Dr. Michael A. Vincent

Bluebells blanket the forest floor
Bluebells blanket the forest floor

Herbarium Curator and Botany Instructor

"The loss of a single species can have a cascading effect on the environment."

I started when I was five and have a deep abiding interest in plants. My teachers fostered my interest; primarily my Father and an aunt and the personnel in my library that allowed me to dump out the plants, get their tables dirty while I identified my finding. This was a critical thing for my learning.

Some students will end up in jobs where they need to identify plants and I want to give them the tools to do so. Also, when students become interested in plants they become interested in the environment. If they can see that the out of doors is interesting and exciting they will be more interested in what happens to the earth.

I use the Natural Areas primarily for teaching how to identify trees, shrubs, wildflowers and fungi, especially Silvoor, Marcum, Western and Brown Glover. Because the Natural Areas is a natural setting vs. campus, it is a great way to show diversity.

While the Natural Areas have been disturbed from their original state, they are still good representatives of what was there formerly. We can still see beech, maple, oak and hickory forests. We can see a diversity of plants that are native and can also see non-native species invading the Natural Areas. I can point out the changes to my students and explain why this is happening. It is like having our own natural laboratory.

The loss of a single species can have a cascading affect on the environment. There use to be a butterfly in our area called the spice-tailed swallowtail. As non-native shrubs like Amur honeysuckle invaded the areas, the spicebush, that the butterflies fed upon disappeared, and so did the butterfly.

Today, we see another species, the White Ash, being attacked by the emerald ash borer, imported from China. This will have a significant impact on our forests and we can’t predict the outcome at this time. We don’t know what will replace this tree in our forests. We might have more shrubs or invasive species.

I feel it is part of the responsibility of the University to teach good practices with regard to how people interact with their environment. As citizens, we have to have an understanding of how important our environment is in order to protect it. It’s critical for our survival.