While it’s easy to become distracted by charismatic species like towering oaks, brilliantly colored bluebirds, and clown-faced quail, it’s important to not lose sight of the smaller, more modest plants and animals that, while despite being less flashy, still play an integral role in the systems of which they’re a part. One such species is Pectis imberbis, more commonly known as beardless chinchweed. Not only is this unassuming relative of the sunflower easy to miss, it’s also hard to come by. Listed as endangered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, beardless chinchweed is known in the United States only from the Coronado National Memorial, nearby portions of the Coronado National Forest, and the Appleton-Whittell Research Ranch.
This species wasn’t listed under the Endangered Species Act until 2021, and because of this there is little research available to inform its protection. Working to help fill our gaps in knowledge is Mia Brann, another master’s student with Drs. Sara Souther and Karen Haubensak’s Northern Arizona University lab group. During her fellowship-sponsored time on the AWRR, she will be investigating how populations of beardless chinchweed respond to grazing, competition from invasive species, fire, and human disturbance. Given the nature and mission of the Appleton-Whittell Research Ranch, it will come as no surprise that it will serve as Mia’s undisturbed control site.
Inspired by her time working on Maui where she experienced first-hand the amount of biodiversity that stands to be lost if we ignore rare plants, Mia enjoys exploring ecosystems from the perspective of the species often deemed, incorrectly, as insignificant. She believes that it’s from this vantage that we have the best chance of finding solutions to restoration challenges and fully understanding the impact we have on the natural wor