Meet the Researcher: Sara Nelson
Master of Science Candidate | she/her/hers
Sara Nelson is part of an MITPPC-funded team led by Tiffany Wolf and Dan Larkin. Check out this profile's companion piece, "Ahead of the Herd: How Goat-Grazing Research is Helping with Buckthorn Control."
Can you give a quick overview of your work with MITPPC?
I am specifically looking at how goat grazing impacts the whole plant community, including the native plants that might be growing at a particular site. I am also surveying landowners and managers to understand their reasons for using goats, the types of contexts where they are using them, and their observations about the best ways to use them.
What drew you to invasive species research?
I had a roundabout way of arriving here, as my undergraduate degree is in philosophy. After college I did a lot of different things and ended up getting interested in plants and the ways people engage with them. This led to working as a field botanist on a couple of research projects, particularly looking at biodiversity and biological homogenization in and outside of cities. Working on those projects opened my eyes to the extent to which most of our landscapes are completely dominated by nonnative species. I’m interested in understanding why this is and what we can do about it, since healthy native plant communities are the crucial foundation for biodiversity.
I also grew up in southern Minnesota, and so I've experienced living in and around ecologically compromised woodlands. It's exciting to me to be learning about methods of ecological restoration that I could apply to improve the places I care about.
What is one thing you hope people can take away from your research project by the end of it?
I hope the research ends up being able to make some comparisons about the trade-offs inherent in different restoration methods that will be useful to land managers.
When you are not out in the field or in the lab, what do you like to do for fun?
I enjoy gardening, plants, cooking, biking, the whole “South Minneapolis lifestyle.” I really love foraging for wild foods and eating them, and have published a zine called “Weeds of Minneapolis.” I also organize a project in my neighborhood called the Corcoran Pollinator Project, which coordinates neighbors to get together and plant free pollinator gardens in the boulevards.
About the Author
Caro Silvola is a Communications Intern with the Minnesota Invasive Terrestrial Plants and Pests Center (MITPPC). She is a double major in Bioproducts & Biosystems Engineering and English Literature and is highlighting research-community partnerships in the summer of 2019. Outside of the office, Caroline likes biking, making art, exploring, volunteering in her community and participating in environmental movement spaces.