We studied the effects of site preparation treatment, knapweed removal, and prescribed fire on plant community development in a restored prairie. As part of this study, plants needed to be identified to species in order to perform Floristic Quality Assessments. At times, identification can be difficult using traditional keys because of subtle differences among species. We selected 19 plants that had uncertain identifications to conduct a genetic barcoding study to help identify these specimens to species. Chloroplast DNA was extracted from these samples, amplified to sequence the rbcL+matK plastid coding regions, and the gene sequences were compared to those of species within the public Barcode of Life Database. Of the specimens sequenced to date, the genera found included Lespedeza, Panicum, and Elymus. While the study is not yet fully completed, our preliminary results showed that DNA sequencing facilitated plant identification to genus. Compared to traditional taxonomic keys, however, it may be more time consuming and a large degree of uncertainty remains when trying to identify plants to species using the available information in the public database.
Faculty Mentor: Neil MacDonald, Biology