Graduate student researches wild rice in Western Michigan

| Author: Hadlee Rinn | Media Contact: Kara Owens

Julia Place, a graduate student studying biology, is researching the southern wild rice species, Zizania aquatica, in Western Michigan. Wild rice is a state-threatened species and Place’s goal is to create a habitat suitability index for the species. Southern wild rice is culturally significant for Native Americans and is ecologically important as a food source, particularly in rivers of the Great Lakes region. Despite its significance, little is known about the species. 

Place will begin assessing the distribution and extent of wild rice and comparing these to environmental factors such as water quality, flow rate, and the nutrients present in the Fall of 2024. Place’s index would inform the community on the impact environmental changes would have on the rice population. The ultimate goal is identifying areas with favorable conditions for wild rice and guiding conservation efforts to preserve and protect these areas. 

As an undergrad at CMU, Place became interested in working with plants and fieldwork after participating in research with the Institute for Great Lakes Research. When deciding on grad school, Place met with Scott McNaught, Ph.D., to discuss her next steps. In this meeting, McNaught discussed his interests, and the wild rice project was mentioned. Place says, “I just wanted to be out in the wetlands. The project kind of fell in my lap and made me excited to work with both federal and state agencies.” 

This story is brought to you by the  Office of Research and Graduate Studies.

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