Zoe Barash

A grinning Zoe Barash gives the camera a thumbs-up

Zoe Barash

Differences in Structure and Function of Soil in Urban Wetlands Between Areas of High Dominated Invasive and Non-Invasive Species

Zoe Barash is a senior transfer student pursuing her bachelor's degree in the biological sciences. As a junior, Barash was part of a small "guinea-pig" group, testing out what is now Bio 115, though at the time it was titled "Climate Change Research", a class for upper level students taught by Dr. Miranda Kearney.

The research done in the lab for the semester-long project focused on wetland ecosystems and invasive plant species. This research, along with her wetlands ecology class was the base inspiration for Barash's project this summer.

"I remember seeing a stand of invasive cattails that was growing in one small square but was abundantly surrounded by native plants, and I was like, "What is going on right at that line? Why are the cattails here and the natives there? What is the difference in the soil?"".

To examine these observed differences, Barash chose four different urban wetlands around Broome county and surveyed each, finding areas occupied by mostly invasive plant species and areas occupied by mostly native species. Throughout the collection phase of the study, seventy-two samples were gathered.

Barash took measurements of the environment on-site as well as respiration, moisture, and mineral content back in the lab. She explains, "The way that the soil functions can help or hurt the surrounding ecosystem. Not having the right amount of nutrients, having too many metals, or alterations in pH, can cause the soil to not be as productive to certain species".

Barash's current analysis suggests an interesting find: The areas dominated mostly by invasive species had higher respiration rates than those dominated by native species.

This is an important distinction because, "Wetlands are really important for carbon cycling, they act as a carbon sink and keep the carbon stored within them. This is especially important right now because when carbon rises into the atmosphere it contributes to climate change. The fact that the soil in the invasive plots were respiring more means that more carbon was being released in those areas, so it's an interesting thing to think about".

Barash hopes to investigate this discovery more in the future, but is still working to examine the relationship between soil quality and invasive/native populations.

Little things would happen that would mean all of the work I had done was negated, and at first it made me frustrated, but, toward the end, it was like, oh I get to do it again, let's just do it, now I know how to do it and I feel confident in doing it.