For my research project, I will be working with the plant known commonly as Japanese stiltgrass, or Microstegium vimineum. I chose to study this plant because it is an invasive species from Asia found in multiple states in the United State and is threatening the understory of forest edges as well as inside forests. The working title of my research is the “Characterization and determination of the aggressive growth patterns of Japanese Stiltgrass, Microstegium vimineum, using quantifiable time-lapse photography methodology.” I want to study the invasive nature of Japanese stiltgrass in the laboratory to understand and observe how invasive it is and to record the invasion using time-lapse photography. I want to use time-lapse photography to quantify how fast Japanese stiltgrass grows as well as how long it takes for it to outcompete another species. For my experiments, I will be using Arabidopsis thaliana, wildtype-Columbia as the “native” species to observe how Japanese stiltgrass invades the space of another species.
The objective of this project is to better understand the growth and development of Japanese stiltgrass and to examine the behavioral aspect, or the movement, of Japanese stiltgrass during invasion. To achieve the objective, I will grow Japanese stiltgrass in the lab to determine at what developmental stage and with what mechanism Japanese stiltgrass uses to hamper, strangle, and choke out the growth of native plants. This will be done by performing time-lapse competition studies and using the new App, Plant Tracer, to quantify and compare the growth rate of Japanese stiltgrass vs. target species (native species). This project will take another step toward managing Japanese stiltgrass and other invasive species. It will help scientists and conservationists understand the impacts (the good and the bad) that Japanese stiltgrass has on the environment and the “behavior” of the invasive grass to better learn how to properly manage it.