The Illinois Department of Natural Resources has awarded faculty members in Eastern Illinois University 's biological sciences and chemistry departments two Wildlife Preservation Fund grants in the amount of $2,000 each.
One grant supports the project titled "Compounds in Smoke Solutions Created When Burning Tallgrass Prairie Species." Participating EIU faculty members Janice Coons and Nancy Coutant , biological sciences, and Barbara Lawrence, chemistry, have been assisted by EIU students Stephanie Prosser, Daniel Finn and Anthony Porreca.
Coutant explained: "Studies from several fire-prone plant communities over the past 20 years in Australia, South Africa and the United States report that seeds of some species require smoke exposure to germinate.
"This grant has three objectives: 1) development of an apparatus to produce plant smoke solutions, 2) production of smoke solutions from 12 Illinois native plant species, and 3) chemical analysis of the smoke solutions for compounds that promote seed germination."
Although Coons and Coutant are responsible for collecting the native plant material, developing the apparatus and producing the smoke solutions, and Lawrence is in charge of the chemical analysis of the smoke solutions, all three are involved in all aspects of the project.
"Fire is a common management technique used in natural areas," Coutant continued. "Information from studies such as this one may provide insights relative to the timing and frequency of burns for those managing natural areas. Because the seeds of many native species are difficult to germinate, this information also will be useful to those who are attempting to grow native plants for restoration efforts or for commercial sale."
The second funded project, "Distribution of Posters and Promotion of Logo to Identify Native Plants Available for Landscaping," is another project of Coons and Coutant. The pair developed materials to educate people relative to native species for use in landscaping.
"With the green movement, interest is increasing for use of native plants in landscaping," Coons said. "Yet gardeners and plant nursery employees often have limited knowledge regarding which species are native and what horticultural traits native species have.
"Our four posters highlight different horticultural uses of native plants, including various microclimates, four season appeal, attract wildlife, and growth habits. We will distribute these posters to garden centers, nurseries, nature centers, schools and county extension offices throughout the state. During these visits, we will discuss sources for additional information such as workshops, websites, books and information packets that we developed.
"We also coordinated the development and acceptance by the Illinois Green Industry Association of a logo for quick identification of Illinois native plants. The IGIA has promoted the logo in its display in the Conservation World section at the Illinois state fairs.
"We also will disperse samples of the logo to help gardeners and nursery employees recognize native plant species. Both posters and the logo will help gardeners and others identify native plants when making their choices at garden centers."