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Science and Research

At Bernheim Forest we continue to seek the input and research of scientists in applying ecology to our management and investigating the status of our biodiversity. These researchers come from many areas, including federal, state, university, non-profit, students, and citizen scientists. By utilizing a diverse group of research­ers from a spectrum of disciplines, we are facilitating the development of knowledge across a spectrum and fostering partnerships.

Bernheim Forest has a traditon of research dating back to the 1930 with the first reintroductions of white-tailed deer. Much of our early efforts centered around observational data, and these practices continue today in a fine balance between observation, interpretation, management, and monitoring. In May, 1951, Mr. Frank Bunce, Manager of Bernheim Forest, suggested to the Kentucky Society of Natural History that it as­sume the responsibility of making a natural history survey of the Forest. The survey proposed by Mr. Bunce offered unlimited possibilities for field work in many phases of nature study and provided a challenge to the organization to contribute to the knowledge of the natural history of central Kentucky. This began a long history of actively seeking researchers to assist in understanding our ecosystem and applying our findings in management.

Bernheim Ongoing Research Projects:

Snail Diversity of Bernheim Forest, Lori and Jeff Schroeder, Dr. Harry Lee
The purpose of this study is to document species of land snails found within the 14,378 acre facility.  Historically, Kentucky has seen little interest in documenting land snails. To date 69 species have been identified from Bernheim Forest, an exceptional number that currently ranks Bernheim as the 2nd most diverse snail region in Kentucky. Bernheim Landsnail Inventory Bernheim Forest Microsnail Campaign 

Ice storm damage to upland oak-hickory forest at Bernheim Forest. Kelly Vowels. Bernheim Forest Research Biologist.

Wildlife Camera Trapping, Bernheim Staff.
Ongoing efforts to monitor wildlife populations using the non-intrusive method camera trapping. Remote cameras record wildlife visitors and allow us a better understanding of wildlife behavior and abundance.

Water Quality Monitoring. Bullitt Advanced Math and Science Center.
Ongoing efforts by the students at Bullitt Advanced Math and Science Center have shed light on the water quality of the the headwater streams within Bernheim Forest. Annual monitoring by the students has demonstrated that the headwater streams found within Bernheim Forest are of exceptional quality, while other streams at lower elevations are in need remediation.

Harrison Fork Creek Habitat Restoration Project. Bernheim Forest, University of Louisville Stream Institute
Approximately 2/3 of a mile of Harrison Fork Creek would be moved from against the knob to a new meandering course in restored riparian/old field habitat of the field.   This restoration site is just a few hundred yards east of the confluence with the restored Wilson Creek. The restored habitat and new meandering creek would slow typical water flow while allowing flood waters to run across the valley habitat, thus reducing sediment and chemical loads in these waters.   The Wilson Creek habitat restoration from 2005 and the Harrison Fork project are designed to reduce sediment and chemical loads in the Salt River and consequently the Ohio and Mississippi rivers, leading to the Gulf of Mexico. We hope this will be a model stream restoration project, resulting in improved habitat, vastly increased biological diversity, as well as, a truly unique outdoor education resource due to its proximity to the Wilson Creek restoration site which will differ in age and development by approximately 10 years.

Rare/Endangered Species Monitoring, Bernheim Staff, Ongoing

Individual specialization in a group of ecologically related frogs in Kentucky. Carl Cloyed and Perci Eason. University of Louisville.
Animals can be divided into specialist and generalist species in their diets, with specialist species eating a relatively small number of food types or prey, and generalists eating a wide range of foods.  Recently, some work has suggested that although a generalist species has a wide diet, individuals within that species may not.  Instead, individuals may specialize, with different individuals specializing differently, causing the species as a whole to have a broad diet. (Bolnick et al. 2003).  This idea has important consequences for ecology because such specialization might be a means of reducing competition among species where diets might otherwise overlap.

The specific purpose of this study is to look for individual specialization in five frog species: Rana clamitans, R. catesbiana, Pseudacris crucifer, P. feriarum, and Hyla chrysoscelis. All of these frogs are known as generalist species.  I plan to test the idea that these species are composed of not of generalist individuals, but instead of individuals that specialize on different prey. The data I gather will also allow me to learn the diets of these species in Kentucky, and to assess the abundances of them and their prey at Bernheim.

Reptile and Amphibian Monitoring. Joe Chihan.
Joe Chihan has been monitoring the emergence and breeding of Bernheim’s amphibian populations for the past decade. His work has accumulated a wealth of data that sheds light on the timing and intensity of slamander, frog, and toad breeding.

Gathering Baseline Herpetological Data. Will Bird and Phil Peak.
Many reptile and amphibian records in the database are old and new records are needed to confirm which species are still present. Yearly reports are submitted detailing the years findings and updates to the species list.Bernheim Forest Herp Survey Report

An Investigation into the Possible Effect of Whiskey Fungus Staining on Moth Polymorphism. Susan Reigler, Department of Biology, Indiana University Southeast
Ethanol evaporating from bourbon warehouses where whiskey is aging stimulates the growth of a microscopic fungus (Baudoinia compniacensis) on the trunks of trees in nearby woodlands, blackening their surfaces. Tree trunks are resting sites for the Half-Wing moth (Phigalia titea) which, in addition to its typical pale color form, also occurs as a dark, melanic form in between 15 and 20 per cent of its population. This study examines whether the change in the cryptic background color of the tree trunks from light to dark results in a change in the proportion of melanic moths in the Half-Wing populations in the woodlands near bourbon warehouses by comparing moths collected where the whiskey fungus grows and where it does not.

Molecular systematic studies on speciation and hybridization in the stemless blue violets (Viola, subsect. Borealiamericanae). Harvey Ballard. University of Ohio.
The purpose of these investigations are to provide the first comprehensive molecular systematic study of the diverse and highly confusing stemless blue violets, using a range of nuclear and chloroplast DNA sequence data and microsatellite variability. These results will be coupled with extensive morphometric analysis on many population samples of all taxa and all apparent hybrids and hybrid swarms. The ultimate goal, over probably a decade, will be a complete taxonomic revision of the taxa in the group and an expose on evolutionary processes which have led to both species diversification and reticulation (=hybridization and post-hybrid processes). This one-time visit will provide me a population sample of each stemless blue violet, including Viola egglestonii, present on the tract, in the immediate term to garner sequences of several nuclear genes and chloroplast regions to construct an initial phylogenetic framework for the whole group. Later, upon larger external funding, the population sample will be examined using nuclear and chloroplast microsatellite markers as well, to detect potential hybrid-related processes and evaluate rangewide genetic diversity.

Fire Effects Monitoring