Alternative ecological futures for the American Residential Macrosystem

To opt-in to our study, please read below and answer the question at the bottom of the page.

Project description:  In this project, we are exploring the outcomes of different yard management practices in metropolitan Phoenix.  Our Arizona-based study is a part of a larger project that is comparing residential landscapes in Phoenix, Boston, Baltimore, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Miami, and Los Angeles.
Our research question:

How do soils, plants, and animals differ in different types of residential yards? 

Across the country, most residential suburban landscapes are composed of a mixture of green grass lawns, shrubs, trees, and built structures. More recently, some homeowners have been choosing different types of landscapes, such as gravel-covered xeriscapes that conserve water, or diverse gardens that attract wildlife like birds and bees.  In our research, we will explore how yard management and type affects soil and the composition of plants, birds, and pollinators.  

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Yard sampling description

If you elect to participate in our study, here is what we will do in your yard:

We will visit your yard several times starting in the beginning of March 2017, with a possible visit as late as August of next year (2018). Most of these visits will be brief and to the front and back yard. We will email or call you at least one day before we visit.  You do not need to be home when we are there, but if you are, we would be happy to speak with you about our study.

One of our first tasks will be to identify all the different plant species in your front and back yards. For this task, your yard will be visited by a team of 3-5 people, all of whom will be students or employees of ASU.  We will need access to both your front and back yard for these visits. No plants will be disturbed.
We will also make several visits in March or April to observe birds in your yard and collect insects. Bird counts will be conducted by one ASU employee in the early morning and will take place from the front sidewalk. We will not disturb you during these visits! For the insect collections, one or two ASU students or employees will visit the front yard and bury several small plastic cups in the ground for one day. The cups will be filled with water and dish soap to catch bugs. The cups will be removed after one day and all holes will be filled.

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Cups used for insect collection

<strong>Cups used for insect collection</strong>

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Holes used for insect collecting cups

<strong><span style="font-size: 12pt;">Holes used for insect collecting cups</span></strong>
Later this spring and early summer, we will return to your yard to collect a small amount of soil. This task will involve taking three small soil cores in your yard. Holes will be filled and disturbance will be minimized. Before digging any soil cores, we will Blue Stake the yard, which means that someone from the city will come by and designate where the electrical, gas, and water lines are located using spray paint on the street in front of your house.

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Soil corer being used to take a soil sample

<strong>Soil corer being used to take a soil sample</strong>

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Example of hole left from soil corer. We will fill this hole.

<strong>Example of hole left from soil corer. We will fill this hole.</strong>
We will also install several small plastic “sticks” in your soil to measure soil nutrients (these plastic sticks are 15 cm long).  These sticks will be left in your lawn for three, one-month periods, and then we will remove them. We will minimize the visual impact of these probes as much as possible and they will not impede mowing.

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Soil sticks for measuring soil nutrients.

<strong>Soil sticks for measuring soil nutrients.</strong>
Later this year we may want to visit your yard again for follow-up sampling. If so, we will contact you first to explain what this sampling will entail.

Finally, in the fall, we will contact you one more time for a short discussion about your yard management choices and what you plan to do in the future.

Thank you for reading this information, and we hope that you will participate in our study!

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* Would you like to opt-in to be a part of our research?