Summer 2012 Update

In his second year as a summer intern, Jeffrey Kirchberg ('14) conducted research to determine out the environmental conditions that cedar, maple, shortleaf pine, Virginia pine, and mountain laurel are found on the Domain. He visited 145 sites across the Domain, noted the numbers and sizes for each of his target species as well as the geologic and topographic conditions at each site. After determining the values of 11 topograhic variables plus geologic substrate and some very basic landuse history data for each site, he then conducted canonical correspondence analyses to determine the environmental variables that most determine the spatial distribution of each plant species. From those analyses, he was able to make predictive maps of the distributions of each of the plant species on the Domain. Unfortunately, due to the (relatively) limited range of environments and areas, the maps had a tendency to over-estimate the distribution of plants and the accuracies were rather low. However, the data he collected are very valuable and he hopes to compare his field sites with historic plant inventories and surveys to determine changes in these (and other) plants' distributions and abundances.

Since the reintroduction of white tail deer (Odocoileus virginianus) on the Cumberland Plateau in 1940, deer populations on the Domain have been growing. With no natural predators left in the area, the only restraint on deer population growth is limited food resources. The deer cull, as of now, is not enough to reduce the population substantially. Meg Armistead is working to understand and gather information on this high population of white-tailed deer for management implications in the future. She conducted research on the heterogeneity of deer browse, the consumption of leaves, twigs, and buds of woody plants by deer across the plateau. She looks specifically at how the overpopulation effects the forest regeneration. She looks at parameters sensitive at the community level; the density of seedlings and saplings, diversity and richness using the Shannon- wiener index, and browse intensity. In the process, she created maps interpolating the intensity of deer browse across the western part of the Domain plateau.

Summer intern, Jane Brown ('13), worked with the Sewanee Landscape Analysis Lab (LAL) this past summer to create a build-out plan for the local utility district, Sewanee Utility District (SUD). Land Parcels data were used from surrounding counties to create a pattern of development growth in the area. From there, predictions could be made about where, and when, further development would occur. Since housing and infrastructure requires water from the private sector, SUDs hope is to responsibly gauge future water needs. Rural build-out planning is rare if not absent from a utility planning standpoint. Due to recent drought to near-drought levels in Tennessee over the past years, SUD's actions, along with the LAL's help, demonstrate a forward-thinking approach to water management that should prove beneficial.

Although not working with GIS data, Ashley Block ('13) was a fixture in the LAL during summer 2012 in a summer internship with Dr. Evans. She conducting interviews and collecting and editing video footage to create her documentary on deer impacts.