• Invasive plants and pollination of Alaskan berry species: integrating ecology and education

      Spellman, Katie Villano; Mulder, Christa; Wagner, Diane; McGuire, A. David; Conner, Laura; Carlson, Matthew (2015-05)
      A rapidly changing climate and human disturbance patterns have accelerated the spread of invasive plants species in Alaska. Non-native plant invasions can disrupt pollinator services to native plants and have the potential to impact the pollination and fruit set in berry species important for subsistence harvest. My dissertation aims to address the dual need for greater understanding of the impacts of invasive plants on pollination of berry species in boreal ecosystems and the need for research on education strategies that best prepare Alaskans to respond to the issue. I integrate an ecological field experiment, a citizen science program where data is used to validate phenology models derived from heraium data, and an invasive plants education experiment testing the effects of a metacognitive learning intervention to provide multiple perspectives that inform the management of invasive plants in Alaska. The ecological field experiment found that invasive Melilotus albus acts as a magnet species for pollinators, which increased seed production in Vaccinium vitis-idaea, slightly decreased pollination in Rhododendron groenlandicum, and had no detectable interactions with Vaccinium uliginosum. The impact M. albus had on R. groenlandicum changed with distance from the invasive plant patch, but the impact on V. vitis-idaea did not. Using data from a statewide citizen science program monitoring the phenology of these species, I found that herbarium-based phenology models were valid for assessing relative shifts in phenology of these species across Alaska. Employing the research on M. albus and the berry species as a test case, I found that students who received the metacognitive learning intervention show long-term improvement in metacognitive skills compared to students in the control group, but that the groups did not differ in their ability to apply resilience thinking skills to the environmental problem-solving. I synthesized social-ecological resilience and education research to investigate how citizen science and metacognitive learning could contribute to the capacity of Alaskans to respond to social-ecological change. Together, the ecology and education research presented here provide diverse perspectives on how to best manage and build the human capacity to manage M. albus near subsistence plant species.