On Saturday morning, 10 students from colleges around the country arrived at the 55-acre University of Kentucky Ecological Research Facility on Russell Cave Road to begin the sweaty job of clearing a tangle of unwanted plants.
During a 10-week Suburban Ecology and Invasive Species program funded by the National Science Foundation, students and research scientists will study the effects of humans on ecosystems and document how invasive species take over disturbed land.
An invasive species is a plant that is not native to a region and which, when introduced, grows out of control, crowding out native plants.
The research facility, once farmland and ponds, is now choked with bush honeysuckle and wintercreeper, said biology professor David Westneat, who directed Saturday's work.
Students marked off one plot and began clearing only the honeysuckle. A second plot will be cleared of both honeysuckle and wintercreeper. Future classes will study which native species return on each of the plots. For comparative purposes, invasive species will continue to grow on a third plot.
Westneat said a long-term goal is to restore natural habitats at the research facility.