I met up with ecologist Roger Latham, PhD at his Pennsylvania home. We talk about the geological and cultural factors that sustained Eastern grasslands and barrens historically, and techniques for their restoration today. Our conversation ranges widely, from Pleistocene megafauna to fire to Native American plant dispersal to serpentine rock and other unique geologies.
I first ran across Roger Latham on a tour of grassland restorations he led about ten years ago. Towards the end of the field trip we stopped at a massive diabase boulder field, cloaked in lichens and rock cap fern, and I still remember being spellbound as Roger broke down the chemical composition of the local geology and soils and correlated them to the plant communities found on this rock type.
Roger has a broad experience of ecology but remains locally rooted and interested in the intersection of geology and botany, publishing work on serpentine barrens, Pocono till barrens, Eastern grasslands and other exceptional habitats. Roger is a strong proponent of ecological restoration and brings both scientific rigor and a great deal of inspiring energy to the restoration of plant communities. His work on grassland, savannah, and shrubland communities in Pennsylvania, entitled Keystone Grasslands, is probably the article I've cited most in the reports, blog entries, and white papers that I've written, as it speaks to the historic extent, composition, and conditions of open, sunny plant habitats that I am drawn to as well. You can find many of Roger's publications at his website at http://www.continentalconservation.us.
This was a really fun and inspiring conversation and I hope you glean some gems from the zone where plants and rocks meet.
All music by Jared Rosenbaum.