Landscape Patterns and Ecosystem Processes

2008 US-IALE Symposium

Madison, Wisconsin | April 6-10, 2008

Biking on Madison's Extensive Trails - © Sara Mayer, courtesy GMCVB

Field Trips

Field trip registration information will be available soon.

Tuesday, 8 April 2008, Half-Day Field Trips

Thursday, 10 April 2008, Full-Day Field Trip

Restoration Ecology and the University of Wisconsin Arboretum
Organizer: Kevin McSweeney
Date: Tuesday, 8 April, 12:00pm - 5:00pm

The University of Wisconsin Arboretum is centrally located in Madison, encompassing 1,260 acres on the southern shores of Lake Wingra.  It includes the oldest and most varied collection of restored ecological communities in the world, including tallgrass prairies, savannas, several forest types and wetlands.

© UW-Madison University Communications
In the early 1930s, the land that is now the Arboretum was in cultivated fields and pastures that had fallen into disuse. The university decided, early on, to try to bring back the plants and animals that had lived on the land before its development. In focusing on the re-establishment of historic landscapes, particularly those that predated large-scale human settlement, the early leaders of the Arboretum introduced a whole new concept in ecology: ecological restoration -- the process of returning an ecosystem or piece of landscape to a previous, usually more natural, condition. For example, the world's oldest restored prairie, Curtis Prairie, occupies 60 acres just south of the Arboretum Visitor Center. Many classic experiments on planting techniques and the use of fire in prairie management took place here during the 1930s and 40s. At the Wingra Oak Savanna, near the northwestern shore of Lake Wingra, there is a magnificent grove of open-grown bur oaks.

© UW-Madison University Communications
The savanna is being restored by replacing the understory of non-native trees, shrubs, and weeds with the grassland species likely to have grown in the original savannas. There are also a variety of deciduous woods and conifer forests, several which include ancient Native American burial mounds. This half-day field trip will provide opportunities to visit the distinct ecological communities that represent natural habitats of Wisconsin, learn about the ongoing research a restoration activities led by university faculty and students, and enjoy some of the 20 miles of trail that traverse the site. You can visit the Arboretum online, and learn more about Lake Wingra by visiting the Friends of Lake Wingra web site. Field trip fee includes a box lunch.

Military Ridge Prairie Heritage Area in southwest Wisconsin
Organizers: Christine Ribic and David Sample
Date: Tuesday, 8 April, 12:00pm - 5:00pm

This field trip to The Nature Conservancy’s Military Ridge Prairie Heritage Area (MRPHA) near Blue Mounds, Wisconsin, will visit one prairie restoration area and one experimental area to discuss issues of landscape-scale management in an agricultural landscape.

© Kathy Henderson
The original native prairies and sedge meadows, which covered approximately 3.1 million acres in Wisconsin prior to European settlement, were largely gone by the early 1900s, along with much of their associated floral and faunal communities.  Currently, there is only 0.5% of this native grassland system remaining in the state, and much of it is in a degraded condition. Because so little grassland is in public ownership in Wisconsin, much of the needed management for grassland plants, vertebrates and invertebrates occurs in landscapes dominated by private ownership and agricultural land uses. The MRPHA incorporates many of the concepts of large-scale grassland management areas for managing grassland birds, and it provides unique opportunities to conduct research and to gauge some of the impacts of landscape-scale management on plants, animals, agriculture and human communities. Field trip fee includes a box lunch.

Stop 1: The Nature Conservancy’s Thomson Memorial Prairie

Portions of this 300+ acre preserve are intact remnant dry prairie. Personnel from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources will discuss the history of grasslands within the region as well as point out prairie species. (Visit the Thomson Memorial Prairie website)

Stop 2: Restoration projects on private land

© Rich Oberle
The Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) fields of three landowners are involved in a wooded fencerow removal project. The aims of the project are to determine the influence of wooded fencerows on predators of grassland bird nests. Grassland bird populations have been declining since the 1960s. These birds nest on the ground and avoid nesting near woody vegetation. Also, many potential nest predators concentrate their activities along edges. Therefore, we are measuring predator activity and bird nest success at several sites for comparison between sites where fencerow vegetation will and will not be removed. Researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison will discuss the local history of grasslands research and details of the current project.

Stop 3: Prairie Enthusiasts restoration project

The Prairie Enthusiasts are working on a prairie restoration west of the fencerow vegetation study. The site contains several prairie plant species, as well as non-native invasive plants that the Prairie Enthusiasts will show us. Management techniques will be discussed.

Arboretum and Capital Springs State Recreation Area Bike Trip
Organizers: Janet Silbernagel and Tom Albright (UW-Madison).
Date: Tuesday, 8 April, 1:00pm - 4:00pm

© Wisconsin DNR photo by Joseph Warren
Madison is located amidst a scenic glacier-hewn landscape and enjoys an excellent network of bicycle paths and routes. This bike trip is a great way to get a taste of both of these aspects of Madison. Starting at Machinery Row Bicycles, a short walk from the Monona Terrace, we’ll follow a 21-mile loop along several bike paths and bike-friendly roads, through urban, suburban, and rural landscapes. While the route is mostly flat, there are a few rolling hills, providing both challenge and reward. Along the way, we’ll pause to introduce riders to the UW Arboretum, which is known for its rich history of
© UW-Madison University Comm. - Jim Miller
ecological restoration – much under pioneering conservationist Aldo Leopold’s direction. Other stops will be made along the Capital City State Trail, which traverses beautiful marshland, creek bottoms, fens, prairie, and pine and oak-hickory forests of the Capital Springs State Recreation Area. Participants should be prepared for cool April weather (average high: 52° F) and be fit enough to maintain a moderate pace (~12 mph), although we may slow down a bit on the hills! Fee covers boxed lunch (eaten before we meet), bicycle, lock, and helmet rental, state trail pass, and support vehicle just in case. If inclement weather causes cancellation, a refund (minus the lunch) will be issued.

The Landscape that Shaped Leopold
Organizers: Stan Temple, Scott Craven, Mark Rickenbach.
Date: Thursday, 10 April, 8:00pm - 5:00pm

© Emily Stanley
Nearby Sauk County has a remarkable concentration of ecologically important features, and it hosts sites of great significance in the field of conservation. Participants in this field trip will visit the landscape that influenced Aldo Leopold and learn about its historical and contemporary significance for conservation. The topographically varied Baraboo Hills–part of Wisconsin’s unglaciated Driftless Area–are one of the largest forested areas in the ecoregion and support a great diversity of plant and animal species.

© Aldo Leopold Foundation
The lower Wisconsin River played a dominant role in the creation of this landscape and is the focal point of a major landscape conservation initiative. Its tributary, the Baraboo River, is now the longest mainstem of a major river returned to free-flowing condition through dam removal. The landscape also includes the riverside home of Aldo Leopold’s “shack” where he wrote A Sand County Almanac and where the Aldo Leopold Foundation now promotes his conservation legacy.

© International Crane Foundation, Baraboo, WI
Nearby, the International Crane Foundation is the world center for conservation of cranes and the wetland habitats on which they depend. The tour will briefly visit the Wisconsin River, the Baraboo River and key locations within the Baraboo Hills. Longer stops will allow for walking tours of the International Crane Foundation and its collection of all the world’s cranes, and the Leopold shack and surrounding Aldo Leopold Memorial Reserve. The tour ends at the recently constructed Aldo Leopold Legacy Center, one of the “greenest” buildings in the country.

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