Biology faculty member Christine Small was recently awarded a $50,000 grant from the USDA Forest Service Southern Research Station to study the impact of harvesting select Appalachian medicinal plants.
Many Appalachian plants are marketed for medicinal properties, yet most are obtained through collection by "wild harvest." The danger of unsustainable extraction of these plants is considerable, says Small.
In 2007, US Forest Service partnered with RU to study experimental harvest effects on black cohosh, an Appalachian medicinal herb known for its benefits for menopausal symptoms. The next phase of the project will study harvest impacts on other Appalachian species. The specific goals of the study are to assess impacts of experimental harvest on native medicinal forest species, develop field methods for efficient and reliable inventory of the products, and evaluate post-harvest recovery.
"A complementary objective is to train young scientists in natural resource conservation and research methodologies," says Small. "Since 2007, we have successfully recruited more than 30 students in this work, many participating in research for the first time," adds Small.