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Park Trust awards grant for post-fire tree regeneration research

Ellen Frondorf, a graduate student at Bemidji State University in Bemidji, Minnesota, has been awarded the 2017 Shenandoah National Park Research Grant for a project that will examine the regeneration of pine and oak trees years after fires of low and moderate intensity.

Her project is called “Assessing Post-Fire Oak and Pine Regeneration Across a Burn Severity Gradient” in Shenandoah National Park.

Sally Hurlbert, public information officer for the park, explained what Frondorf will be doing during her time in the park.

“She’s going to go into those burned areas and we have maps of the severity levels of the burns within those areas,” Hurlbert said. “She’s going to be comparing low intensity burns to see what kind of pine and oak regeneration has occurred since that fire has happened. Then she’ll look at moderate severity burn areas and severe burn areas to see what’s been going in the last 15 years.”

Frondorf’s research will begin in 2017. She will receive 75 percent of the $15,000 grant up front at the remaining 25 percent once her findings have been presented to Shenandoah National Park.

“It will be funding her and a field assistant. They’ll be in the park around 16 weeks,” Hurlbert said. “When they’re in the park, we have a research station called the Pinnacles Research Station, and that building was recently restored by the Shenandoah National Park Trust. They (the trust) have been very helpful for us not just by providing them the money to do the research but also with a place to stay.”

Frondorf is the third recipient of the award since its inception in 2015. The past two recipients, one a professor from James Madison University and the other a Harvard associate, have conducted their research on bees and flies in the park and the effect of water acidification on fish diversity in the park’s streams.

Hurlbert explained that the research conducted by grant recipients can be very helpful in managing the 105-mile long park.

“The whole point is to help us with our management of the park – whether it be our insects, our plants, our animals and so, in order to be good managers, we have to have good science,” she said. “That’s why the trust is helping us promote good science in the park by promoting these research grants. We do use information from their research to help us make decisions as far as management of the park.”

Contact staff writer Nathan Budryk at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or nbudryk@nvdaily.com.