CHEBOYGAN, Mich.—The diesel-powered harvester roars as ecologist Shane Lishawa crashes through dense, 7-foot-tall cattails toward an experimental plot established in the marsh in 2011.

"It's now four years later, and we still have a persistently more diverse community," said Lishawa, pointing to various native grasses, sedges and rushes that have sprung up in the test plot still dominated by an invasive hybrid cattail.

"None of these were here prior to harvesting the cattails," said Lishawa, a 2001 University of Michigan graduate who is now a research associate at Loyola University Chicago.

The insights gained from the early test plots are being applied this summer on a much larger scale. Lishawa is part of a team, based at the U-M Biological Station in Pellston, Mich., using a $500,000 federal grant to test a novel approach for restoring the biological diversity of Great Lakes coastal wetlands like Cheboygan Marsh, alongside Lake Huron at the northern tip of Michigan's Lower Peninsula.

Team member Knute Nadelhoffer, director of the U-M Biological Station, said the cattail project is a great example of how insights gained through station-based field studies are applied to real-world problems.

"At the Biostation we are very outward-looking, and we're constantly striving to understand the world we all share and to use that knowledge for the public's benefit," said Nadelhoffer, who is also a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology. "That's a big part of our mission."

Read the full Michigan News press release