Friday, January 28, 2011

Paper titles

Working on my literature review, it always brings a much needed smile to my face to really connect with an author through their title. Paper after paper of explicit, sometimes long-winded titles stating the subject, location and effect can get boring and repetitive, but one with a good hook really stays with you. I've collected a few over the past two quarters that I will share.

Berenbaum and Lekowsky. 1992. Life history strategies and population biology in science fiction films. Ecological Society of America. v 73(4) p 236-240.
Hey, I like sci-fi!
Cane et al. 2000. Sampling bees for pollinator community studies: pitfalls of pan-trapping. Journal of the Kansas Entomological Society. v 73(4) p 225-231.
Using one sampling method as a pun for the other. Nice one, Jim!
Logan and Powell. 2001. Ghost forests, global warming, and the mountain pine beetle (Coleoptera: Scolytidae). American Entomologist. v 47(3) p 160-173.
This one only works after you read the paper. Ghost forests are exactly what we are going to be left with in the American West.
Roark. 1947. Some promising insecticidal plants. Scientific Monthly. v 64(117) p 437-445.
Mr. Roark, your brevity is hilariously unenthusiastic. I hope you kept it coming.
Stamp. 2003. Out of the quagmire of plant defense hypotheses. The Quarterly Review of Biology. v 78(1) p 23-55.
Ms. Stamp really captures the essence of frustratingly parsing through hypotheses and writing a literature review.
Trewavas. 1999. Much food, many problems. Nature. v 402 p 231-232.
This came out 2 years after Notorious B.I.G.'s hit "Mo Money Mo Problems" went to the top of the US Billboard.
Nentwig. 1993. SPIDER VENOMS ARE NOT SUITABLE INSECTICIDES. Toxicon. v 31(3) p 233-234.
I found this reference in all caps, and thought it came across with a tone of extreme importance and dire consequences that left me chuckling, especially because it's only 2 pages. OK Nentwig, OK!
Lavandero et al. 2006. Increasing floral diversity for selective enhancement of biological control agents: a double-edge sward? Basic and Applied Ecology. v 7 p 236-243.
This one is, and has been my favorite for a long time. Introduces conflict with a good pun involving popular grasses used in conservation plantings.
Phillips et al 20??. Smashing pumpkins: using floral strips and native bees to economically pollinate really, really good-looking Cucurbita pepo
...Needs work, but I've got a couple of years to come up a with a real zinger.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Giant bees attack Cleveland!

Well not really, its just Scott Prajzner planning his summer research. He will be placing bumble bee hives in the backyards of Ohio residents along an urban to rural transect extending from Cleveland south into rural Wayne County. He is currently trying to decide on where to place the hives. We want to make sure that the foraging ranges of the bees from each hive do not overlap, so Scott created disks that represent the size of the bees foraging range (about 3 km) that he can place on a map of his research area.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Beetle Intercepted at the port of San Diego

We talk about invasive species often here...MALB, buckthorn, Soybean aphid, and they make it into the mainstream media as well.

Recently, a exotic beetle was intercepted at the Port of San Diego by customs agents. This beetle, Gymnetis Pantherina, has been known to feed upon more than 300 types of crops.

The larvae of this beetle destroys the roots systems of plants which has a large impact on the growth and yield of the plants.

After the discovery of this insect, the shipper was given the option to either treat the bananas to kill any insects, or send the shipment back. In this case the shipper decided to treat the bananas.

This is how many of our current invasive species have made their way into the United States. Hopefully customs gets better at intercepting exotic insects before they can hop off the boat into our fields and ecosystems.

Friday, January 21, 2011


In my recitation for Biology 101 for non-majors this quarter I have been using a lot of youtube videos to demonstrate some of the concepts raised in lecture. For example, one of the key signs of life is that a living organism maintains an internal constancy, known as homeostasis, to efficiently utilize its energy. Some animal behavior associated with this are reptiles sunning to warm up, and dogs panting to cool down and humans using layers of clothing.

In class I used a specific example from Japan, where an enormous hornet, known as the Asian Giant Hornet (Vespa mandarinia), is a native pest of honeybee colonies. The queen hornet starts a colony from scratch and feeds her young with large insects that she kills and carries back to the hive. She, and other adults cannot digest protein. Once fed, the larvae secrete a juice that is high in amino acids and energy, which the adults drink to continue hunting.
When the hive has enough adults, they start pillaging the hives of other species of bees and wasps for their nutritious eggs and larvae. Scout hornets investigate hives and leave a scent marker that tells the rest of the clan that this hive is worth ransacking. Introduced European honeybee hives are susceptible to these hornets because they cannot detect the danger of the visiting scout hornet, as seen in this video.
However, native Japanese honeybees have developed a defense to the hornets where they swarm the scout before it can alert its attack squad. They beat their wings to raise the temperature to 117 degrees Fahrenheit, just 2 degrees higher than the hornet's peak operating temperature, and only 1 degree below their own peak temperature. The hornet cannot maintain its internal temperature with that much heat generated by the bees! You can watch in this video.

We just received some major snow and cold weather in Ohio. We will do our best to maintain our internal temperatures, and I hope the rest of you do the same. Have a good weekend!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Jumping spider courtship!

Today in insect behavior Larry showed us videos of Jumping spider courtship behavior.

The males have very intricate courtship dances. There is been strong selection pressure for these dances to occur so the male can avoid being eaten.

Check out these cool videos!

Video 1

Video 2

Monday, January 17, 2011

Ian McIlvaine is thinking about aphid invasions

Ideas for Ian's M.S. research!

Ian and Chris search for common buckthorn along a forest edge

Ian McIlvaine started graduate school this January. Those who follow our blog may remember his introduction post. Ian's M.S. research will focus on the soybean aphid, an invasive herbivore that attacks soybean plants. This insect overwinters on common buckthorn, also an invasive species. This plant is present in disturbed habitats such as forest edges, fencerows, and unmanaged hedges.

Ian is interested in measuring if the amount of common buckthorn in the landscape influences the liklihood that a soybean field will be colonized by the soybean aphid. As one part of his project, he aims to determine how far the aphids move between their winter host (common buckthorn) and their summer host (soybean). This information is critical to developing a management plan for the soybean aphid that involves the removal of common buckthorn. Before we can motivate stakeholders to remove this invader from their property for the purpose of reducing soybean aphid we need to know at what spatial scale these management efforts would make a difference.

Over the past couple of weeks, Ian and I have begun to hash out ideas to address his goals and objectives. It's pretty hard to tell from the messy white board but we have made a lot of progress!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Applications of GIS

I think my mind is finally losing the haze of winter break, and I'm also back in class. Along with the Stats course I'm taking with Ben (which is requiring me to brush up on my calculus), I'm in an intermediate GIS class.

GIS (Geographic Information Systems/Science) is a really exciting field of study, and I'm happy to be incorporating it into my work. We live in a globalized society and visualizing space is important for understanding what is going on in certain areas. For example, you can map the distribution of biodiversity and visualize the "hotspots" around the world.

For my work in the ALE Lab, I will use landscape data of the areas surrounding my field sites. My focus will be on land use, such as buildings, turf grass, other sorts of lawns, roads, etc. Using GIS technology I can analyze how different land uses may be affecting spider community composition within a particular urban patch. May the presence of many buildings preclude spider establishment because ballooning spiderlings can't pass through? Maybe different types of greenery in the surrounding area are better than others for maintaining spiders (think of corporate lawns sprayed with pesticides compared to parks). These sorts of questions can be analyzed using GIS and thinking of data spatially.

Maybe one day little transmitters can be attached to ballooning spiders and they could be tracked along the landscape. That would be pretty neat (and difficult).

P.S. Here's a good video about how spiders balloon.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Summer Research Jobs for Students in Wooster, OH

Are you a high school junior, senior, or undergraduate student looking for a summer job?

Interested in environmental science, conservation, and agriculture?

Consider applying for a summer research assistant position in the ALE Lab. We seek bright, hard working, and creative students to assist with our research and outreach programs. These positions are a great opportunity to gain experience towards a career in the biological sciences. For more information about our research and outreach projects check out our website Students must be able to work 40 h per week during the summer. Personal research opportunities such as independent studies for class credit at your school are possible. Students interested in conducting their own research should also check out the OARDC Research Internship Program.

For more information contact Dr. Mary Gardiner at

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


It's going to be snowing all day today in Columbus!

How do lady beetles survive the harsh winter?

Lady beetles survive by aggregating as adults under leaf litter, rocks, bark, and in other protected places including buildings.

Flight to overwintering locations is triggered by cold weather and a decline in prey. The behavior occurs at different times from year to year.

If you saw lady beetles in your house this fall, it's likely you might see them this spring!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Volunteer #62 and counting...

For the past two summers, the ALE lab has conducted the Buckeye Lady Beetle Blitz lady beetle survey in home gardens with the help of volunteer Ohio gardeners. I am currently working on publishing the findings of our study based on the data that our volunteers have collected. Before I summarize everything though, I have to go back over both the 2009 and 2010 findings and check everything for errors. So far I am on volunteer number 62 for 2009. We had 189 gardeners participate in 2009 and over 200 participate in 2010. I'm hoping to finish checking everything by the end of the week so I can get on the much more interesting part of summarizing the data, making figures and interpreting the results.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Stats class

Classes have resumed, and I'm heavily invested in statistics this quarter. Caitlin and I are both learning about linear regressions, and I'm also learning the ins and outs of a couple of statistical analysis programs to use with my own data. I was surprised when I bought this used book on the internet and it came with Chinese characters all over the cover and first couple of pages! Luckily, the main text is in English. I am curious about why these books were printed this way, but other students have them as well.

Have a good weekend!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Back to work!

After a relaxing sleep-filled winter break, it's time to get back to work in Columbus. The graduate students are busy getting their teaching materials together and their courses started. Many of us are enrolled in Larry Phelan's course, Insect Behavior, which should be very interesting!

For some of us (Ben and I) this is likely to be our last quarter in Columbus. We'll be heading back to the lab in Wooster this March.