble bees were documented (563 in rural areas, 477 in urban areas). Overall abundance of bumble bees, including species of concern (Bombus auricomus) and declining species (B. perplexus, B. vagans, B. fervidus, and B. citrinus) were favored in rural environments compared to urban ones. However, Shannon Diversity Indices were similar for the two environments. More information concerning the preferred nesting and floral resources of declining species is needed to determine if suitable habitat is available or could be created within urban environments. 

Keith, Benjamin. (2022) Discussing the Impacts of Biological Volunteer Work, and Invasive Plants on Native Biotic Communities 

This SIP is based on both paid and volunteer work experiences at the Kalamazoo College Lillian Anderson Arboretum. During this work, I was responsible for the upkeep of public and natural spaces within the Arboretum and used my time to learn about the ecosystems around me and how to keep a public greenspace functional and healthy. The written portion of this SIP delves into my personal experiences and growth at the Arboretum. This experience allowed me to regain a true interest in the biological science that I had once thought lost and gave me knowledge that I could actively apply in and out of the classroom. In addition, the written portion of this thesis discusses the effects of invasive plants on vertebrates and invertebrates, native plants, and the ecosystem as a whole. These plants are actively harming the fragile balance of our indigenous habitats and, while it is not fully known how to mitigate their effects, many methods of removal and environmental protection exist and should be used to their fullest extent. It is entirely up to us to help relieve the stress caused by invasive plants, as they are only here because of our actions. 

Rock, Katherine. (2022) New Invaders to Hardwood Forests: Discovering Jumping Worms (Amynthas) at the Lillian Anderson Arboretum 

As detritivores and soil aerators, earthworms can be beneficial for gardening and composting. Alongside these benefits, earthworms can negatively impact forest ecosystems by ridding the soil of organic matter and nutrients. In the Great Lakes region, all earthworms are nonnative but jumping worms (genus Amynthas) are recent invaders that are spreading rapidly and impacting soil health. I mapped the abundance and distribution of earthworm types at the Lillian Anderson Arboretum (LAA) in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and recorded soil characteristics in sampled plots. I documented six different types of earthworms. Amynthas was found in one area of human impact and was associated with deeper litter depths than was Lumbricus, the most common genus; no other soil variables (litter type; soil temperature, moisture, pH; abundance of macroinvertebrates) differed between plot where the two genera were found. The presence and expansion of Amynthas should continue to be monitored to determine if and how it is impacting forest ecosystems. 

Nickson, Nikoli. (2020) The Efficacy of the Southwest Michigan Bee Watch Citizen Science Program and the Assessment of Landscape in Determining Bumble Bee Diversity 

Bumble bees are experiencing population declines at regional, national, and global scales. Confronting these trends requires the employment of conservation efforts; however, conservation efforts cannot be enacted without first understanding regional populations through documentation. Citizen science is a method wherein researchers recruit volunteers to aid in the collection of data, thereby expanding the range of data collection while maintaining the same seasonal timeframe. We established a citizen science project, Southwest Michigan Bee Watch, to better understand the species diversity and abundance of bumble bees in Southwest Michigan. The scope of this research is three-fold: in this study we (1) recruited volunteers and analyzed our recruitment efforts; (2) tested the efficacy and accuracy of citizen science against traditional field surveys; and (3) examined the relationship between landscape composition and bumble bee species diversity/abundance in a set of managed properties. Using a Shannon Index to compare the efficacy of citizen science against traditional field surveys, citizen science documented a greater number of bumble bee species than its counterpart. Landscape within and surrounding a public preserve was found to play no role in determining the number of bumble bee species observed; the location of each property, however, was related to the number of species observed. Taken together, these results provide evidence that citizen science is an effective tool for monitoring bumble bee population compositions in Southwest Michigan and can be used to document these populations in future seasons. 

Roethler, Margaret. (2020) Arthropod and Bird Dynamics: A Study on Ecosystem Health of Kalamazoo Forests 

The abundance and diversity of arthropods in an ecosystem can be an indicator of ecosystem health. The complexity of plant populations in an area is often a large determinate of how much and what kind of arthropods can be supported there. Arthropods in turn can also be important sources of food for other organisms in an ecosystem. In this study, I looked at the population of arthropods, as well as their avian predators using data downloaded from the Caterpillars Count! and eBird citizen science projects. I also established my own survey site to get additional information on arthropod populations. Using a one-way ANOVA, I analyzed if the average observational counts for each order of arthropods, as well as bird species, saw any change from 2018 to 2020. I found that only two out of six categories of arthropods saw a decline. Additionally, most species of birds saw no change. Overall, while there may be evidence that some arthropod species are declining, there is no evidence that bird species in the area are being affected by this. 

Dulmage, Alexa. (2020) An Analysis of Bee Diversity and Sampling Techniques in Southwest Michigan 

As one of the most important pollinators in the world, wild bees are critical for maintaining ecosystems. However, wild bee populations have been declining due to threats such as habitat fragmentation, chemical pollution, decreased floral resource availability, disease, and climate change. In order to better understand the conservation needs of wild bees, long-term trends in diversity must be monitored. The techniques utilized in wild bee monitoring are still being studied, as there are biases and limitations associated with all sampling methods. Dr. Ann Fraser’s lab at Kalamazoo College has been monitoring wild bee populations in southwestern Michigan over the past twelve years. This study analyzed data collected during years in which regular sampling took place (2008, 2014, 2018, and 2019) to understand changes in regional wild bee diversity in regard to time, location, and sampling method. Sampling took place at a range of locations within the region, including Kalamazoo College campus, Lillian Anderson Arboretum, Pierce Cedar Creek Institute, Sand Creek Preserve, Augusta Floodplain Forest, and Chipman Preserve. Multiple sampling methods were employed throughout the duration of the project, including bee bowls, blue vane traps, and netting. We found that genus composition and count varied annually and that genera count decreased in August of every year. In regard to sampling method, we found biases for certain taxa in both bee bowls and blue vane traps that were similar to those found in other studies. This emphasizes the need for the utilization of multiple sampling methods in future long-term monitoring projects to accurately assess wild bee diversity and abundance. Variations in genus composition and count were observed between sites in 2018, suggesting that it may be beneficial to use a variety of sampling sites that consist of habitats that are representative of the southwestern Michigan environment. 

Cazier, Amy. (2020) Assessment of Floristic Quality and Plant-pollinator Interactions on Powerline Right-of-way at Lillian Anderson Arboretum 

Populations of pollinators, and more specifically bees have declined recently and due to their vital roles in our ecosystems and agriculture industry (Potts et al., 2010). Efforts to protect, conserve and even enhance their abundance and diversity have become a global concern. One way to promote pollinator populations involves providing the floral resources of which they are reliant on for nutrients and successful reproduction (Wratten et al., 2012). A pollinator habitat enhancement project is scheduled to begin on the powerline right-of-way (ROW) at Kalamazoo College’s Lilian Anderson Arboretum. Before the implementation of such projects, it is useful to establish a baseline understanding of what floral resources are already present and the characteristics of current plant-pollinator interaction networks in order to measure changes after enhancement is underway. A systematic floral survey was conducted and identified 117 species of flowering plants on the powerline ROW. This survey informed required management needs of the area before the successful seeding of new floral resources could occur and identified areas on the powerline ROW which were unique representations of a pre-settlement environment and should left alone in respect to adding new flowering plant species. Plant-pollinator interaction metrics showed overall generalist qualities of current networks and revealed specialist traits of the plant Stachys hyssopifolia (Hyssop Hedgenettle) and the genera Bombus (bumble bees). Focal plant-pollinator interactions demonstrated many current flowering plant species rely on bumble bee pollinators for reproduction and that further work should be done to better understand bumble bee habits and enhance their habitats. 

Holmes-Hackerd, Mathew. (2020) GIS Mapping and Co-occurrence Analysis of Invasive Understory Plants in the Lillian Anderson Arboretum 

Invasive plants are one of the greatest threats to an ecosystem’s biodiversity. Managing environments which are invaded by multiple species is difficult without an efficient management plan that aims to control multiple species at once. To address this, we surveyed the Lillian Anderson Arboretum and measured invasive prevalence by species over 975 sampling sites. We further analyzed these species’ prevalence with various abiotic factors as well as conducted cooccurrence analysis to show how the presence of each species affects the likelihood of another also being present. Our work provides an efficient management plan that considers all of these variables to better direct management with the aim of fostering biodiversity within the arboretum. 

Voss, Aiden. (2020) Reciprocal Relationship Building as a way of Resistance and Resiliency

Capitalistic, individualistic and colonial society has caused great disconnects between the people and the land. Today, many people view the earth as a given, as something that can be freely bough, sold, developed and destroyed. With the way that Earth is being treated, it seems that many of us have forgotten – or ignored – how to live on this beautiful land with respect, and how to foster reciprocal relationships with it. For hundreds of years before colonizers arrived on the shores of this place, Indigenous communities lived on and with this land, treating it with the same care and love they treat family members. Through this project, I explore ways in which we can work to re-establish relationships with Earth which are full of gratitude, care and responsibility. How do we re-root amidst this colonial, consumerist world we have enforced upon the land and ourselves? Drawing on Indigenous knowledge and wisdom as well as that of climate scientists and other environmental thinkers, I have created an art piece which centers plants as teachers who guide us by example towards better practices – both for this planet and for each other.

Vogel, Cassandra. (2020) An Identification Booklet and Plant Survey of Species around Batts Pond of Lillian Anderson Arboretum

COVID-19 has been a huge struggle the past year, however during this time of recommended self isolation, families and communities have found refuge in going to parks and exploring nature as a form of escape. The Lillian Anderson Arboretum has been incredibly full during this quarantine. With an increase of visitors, people were going off the trails or picking plants to take home. This project was conducted to help those who are new to the Arboretum identify new plants and help inform people on which plants shouldn’t be touched around Batts pond. The ultimate goal is to give the Arboretum a booklet to displace near the Batts Pond and Wood Frog trails that visitors may use while they walk around.

Rigney, Trevor. (2019) Native Bee Nesting Abundance and Diversity at the Lillian Anderson Arboretum 

Wild bees play a crucial role as primary pollinators of flowering plants in the United States and around the world. In the last few decades bee numbers have been declining rapidly due to the increased use of pesticides, habitat loss and fragmentation, pollution, pathogens, parasitism and climate change. This has been documented in Michigan with the decline in many bee species across the state and the recent extirpation of a species of bumble bee (Bombus affinis) from the state. Bees require resources such as food, protection from pesticides, and nesting resources in order to thrive. Kalamazoo College recently obtained the rights to improve and maintain the strip of powerline that runs through the college’s Lillian Anderson Arboretum. The Pollinator Enhancement Project is scheduled to take place in the spring and summer of 2020 and will include the removal of invasive plants, planting of native forage plants, and provision of nesting habitat for wild bees on the powerline. The purpose of this study was to catalog the diversity and abundance of bee genera along the powerline, and assess the diversity and abundance of bees utilizing above ground nesting resources we provided in the form of artificial stem and cavity nests. To accomplish this, bees were sampled throughout the summer of 2019 using two different types of traps (blue vane traps and bee bowls) and nesting bees were studied using three types of artificial stem nests (drilled blocks, large PVC, and small PVC nests) and one nest type of cavity nest for social bees (bumble bee box). Nests were monitored for occupancy over the course of the summer. A total of 786 bees belonging to 21 genera were captured at the powerline representing 48% of genera diversity of bees found in Michigan and 60% of the diversity found in Kalamazoo county. We found that the drilled block nest design was significantly more attractive to native stem nesting bees compared to large PVC nests (p=0.0002), and more bees occupied 6 mm tubes than 8 mm or 4 mm. There was also a significant difference when considering both nest type and tube size as indicated by a two-way ANOVA test (f=3.34; p=0.043). Using small PVC nests, we determined that the orientation of stem nests did not significantly affect occupancy rate (p=0.287). X-ray imaging revealed that artificial stem nest tubes were occupied predominantly by bees and wasps, with size of tube being a significant predictor of occupant type. No bumble bees colonized the cavity nests we provided. This study utilized proven techniques to provide insight into bee diversity and abundance at the Lillian Anderson Arboretum and compared the effectiveness of several different artificial stem nest designs. The results of this study provides information valuable to improving both local habitats and international approaches to studying stem nesting bees. 

Gardner, Amanda. (2019) Examination and Development of an Alternative Method for Measuring Oils and Greases in Surface Waters 

Oil and grease is an important indicator of water health due to its significant impact on aquatic plants and animals. Currently, there is only one EPA approved method for analyzing oil and grease in sample water. This study compares an alternative method for analyzing oil and grease to the standard EPA method, and considers suitability of both methods for continued monitoring by the Analytical Laboratory of Dr. Furchak in addition to examining the health of the water. The project analyzes water samples from three sites within the Lillian Anderson Arboretum for oil and grease concentration. Two methods are used for this analysis; a gravimetric analysis using EPA Method 1664B, and a Fourier-Transform Infrared Spectrometer (FTIR) method that is not currently EPA approved for oil and grease analysis. A method utilizing the FTIR was developed, and although both methods showed significant concentrations of oil and grease in the sample water, this method generated significantly different results than the EPA approved method. 

Funke, Erik. (2019) Catalog of Bee Abundance and Diversity at the Kalamazoo College Lillian Anderson Arboretum

 Bees play a critical role in maintaining balance within many ecosystems through pollination. Without bees, modern agricultural systems and the natural pollination of many different plant species could not function in the way that they presently do. Recently, many bee species are being negatively impacted by environmental changes, exposure to pesticides, and adverse habitat alteration. These alterations in abiotic and biotic factors to the bee’s surrounding ecosystems is resulting in a reduction of the abundance and biodiversity of bees; If this is to be controlled more research needs to be done on advantageous ways to alter an environment, and surveys of bee abundance and diversity must be conducted before and after and alterations. Recently, funding was received for a pollinator habitat enrichment project at the Kalamazoo College Lillian Anderson Arboretum, along the Powerline Trail. This project will involve seeding with native plant species to provide food resources for bees and other pollinator populations. The purpose of this study was to compare abundance and diversity of bees inhabiting the Powerline Trail of the arboretum prior to habitat alteration, and compare it to Old Field plot in the arboretum where no habitat alteration is planned. Bee captures were compared using two different sampling methods—vane traps and cups— with two different painting treatments used on the vane traps. We found that there is no a significant difference in the abundance of bees (p= 0.52) or diversity of bees (p=0.16) between the Powerline Trail and the Old Field, although a few genera were captured at only a single plot. Cane traps captured significantly more bees (p= 0.002) more bee genera (p< 0.0001) than did cups. Lastly, there was no significant difference in the abundance (p=0.25) and diversity (p=0.34) of bees captured by painted and unpainted vane traps. This research provides a better understanding of bee abundance and diversity at the Lillian Anderson Arboretum and a baseline sample of local bees before any alteration is to take place. Combining bee captures from this study with other collections from 2018, 2017. 2014, and 2008, we assembled a comprehensive catalog of bees for the Lillian Anderson Arboretum. 

Smalley, Griffin. (2016) The Arboretum App : Building a Virtual Trail Companion Guide 

The author spent this past summer building a mobile application that will serve as a “trail companion guide” for the Lillian Anderson Arboretum in Oshtemo Township, Kalamazoo, Michigan. Essentially, the app enhances visitors’ experiences by showing trail maps, suggesting interesting or seasonally unique natural sites, and showing information about many of the Arboretum’s flora and/or fauna while the user is on-site. To complete this task, the author had to learn a number of new technologies/languages/mobile platforms either from scratch or from a limited database of knowledge. These include iOS, Swift, mobile databasing and networking, geolocation data, and others. This paper discusses the goals for the project, the technologies learned in the process of building it, and a reflection of the experience as a whole. 

Bunker, Marie & Mickus, Emily. (2015) Natural History Survey – Lillian Anderson Arboretum

he goal of doing a natural history survey of the Lillian Anderson Arboretum (LAA) was to integrate historical data related to the arboretum with its current ecological state. To accomplish this, we performed historical research by utilizing local resources. We also employed various biological research methods to survey flora and fauna diversity in the LAA. Additionally, a GPS unit was used to acquire spatial data. The following document will describe each trail based on the most common attributes. Although these trail-based descriptions do not constitute the full list of species encountered during this project in the LAA, an exhaustive list can be found in the Appendix.  A brief history of the property and the nineteenth-century families who owned it, written by Senior History major Anna Marek in 2012, is also included in the Appendix.  

Stack, Sara. (2015) Effects of the Emerald Ash Borer, Agrilus planipennis, Infestation on Carabidae Abundance and Diversity in Southern Michigan.

This study was conducted June to September 2014 at eight different locations in the southern regions of Michigan, one of which was the Arboretum. Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) is an Asian species, invasive to Michigan, whose larvae consume the phloem of ash trees. It was brought to North America in the early 1990s and has spread across the country, killing tens of millions of native ash trees. Carabidae is a family of large ground beetles that serve as useful invertebrate biodiversity indicators. This study explored how ash tree mortality, as a result of emerald ash borer (EAB) invasion, affected Carabidae species abundance and diversity in the Lower Peninsula of Michigan. Dr. Sara Tanis, Visiting Professor of Biology, supervised this project.

Grimmer, Jared. (2015) Do Bees Prefer Spotted Knapweed Over Other Co-Flowering Plant Species?

Spotted knapweed, a noxious and invasive species, is a biennial herb native to Eurasia that was introduced to North America during the late 1800’s. It exists as a floral resource for many insect pollinators, particularly bee species. This study used field and laboratory approaches to investigate the attractiveness to bees of knapweed flowers compared to those of co-occurring plant species. Dr. Ann Fraser, Department of Biology, supervised this study.

Saulles, Ariel. (2008) Effects of Land use in Wetlands: A Case Study of the Lillian Anderson Arboretum.

In 2007, subdivision was built adjacent to the wetland of the Arboretum, and concerns about its effects on the wetland have been raised. The effect that the building of even a small subdivision may have on a wetland could be great. In order to measure any effects that this subdivision may have in the future, the wetland was tested for a variety of common contaminants and wetland health indicators including calcium, magnesium, copper, iron, persistent organics, nitrates, pH, and alkalinity. Using various testing techniques, and analysis of water, sediment and plant samples, this study created a baseline profile of the wetland.  This project was supervised by Dr. Joan Esson and Dr. Jennifer Furchak, Department of Chemistry.

Waller, Joseph. (2006). Invertebrate Diversity in Old-Field Sites in Southwest Michigan: Assessment of Indicator Taxa and Examination of Ecological Correlates of Diversity

Quantifying and cataloguing invertebrate diversity is important for understanding the ecosystems that exist around us. It is also of pressing importance to examine the relationship of invasive species on the ecosystems in which they exist. In this study invertebrate diversity was examined in old-field sites in southwest Michigan using pitfall trapping. of 220 different morphospecies identified, the most common included springtails and sowbugs, while the most widespread included springtails and Aphaenogaster ants. The effectiveness of using ants, spiders, and beetles as indicator taxa for greater insect and invertebrate diversity was examined at old-field sites in southwest Michigan. This study was supervised by Dr. Ann Fraser, Department of Biology.

Rohde, Ashley. (2006) Host Plant and Natural Enemy Influences on Survivorship in the Milkweed Leaf Miner Liriomyza Asc/Epiadis

The debate over the relative importance of bottom up and top down interactions in trophic systems has been a focus of ecological research for years. Asclepias syriaca, or the common milkweed, is a plant that grows in the northern United States and southern Canada and produces toxic cardenolides and thick latex as a defense against herbivory. This study was conducted to determine whether top down or bottom up interactions have a greater influence on the leaf miner fly species Liriomyza asclepiadis, which lives and feeds on A. syriaca, and in doing so also collected basic life history information for this species. Dr. Steven Malcolm, Western Michigan University Department of Biology, and Dr. Ann Fraser, Kalamazoo College Department of Biology, supervised this project.

Traxler-Ballew, Jonas. (2004). Density Independent Gall Dispersion in a Willow Complex

Galls are complex plant-parasite interactions in which plants encapsulate and house the attacker, providing food and shelter space in a structure called a gall. Plant galls are common and widespread and can be found on plants. The plant grows abnormally at the site where it is wounded by the parasite, forming the gall by its own cell growth. This study investigated the  significance of density dependence in galling dispersal in a clonal patch of the willow Salix interior, which grows in thick clonal patches on moist sandy soils, in Southwestern Michigan. Dr. Binney Girdler supervised this project.

Augustine, Andrea. (1999) Effects of a Highway on Plant Species Composition and Diversity of a Southwestern Michigan Wetland.

This project studied the effects of a state highway (M43) on an adjacent wetland community in the Lillian Anderson Arboretum. Six transects were established perpendicular to M43 within one hectare area of the wetland; plant species composition and frequency were sampled at six points along each transect and on the roadbank above the wetland. Groundwater pH, conductivity and osmolarity of a subset of the 35 sample points was measured. Dr. Heather Reynolds and Dr. Paul Sotherland, Department of Biology, supervised this project.