By Julie Buckles, Site/Lines, a publication of the Foundation for Landscape Studies
I’m standing in a northern Wisconsin forest with botanist Sarah Johnson, an associate professor of natural resources and biology at Northland College, where I work. She has been checking text messages from her student researchers, who are working on Outer Island—one of the twenty-two Apostle Islands on Lake Superior that are located roughly thirty miles from where we stand. The wind has picked up and the National Park Service boat may not be able to get to them tonight. “I tell them to pack extra clothes and food, just in case,” she says.
Johnson is one of the hardest-working professors I know. She teaches September through May; then, in summer, she’s out in the field. She and her students chiefly focus on the islands, conducting plant and field studies. Johnson is particularly interested in the effects of deer on the forest understory. The islands offer a unique view of a northern forest with little deer pressure.
Johnson is walking in the woods with me on a Friday afternoon in June for two reasons. First, because I asked her if she would show me the impacts of high-density “deer browse” on the landscape. Second, because further down this road is a thirty-acre, fenced “exclosure,” built to keep deer out. County foresters want to see the difference between deer and no deer on a new forest. Johnson is interested in scouting the exclosure as a teaching tool for her students in the fall. Exclosures permit the scientific community to study the impacts of deer and to preserve plant species. They are also becoming a necessity among foresters and timber-industry professionals for tree regeneration. To read the article.