Recap: Field Site Discussion
For the first bit of class on Tuesday we discussed our thoughts on the field sites we visited last week. The two most popular field sites appear to be the Experimental Ecosystem and the Student Farm. The Experimental Ecosystem was favored because of its large size and its potential to conduct many different types of experiments. The ponds in the eastern edge provide an aquatic system and there are a variety of restored grasslands to work with. The Student Farm was favored because of the many different types of experiments that could be conducted there. The Student Farm is essentially a blank slate and much closer to campus that the Experimental Ecosystem site. This Student Farm could be good if we are working with cattle tanks or plots where we are controlling most, if not all of the variables because we could change the terrain to suit our needs. However, there is a concern that disturbance could be an issue at this site.
Following up with the clam die-off at Putah Creek, Kyle determined that the clams we saw were in the Sphaeriidae family. In considering Putah Creek as a potential field site, it seems that disturbance could be a very serious problem. However, there was interest in examining aquatic nutrient pulses along the creek or looking at how mistletoe affects tree growth/health, insects and birds.
It is important to consider that when selecting a field site, we must consider what questions are suitable to each site and what study organisms we will be able to use at each site.
Recap: Discussion of Ideas
These are the main idea we discussed on Tuesday, they are summarized below.
There was general interest in learning more about mistletoe and its place in an ecosystem. Examining how mistletoe affects tree growth and how it affects leaf litter composition beneath trees. There was interest in looking at how mistletoe affects insect communities in an ecosystem or how it provides nutrients to the surrounding environment. Including birds in the mistletoe-insect dynamic was suggested. Austin suggested examining how nutrient concentrations in trees shift with the presence or absence of mistletoe in different parts of the tree. Further research needs to be done about mistletoe and what research has been done previously.
One idea that came up on Tuesday was to examine pollinator preferences at the Student Farm. Plots providing different foraging options for pollinators could be set up and foraging decisions could be monitored. Some important key words that came from this idea were optimal foraging and risk sensitive foraging.
Squirrels and Urbanization
Another idea suggested was to examine how squirrels react to characteristics of an urban environment, like cars, predators or disturbance from people. Main points of this idea involve behavioral syndromes and road ecology.
Arthropods and Leaf Litter
Kyle proposed examining how different substrates affect the composition on insect communities. This experiment could be set up in cattle tanks. Insect community abundance and beta diversity could be measured along with possibly succession over time. He suggested using a native substrate and a non-native substrate. In response to this idea Louie suggested instead of changing the substrate to vary the insect communities. For example, adding spiders to some plots but not to others and examining the trophic responses. It was also suggested that varying the amount of water added to each plot could be interesting or prove to be a complicated variable.
Ivana was interested in looking at how spiders use their different habitats. She suggested manipulating brush density to see what certain spiders prefer. She was also interested in looking at how terrestrial spiders and semi-aquatic spiders use their habitat and their potentially different resources. Austin was also interested in this, suggesting we examine how spiders in diverse and non-diverse environments adapt to different resource availability, specifically prey choice.
Another idea regarding spiders was to examine signaling behavior (visual and vibratory) in different species of spiders. This would involve interrupting spider signaling behavior and observing what happens.
Yet another spider idea involved creating a hunting arena and looking at the hunting height preferences and sunlight preferences of jumping spiders.
Native and Non-native Grasslands
Robyn suggested looking at how different ages of native grasslands respond to invasions by non-native species or by native and non-native insect herbivores.
There were a couple thoughts on galls and a lot of enthusiasm. Will mentioned how he was breaking open galls and seeing spiders and beetles inside. This led him to wonder what effects they might have on insect community composition. He suggested finding small oak trees and removing the galls from some or adding galls to some and measuring the insect diversity or sampling the leaves for insect herbivore damage. Since galls take at least 1 year to develop, we would have to work with old galls. There was interest in exploring if galls have a cost to the tree in which they are present, or if they protect a tree from herbivory because of the beetles and spiders present in old galls. Will was interested in linking insect arrival/colonization of a tree to the presence of old galls and their inhabitants.
Melissa noticed a lot of mites at the Student Farm. She was interested in looking at the affects they have on plants and the extent of the damage a plant must sustain before it is unable to reproduce or survive. This opened up a discussion about patch size and meta-population dynamics between plant-eating mites and predaceous ones. However, work on mites involves a lot of microscope work.
Melissa suggested looking at colonization rates of mushrooms in animal dung. Dung is definitely very available, and could be very interesting to work with. More research is needed regarding this idea.
Recap: Discussion of Week 1 Readings
The class, led by Melissa, discussed the readings from the first week. Discussions from the Bartholomew 1982 paper emphasized the need for creativity in the sciences. It also stressed the importance of allowing results to lead your further investigations. Kyle read the first chapter of the revised How to do Ecology by Karban and Huntzinger. He mentioned the miniature pilot experiments that they suggested doing leading the group to decide that we should conduct pilot studies before deciding on a final project. These reading discussions led the group to develop a list of three goals we want our final project to have:
- Strong question
Further discussion of the past experiments conducted by EVE 180 students stressed the importance of taking advantage of the large amount of manpower we have that can allow us to conduct experiments that others may not be able to. We should be ambitious in our project ideas, but keep them feasible, avoid adding in extra components haphazardly and getting lost in the complexity of large experiments.
On Tuesday we created a list of key ideas, potential organisms, authors and journals that we wanted to explore. These represent our preliminary interests and ideas for projects. Everyone should do some research on a few of these ideas so we can discuss them on Thursday.
1. Mites and Metapopulation
2. Dung Ecology
4. Oak, walnut, eucalyptus, grass, litter/ Leaf litter composition/ trophic interactions/ ecology/ diversity/Allelopathy (Refers to chemicals in plants that have detrimental effects on heterospecifics)
5.Gall colonization/ Secondary Users/ Inquilines/Indirect interactions/ defenses (gall and mistletoe related)
6.Visual Attraction/ Interference of Jumping Spiders, Funnel-Weaver Spider/ Vibration Interference of Trap door spiders/ Behavioral interference
7.Road Ecology/Habitat fragmentation/Modified behavior based on disturbance
8. Behavioral Syndromes/Risk Sensitive Foraging/ Optimal Foraging/ Individual diet variation
Carabid Beetles(Tiger beetles)/ Predaceous Ground Beetles
Pacific Chorus Frod
Western Fence Lizard
Western Pond Turtles
Red Eared Sliders
Box Elder bugs
Spiders -Oswald Schmitz
Corvids and Urban Ecology Andrea Townsend
Behavior- Andy Sih
Jumping Spiders-Damian Elias
Lizard Behavior- Judy Stamps
Butterfly- James Fordyce
Trends in Ecology and Evolution
Finally, here is the agenda for Thursday. If you can bring your computer, it might be useful if we need to quickly look something up on Google Scholar or Web of Science.
900-1100: Discussion of preliminary research, add to keyword list, concept mapping etc.
1110-1130: Finalize, randomize keyword list and assign research topics
1130-1150: Recap and ideas for next week