Mountain Longleaf Pine Ecosystems

The Center for Mountain Longleaf Pine Ecosystems (CMPLE) provides an avenue for research and education in the distinctive longleaf pine ecosystem of Northeastern Alabama and Northwestern Georgia. Research and educational activities include plant and animal identification, interpretation and understanding of native plant and animal communities, basic botanical, zoological, and ecological studies, and herbarium curation.

The vision of the Center is to explore, document, and conserve the biodiversity of the distinctive longleaf pine ecosystems of Northeastern Alabama and neighboring regions through student-led research and educational outreach.

Specific Goals:

To identify unique plant communities in the historic longleaf pine ecosystems of Northeastern Alabama and Northwestern Georgia;

To relate plant communities to soil and landform variables;

To inventory the vertebrate and invertebrate species that are dependent on plant communities in the mountain longleaf pine ecosystem; and

To provide Alabama and Georgia students and citizens with educational resources about the ecological significance of the mountain longleaf pine communities via the interactive JSU Herbarium web portal.

Previous project sponsors include the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, National Science Foundation, Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Alabama Ornithological Society, Birmingham Audubon Society, Georgia Botanical Society, and U. S. Forest Service.

Current Projects:
Population status of Bachman’s sparrow in the Coleman lake region of the Talladega National Forest, Alabama. Master’s student Daniel Wright is conducting a project to evaluate the status of Bachman’s sparrow (Aimophila aestivalis) and other grassland dependent species in the Talladega National Forest of northeastern Alabama. The study area includes sites that receive no disturbance and sites that are prescribed burned on a 1 year and 2 year cycles. Birds of interest include the Northern bobwhite (Colinus virginianus), chipping sparrow (Chaetura pelagica), prairie warbler (Dendroica discolor), yellow-breasted chat (Icteria virens), indigo bunting (Passerina cyanea), yellow-throated vireo (Dendroica dominica), summer tanager (Piranga rubra), and Eastern wood peewee (Contopus sordidulus).
Species composition of a frequently burned mountain longleaf pine forest on the Talladega National Forest. Master’s student Daniel Wright is assessing the diversity of plant communities found in sites that are frequently burned as part of the longleaf pine ecosystem restoration projects. His study will highlight the similarities and differences between the longleaf pine ecosystems in Northeastern Alabama and those in the Coastal Plain, and will provide baseline data for ongoing restoration programs.
Plant communities in Oak Mountain, Alabama. Master’s student Tom Warren is conducting a survey of the plant communities of the Oak Mountain State Park, encompassing nearly 10,000 acres in the Ridge and Valley region in Shelby County, Alabama. The park is characterized by a mix of Appalachian and Coastal Plain ecosystems. Baseline information about these communities will provide valuable information for conservation and restoration efforts in the area.
Population status of the American black bear (Ursus americanus) in northeast Alabama. Master’s student David Seals is conducting a study of the American black bear in the Shoal Creek Ranger District of the Talladega National Forest. This study entails long-term monitoring of the bears using non-invasive sampling of genetic evidence such as hair, and will result in recommendations for habitat suitability.
Monitoring of spring migration bird calls on the Shoal Creek Ranger District, Talladega National Forest.  Using wildlife microphones, Dr. Carter and undergraduate students Logan Miller and Andy Parris will record and analyze the night migration calls of birds traveling through the Talladega National Forest.  Software will be used to analyze the audio data to determine which species use the Talladega National Forest as a travel corridor.
Vascular Flora of the Frank Spain Scout Reservation in Cleburne County. Master’s student Kevin McDonald is documenting the botanical diversity in the plant communities of the Frank Spain Scout Reservation. This project will result in a guide to the plant diversity and an extensive collection of specimens that will be housed in the JSU Herbarium. McDonald is also collecting data that will be used to assist future management decisions and educational outreach programs.
A phylogenetic and phytochemical analysis of the medicinal plant Polygonatum biflorum. Master’s student Jayne Lampley is exploring the taxonomy and genetics of Solomon’s seal (Polygonatum), a common wildflower in Northeastern Alabama and the Southeastern US, with several related species and a complex genetic history involving chromosome doubling (polyploidy). She is using an analysis of DNA and phytochemistry to shed light on the evolutionary history and potential medicinal properties of these plants.
The phylogeny of cane bamboos in central Alabama. Dr. Triplett and students are investigating the taxonomy and population genetics of the native bamboos in Alabama, which includes three species (river cane, switch cane, and hill cane) and their hybrids (some of which are widely distributed in the region). The cane bamboos are ecologically important but a taxonomically difficult group of forest grasses. This project is evaluating the current biodiversity in the context of the genetic and geographic history of the plants.
Biodiversity Survey of the Calhoun County Career Technical Institute Woods. Jacksonville State University students and professors are involved in an ongoing survey of the plant and animal diversity of a wooded area on the grounds of the Calhoun County Career Technical Center. This project is providing educational resources and hands-on opportunities for students and teachers in area schools.
Educational resources about plant communities in Northeastern Alabama. The JSU Herbarium is currently leading several initiatives to develop educational tools to assist students learning about the plant communities in our area, including field guides and plant community descriptions. These tools are being produced by JSU undergraduate and graduate students on directed studies projects and will be available to the public through the JSU web portal.
The Renovation and Digitization of the JSU Herbarium. The herbarium of Jacksonville State University consists of more than 75,000 specimens of regional plants, making it one of the largest and most diverse botanical collections in Alabama. A new initiative sponsored by the National Science Foundation is helping to fully modernizing access and educational outreach. A key goal of the three-year NSF project is the curation and computerization of the entire JSU Herbarium collection.