August 24th 2015 – Rebecca Barak, Northwestern University/Chicago Botanic Garden

I am a PhD candidate in Plant Biology and Conservation at Northwestern University and Chicago Botanic Garden in Illinois, USA.  I study restoration ecology, the science of rehabilitating degraded ecosystems. In particular, I study plant community ecology in the tallgrass prairie. The prairie – native grassland dotted with colorful wildflowers – once covered the Midwestern United States. Restored prairies are built to regain habitat lost to farming, but they aren’t as diverse as remnant prairies, they have fewer coexisting plant species. Diverse prairies are more functional, supporting more wildlife and fewer weeds. What makes restored prairies diverse? To answer this question, I study the effects of management, like seed mixes and prescribed fire, on multiple measures of plant biodiversity, including phylogenetic and functional diversity. I also study seed biology to learn which seed traits may impact establishment of planted species in restored habitats. I work in the field, greenhouse and lab to better understand the connections between restoration decisions and plant biodiversity.

For my week on Biotweeps I’ll be tweeting about PLANTS!!! I’ll also tweet about restoration ecology, the prairie ecosystem, seed biology, citizen science, and highlights from summer field research in restored prairies in and around Chicago. You can find me on twitter (@BeckSamBar) or at my website (


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