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The Student News Site of Gannon University since 1947


The Student News Site of Gannon University since 1947


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February 23, 2024

Professor Michael Ganger, Ph.D., publishes study on local state park


Opening in 2004, Erie Bluffs State Park is Pennsylvania’s newest state park. It is home to nearly a mile and a half of Lake Erie shoreline.
It is famous for its 90-foot tall bluffs, steelhead fishery and its now thriving vegetation, thanks to a study led by Michael Ganger, Ph.D., a biology professor at Gannon University.
The research paper, “The Vascular Plant Flora and Plant Communities of Erie Bluffs State Park, Erie County, Pennsylvania,” was based on roughly eight years of work done by Ganger with the help of Ephraim A. Zimmerman, Ph.D., and Steven P. Grund, Ph.D., each a member of the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, as well as James K. Bissell, Ph.D., of the Cleveland Museum of Natural History.
Ganger’s study revealed that there are 555 different species of vascular plants that inhabit the 587-acre state park.  The flora includes species that are both invasive and native to the area
Of the 14 different plant communities that are represented in the inventory, four are exclusive to the Great Lakes Region: Great Lakes Region Scarp Woodland, Great Lakes Bluff Seep, Elm–Ash–Maple Lakeplain Forest and Black Oak Barrens.
Of the species discovered, three were found to be new to the flora of Pennsylvania. This does not necessarily mean that the plants had never been previously found to be natively growing in Pennsylvania, but rather that they had not been established yet.
Now, with the help of this study, Ganger hopes that these species can be officially recognized as part of the flora.

In addition to the three new species discovered, 23 from the study are considered species of concern. The Pennsylvania National Heritage Program, which was formed to gather and provide information on wildlife across Pennsylvania, describes species of concern as those for which there is a conservation concern, which includes rare, threatened and endangered species.

According to Ganger, conservation efforts are already in place that should “promote the growth of native species and reduce the growth of invasives.”
As the largest undeveloped piece of land that remains on the Lake Erie shoreline in Pennsylvania, it is important that the wildlife is preserved and given an environment in which it can flourish.
The Cooney-Jackman Endowed Professorship awarded to Ganger in 2013 by Gannon played a significant role in his research.
Named after two Gannon alumni, Christopher Cooney and Brian Jackman of the class of 1963, the professorship gives recipients “the necessary time and resources to move their significant research forward.”
The latest recipients of the professorship are Davide Piovesan, Ph.D., who will be studying the recovery process involved in aquatic therapy, and Michele Roth-Kauffman, J.D., who will be studying prophylactic therapy in the prevention of plantar warts.
Ganger said that he is most proud of the fact that Erie Bluffs State Park has its own flora now because of his research.
“It is a really interesting park biologically with a lot of unique habitats,” he said.
The Cooney-Jackman Endowed Professorship will hopefully lead to more successful studies like Ganger’s that not only help boost the university’s reputation but make meaningful contributions to their given fields.

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