IALC Peace Fellowship Report
South Dakota State University
Predicting Seed Bank Germination in Semiarid Rangelands
Through a Peace Fellowship Project sponsored by the International Arid
Lands Consortium (IALC), I received the opportunity to participate in
part of a two-year long experiment in the country of Israel. I along with
Jon Minor, another student taking part in the same project, worked under
the direction of Dr. Jaime Kigel during the month of June predicting seed
bank germination in semiarid rangelands under grazing. I spent a total
of twenty-eight days abroad. During this time I toured in three countries
and spent 14 days working in my research area.
The research project I worked under is aimed at studying the relationships
between the seed bank and the resultant annual vegetation. A variety of
areas are taken into account when measuring the vegetation, such as the
amount of grazing on the land and seasonal and interannual variation in
climatic conditions. The research also includes the study of patterns
in seed bank dormancy loss and germination in response to temperature
and rainfall variation. The outcome of the research will provide suggestions
for better management of the arid rangelands and help us better understand
the changing global climate.
Jon and I were stationed in Rehovot at the Faculty of Agriculture, a
branch of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. I spent much of my researching
time actually on the campus. The month of June is the warmest and driest
month of the year in Israel; therefore, the studies out in the field were
slowed due to unbearable heat and lack of rainfall. I did, however, experience
the honor of working in a brand new facility called the Phytotron. The
Phytotron is a multi-million dollar project built to aid in agricultural
research and teaching on the college campus.
The building is split into separate compartments. There are four different
rooms with glass walls to allow sunlight in. The temperature and humidity
in each of the four chambers is regulated by a series of controls on a
control panel found in yet another room. The room that holds the control
panel also serves as a research work area with a study table, a counter
top and sink, and cupboards for book storage. This area is one in which
I spent many hours.
In order to introduce new plant species into the arid lands, research
is first conducted to see what species will likely survive the arid conditions.
The Phytotron serves this exact purpose. Jon and I spent time recording
species data, and propagating seeds. We placed the seedlings in the room
with a cool temperature and low humidity. The seedlings remain in this
room until they germinate, upon which time they are moved into the next
room having a higher temperature and humidity. As the plant continues
to grow, it is eventually exposed to the room that contains climate conditions
of the region in which the plant is expected to survive. Jon and I together
planted over 100 different plant species in about 900 small pots.
Eventually the plants that survive the Phytotron are moved to greenhouses
contained in a university research area located an hour south of Rehovot
near the Gaza Strip. The results of our efforts are still being researched
in the present time. The species that survive the experiment may consequently
be implemented into experimentation in the field. Seeds that survive could
consequently be used as vegetation for animals or used to preserve the
Along with conducting research I also spent time with Dr. Kigel touring
different facets of Israel's agricultural areas. Dr. Kigel guided Jon
and I through numerous greenhouses where either experimentation is conducted
or plants such as flowers, tomatoes, and peppers are grown for commercial
sale. An outstanding percentage of Israel's fresh produce is grown in
greenhouses where plants can be protected from the hot sun and irrigation
can be regulated closely. As we drove throughout Israel I witnessed Bedouins
herding camels and sheep, orchards of oranges and other fruits, and a
manmade forest. This forest is between 15-20 years old, but appears to
be only about three to five years old. The trees grow very slowly due
to the lack of moisture and high temperatures. Dr. Kigel told me many
of the trees would be lucky to survive the summer because 1999 had been
the hottest and driest in over 30 years.
Overall, during my time spent working I gained a fond knowledge of not
only my research project, but also agriculture in Israel as a whole. I
now can compare what I do on our farm in South Dakota to how things are
done in a foreign country. The knowledge I gained by partaking in my research
project is only part of what I gained on my trip. As I shared in the beginning
I spent 14 days of my 28-day trip working on my project. I spent the other
14 days traveling in Israel, Egypt, and France experiencing new cultures
and touring the sights.
On our way to Israel, Jon and I had a three-day layover in Paris, France.
This included my first taste of life in a foreign country overseas. As
we toured places such as the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, Notre Dame, and
many more historical sights, I gained an appreciation for French history.
Once Jon and I arrived in Israel, Dr. Kigel encouraged us to travel, experience
the culture, and get to know the people of his country. We spent time
touring the city of Jerusalem, the Dead Sea at Ein Gedi, Masada, the Negev
Desert, and a Natural Reserve in the north part of Israel. We also spent
a few days in the port cities of Tel Aviv, Akko, Haifa, and Eilat. During
our touring we crossed the border into Egypt, the third country we visited,
just south of Eilat at a place called Taba and caught a cab. The cabby
drove us an hour south along the shoreline of the Red Sea to a town called
Nuwieba where we relaxed and went snorkeling among some of the world's
most beautiful coral reefs.
In conclusion, the experience I took part in during the month of June
in 1999 is one that will never be forgotten. By being a participant in
the Peace Fellowship Program through the International Arid Lands Consortium,
I have gained an indepth understanding of agriculture in Israel, as well
as an appreciation for the area both spiritually and culturally. Israel
is a land where the people are as diverse as the landscape. At one point
I stood in the middle of Tel-Aviv among bustling business people, and
at another point I was in the middle of the desert where Bedouins roam
the land, just as at one point I drove through a natural reserve filled
with all kinds of vegetation and greens, and then on another day I found
myself standing on top of the Masada without a fragment of vegetation
in sight. The IALC has provided me with an experience that has not only
impacted my life, but one that will be a valuable asset as I continue
my college education and seek out a successful career.
I thank the IALC for making my experience possible by providing me with
the scholarship that allowed me to participate in the Peace Fellowship
Program. The program is one that should be taken advantage of by anyone
who is interested in research, agriculture, and culture in a foreign land.
I will treasure my Peace Fellowship trip for the rest of my life and share
my experiences with anyone who is willing to listen.
[edited for the Web by Elaine Cubbins]