Student-driven Restoration Research: Learning about ecosystem health through surveys of ant and plant biodiversity on restored cranberry bogs in Plymouth, MA

Biodiversity is in remarkable decline due to human activities, but our restoration knowledge has never been better. Organizations like Living Observatory are doing the important work to restore ecosystems, and to learn from the restoration process. Future practitioners, such as the student researchers in my Ecological Restoration class at Clark University, advance their practical conservation knowledge in the best possible way – by experiencing and contributing to ongoing restoration efforts and meeting the people who do that work. This project was piloted in Fall 2023, and the focus was on the biodiversity of ants and their immediate plant communities on restored bogs.
These results give us insight into how ant communities respond after successful restoration, and can teach us how ants can be used to indicate the health in similar projects. Not only is the information about ants of interest in its own right because insects, including ants, are dramatically declining globally, but we have much to learn about building fully functional ecosystems as we carry forth on the momentum that has been started at properties like Tidmarsh, Eel River, and Foothills.  Rainy weather limited our pilot-year ant collections, but the class was able to establish best-practice methodology and began a species list for Eel River.   
Future projects will continue the pilot work on ant and plant communities on Tidmarsh, Eel River, and Foothills. An example project is to assess ant and plant communities associated with white cedars on these wetlands with different ages and densities of white cedars. 
As part of the work, the student researchers present their results at a Clark University event highlighting student research, and results and data will be available to the Living Observatory community. As the project continues in future years, there is potential for student publications to share the findings with a wider audience.     


Elizabeth Bone


Clark University