Dr. Mark Renz’s research program centers around improving weed management to maximize benefits to the farmer and land manager while minimizing impacts to the environment. NYISRI is pleased to feature him in this month’s researcher spotlight:
What kinds of research questions related to invasive species are you currently asking?
My program focuses on generating knowledge to improve early detection and management of invasive plants. We develop predictive tools to help understand the spread potential for invasive plants on the landscape and into the future, and evaluate control efforts. Mechanical (mowing), biological control (grazing/goats), fire, herbicides, and competition from desirable plants are compared to better understand positive and negative aspects of these techniques in addition to when, where, and how to use to optimize.
What are the basic methods you are using to answer your research questions?
For predictive modeling, we use a range of machine learning techniques to develop predictive maps to aid in monitoring efforts throughout Wisconsin. For control efforts, we conduct field trials that range in complexity depending upon the research goal. These projects occur in forests, grasslands, roadsides, and other areas where invasive plants spread. Efforts try to mimic read-world situations and provide information that can immediately be implemented by practitioners.
Do you have a personal story or path that led to your interest in this research?
I have always been interested in plants, and found invasive plants to be incredibly interesting as they develop unique traits to survive when people do not want them to. I was fascinated by the range of biological and physiological tools they used to survive in our roadsides, lawns, forests, and prairies. While interested in the biology and ecology, I also wanted to conduct research that was of benefit and utility to people. Therefore invasive plant research was a great fit for me and my interests and I find it extremely gratifying to work with land managers throughout the nation to improve their efforts.
How does your research relate to a wider field of invasive species prevention/management?
While prevention is the best tool, we rarely accomplish this. Therefore, we try to aid people in improving their knowledge of which species are most likely to be in their area and promote Early Detection and Rapid Response for those species.
What’s the most important thing about your research for stakeholders, managers, or policy makers to know?
All tools (predictive models, control methods, revegetation methods) have positive and negative aspects. We often try to find one tool that works best and just use that one, but don’t consider it may not be the best tool for specific situations. All tools have limitations, and when we realize those limitations (and strengths) we can improve efforts.
What do you hope the long-term impact of your work will be?
My goal is to influence monitoring and management of invasive plants in Wisconsin and beyond. I hope to develop tools that will improve these aspects so that natural areas are maintained for future generations to enjoy.
Is there anything else you’d like to add or tell us about your work?
Read more researcher spotlights:
Dr. Mark Renz works to improve weed management to maximize benefits to the farmer and land manager while minimizing impacts to the environment.
In this researcher spotlight, NYISRI interviews Dr. Jessica Rogers, who works with her student researchers to document and control purple loosestrife in Northern New York.
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"Being able to predict which non-native species are likely to become invasive is kind of a holy grail of invasion biology that we hope to help reach," says Dr. Bianca Lopez, who studies the combined effects of invasive species and environmental change.
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Upon seeing the disparity between “well-behaved” Phragmites in Europe vs. invasive Phragmites in North America, Dr. Joanna Freeland was drawn to study Phragmites hybrids and invasive aquatic plants more broadly.
“We need to learn from the past to shape the future,” says Dr. Dylan Parry. Studying invasive insects outbreaks, biocontrol, and more, Parry strives to connect research to practice.
By co-producing research with land managers, Dr. Andrea Dávalos ties her research on invasive species and associated stressors with management.
Struck by the dominance of invasive plant species in urban-suburban landscapes, Dr. Myla Aronson researches invasive species impacts, spread, and management in human-dominated areas.
“How do Indigenous Peoples relate to and regard introduced species?” asks Dr. Reo, Dartmouth professor and citizen of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians.
While many forest ecologists have their eyes on the trees, Dr. Jason Fridley turns to the shrubs– asking how special adaptations can make some infamous invaders.