Alma researcher receives grant to study seedlings

Researchers at Alma College have receive a $500,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to study how light and soil pathogens affect how tree seedlings grow.

Researchers will plant seedlings in sealed bags that keeps their soil from mixing with existing soil, so trees in different soils can be planted in the same light environment.

Sarah McCarthy Neumann is the head researcher on the project.

“If we have a good handle on seedling regeneration we have a better predictive outcome of what our future forests will look like.”

McCarthy Neumann said the project could help conservationist choose what trees to plant in an area that has been destroyed by a natural disaster, logging or climate change.

“If you wanted to regenerate a site and actually increase seedling regeneration having a clear understanding of these interactions of how seedlings respond to light and how seedlings respond to disease could allow you to actually increase regeneration of certain species.”

Trees will be planted and studied at Alma’s Ecological field station in Vestaburg.

Planting is scheduled to begin in the spring.