Research

Measuring change over time, across the site, and under different restoration methodologies and environmental conditions

This is where it all started. Prior to 2012, Project Stream was an unnamed (and largely unknown) waterway feeding into the north end of the MHC lakes system. Kate Ballantine's Restoration Ecology class began studying the stream, compiling site history, producing GIS maps, collecting data on water, soil, and vegetative characteristics of the area, conducting stakeholder interviews, and doing reviews of relevant case studies and legal requirements. They soon found that, like much of the globe, the MHC water system has problems with nutrient pollution, and Project Stream was not functioning to its full potential to remove those nutrients and filter the water. REP students took on the task of planning for and implementing a full site restoration. A key step was measuring the baseline conditions at the site so that change over time can be monitored. Site monitoring will continue indefinitely, enabling us to better understand site dynamics and providing a valuable background dataset for research projects of all types. Learn more about the ongoing research and restoration efforts at the Project Stream page.



Tidmarsh Restoration

Potential development trajectories and biogeochemical cycling of retired agricultural (cranberry bog) sites

Kate Ballantine is a principal investigator for a 250-acre restoration project taking place at Tidmarsh Farms, a retired cranberry farm in Plymouth, Massachusetts. This project involves dozens of academic, state, federal, and non-governmental partners working within the non-profit learning initiative of the Living Observatory, and is serving as a “gold standard” for the thousands of acres of cranberry farms that are projected to be eligible for restoration in this region in the coming decades. Background research has been taking place at the site since 2000, and active restoration work began in the summer of 2015. Kate is leading the effort to understand how biogeochemical functions at this site change over time with restoration, and how these functions differ under different land use trajectories. Current work compares soil-based functions among an active cranberry farm, a recently restored cranberry farm (now a wetland), an in-progress cranberry farm restoration, and a natural reference site.




Biochar

The influence of biochar on wetland development and functions

Biochar is pyrolyzed organic matter (very similar to charcoal), and has been shown in many studies to improve soil function. The REP lab has been investigating the influence of biochar on the development and functions of restored wetlands through two projects. The first project examines the effect of biochar loading rates on the water quality and vegetative functions in a series of restored vernal pools. The second project compares the ecosystem functions of wetlands restored with different types of biochar and other soil amendments. Both wetlands and biochar are considered potential long-term carbon stores, but much remains to be learned about the influence of biochar on wetland structure, function, and development over time.




Soil Microbial Communities

Metagenomics of soil microbial communities in restored wetlands

Kate Ballantine and collaborator Jason Andras are working to characterize the microbial community of restored wetlands soils using a metagenomic sequencing approach. This project is intended to illuminate if and how functional groups of microbial communities vary with restoration methodology, and how these communities change over time.







Aging Wetlands

Effect of aging on soil characteristics and microbial-based functions in restored wetlands

This is an ongoing project that seeks to understand the long-term development of restored wetlands based on the data from a chronosequence of 56 restored wetlands ranging in age from new to more than 70 years old.




Restoration Methodology, Vegetative Composition, and Ecosystem Function

Long-term development and ecosystem functions of wetlands restored with different soil amendments

This project uses a series of four replicated wetlands amended with soil treatments that range along a gradient of carbon lability to understand how different initial soil properties influence vegetative and soil characteristics of restored wetlands over time.




Wetlands in a Changing Climate

Water quality and biogeochemical cycling in wetlands under different climate scenarios

Kate Ballantine and postdoctoral researcher Todd Anderson are establishing a laboratory mesocosm experiment to inform field experiments both on and off campus. The first set of experiments investigates the influence of soil properties on desirable water quality functions and undesirable greenhouse gas emissions under different environmental scenarios predicted by climate change models. The results of the laboratory experiments are being tested in the field by setting up a large-scale experiment at Tidmarsh Farms, in Plymouth, Massachusetts. We anticipate the complementary nature of field-scale and experimental mesocosm projects will provide countless research opportunities for students to examine the development and functions of wetland soils, plants, and functions under different restoration and climatic scenarios.