By Eric Watkins
The National Science Foundation funds a number of Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) sites across the country. Most of these are natural areas, such as the well-known Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve in East Bethel, MN. Two of these LTERs are urban, covering a metropolitan area. A team of researchers at UMN and a few other institutions, led by Professor Sarah Hobbie in the Department of Ecology, Evolution and Behavior, received $7.1 million in funding to make the Twin Cities an Urban LTER starting in 2021. As part of this project, we have received funding to conduct vegetation surveys on lawns in the Twin Cities over the next six years. Our primary goal is to learn if the inclusion of flowering plants (bee lawns), either intentionally or unintentionally, benefit pollinator populations. Researchers from our group will be visiting up to 80 lawns each year, representing a range of management types, and taking detailed vegetation counts, documenting which species are present. These assessments will also help us learn about other aspects of turfgrass ecology. This is an exciting opportunity for our team to build new collaborations with other researchers interested in urban landscapes.