Independent Research in Biology with                                           Dr. Janet Morrison, The College of New Jersey

I offer opportunities for undergraduate Biology majors to pursue independent research in various aspects of plant ecology that are related to my own research interests in plant-pathogen interactions and the ecology of non-indigenous invasive plants.

Facilities and equipment available for use by Independent Research students in plant ecology include a new greenhouse, light and temperature controlled growth chamber, drying ovens, balances, stereomicroscopes and phase-contrast microscope, portable pressure chamber for plant moisture stress in the field, portable photosynthesis system (Li-Cor 2000) for field measurements of photosynthesis rates, PAR meter for photosynthetically active radiation measurements in the field, soil water potential meter, sub-meter accuracy geographical positioning system (GPS) unit for spatial mapping, and ArcView Geographical Information System software for mapping and spatial analysis.

Independent Research is one of the most important and intellectually satisfying experiences you can have in college. It will provide invaluable experience for anyone planning to go to graduate school,  hoping to find a research job, or planning to teach. 

To be eligible you must be of junior standing and have a 2.5 GPA in all science courses taken at TCNJ.   Generally I require that a student commit to at least two full semesters of research, although this may incorporate work done during the summer field season. Contact me via email or phone (609-771-3091) if you are interested.  

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Current Independent Research areas in my lab:

Forest ecology: interactions between non-native invasive plants, native plants, and natural enemies

Native biodiversity faces a huge threat from the spread of non-native species that have been introduced into new ranges by human activity. Our lab is focused on this problem in the fragmented landscape of the eastern deciduous forest. In particular, we seek to understand the role that natural enemies and competition play in the interaction between native and non-native species in the forest floor plant community. We combine quantitative descriptive study and experimental manipulation to investigate the ecology of biotic interactions in of a range of forest herb layer species, from annual grasses to tree seedlings.  So far, our research has included the invasive species Alliaria petiolata (garlic mustard), Microstegium vimineum (Japanese stilt grass), and Acer platanoides (Norway maple), Lonicera japonica (Japanese honeysuckle), and the native species Acer saccharum (sugar maple).  


Plant-pathogen interactions: role of disease in the weediness and invasiveness of the grass Andropogon virginicus (broomsedge)

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is funding this project in which we are investigating the interaction between broomsedge and a smut fungus pathogen, Sporisorium ellisii. Broomsedge is a dominant species in successional old fields and is also considered a weed in pastures. It is native to the eastern U.S., and has been introduced in California, where it is a naturalized member of the flora, and in Hawaii, where it has become a serious invasive, especially in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Our goals are to understand how important the fungal pathogen is in regulating broomsedge populations in its native range, whether the pathogen is present in the introduced ranges, and whether individuals from the different ranges vary in their resistance or tolerance to this disease. 

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