Learning from Nature
Making intelligent, evidence-based decisions for the conservation and restoration of the Arboretum’s landscape requires understanding both past and current environmental conditions and the efficacy of our landscape management practices. The Conservation staff conducts research to evaluate projects and guide future actions. Much of this research focuses on applied ecology, adaptive management, and ecosystem services in the Arboretum’s unique urban-wildland interface.
Current & Past Research
Long-term vegetation surveys
As part of the Master Plan, in 2015 the Conservation team implemented recurring vegetation surveys to evaluate the effects of restoration efforts and guide ongoing vegetation management.
Long-term pollinator and insect monitoring
Conservation team members, interns, and local high school and undergraduate students monitor pollinators and other insects throughout the year in five different habitats. This monitoring provides an indicator of habitat quality and productivity.
Goat grazing impacts
These studies monitor the effects of goat grazing on both native and undesirable vegetation in different habitats to improve vegetation management at the Arboretum.
Prescribed fire response
Following prescribed fires, the Conservation team monitors vegetation to track recovery and identify methods to improve species diversity.
Bat monitoring program
The Arboretum established a bat monitoring program using high-frequency audio recording and echolocation analysis software. The program determines bat species presence and habitat selection within the Arboretum and compares data between seasons and across years.
Wildlife and game camera monitoring program
This ongoing study uses game cameras to document the presence of wildlife species, estimate wildlife population density, and understand wildlife use by habitat type.
Rice University SSPEED Center hydrology study
A hydrologic modelling and in situ soil infiltration study determined the flood retention benefit of natural landscapes found in the Houston Arboretum.
Harris County Precinct 4 Biological Controls Initiative tracked mosquito species and introduced native biological controls like predatory nematode worms and dragonfly nymphs into the Arboretum’s ponds. Harris County Public Health used mosquito data from the Arboretum to detect potential pathogens and disease-carrying animals before they cause outbreaks in the greater Houston region.
Conduct Research at the Arboretum
Interested in conducting research at the Houston Arboretum & Nature Center? Our 155 acres cover multiple habitats found in the greater Texas Gulf Coast Region and offer a range of possibilities for field research in ecology, biology, hydrology, and more. Contact Dr. Stephen Benigno to learn more.