Friday, April 26, 2013

Mary Awarded NSF Career Grant!

Mary was awarded a NSF career grant to support her urban ecology project in Cleveland. This is very exciting for a ALE Lab, and it is a wonderful opportunity.

Project Description:

The consequences of global biodiversity decline have fueled rapid growth in biodiversity-ecosystem function (BEF) research. On average, a positive association among species richness (the number of species in a given area) and productivity has emerged from these experiments. However, studies examining predators indicate larger variation in richness-resource (such as prey) capture relationships. Across trophic levels, resource partitioning is considered a dominant mechanism mediating BEF patterns. Yet, for predators there is little empirical evidence that resource partitioning facilitates species richness and leads to enhanced resource capture. Without greater knowledge of the mechanisms driving predator BEF relationships, conservation of predators and their functions is difficult to achieve. Studying these processes is also challenging. Many logistical hurdles exist in documenting partitioning among predators, particularly in real-world heterogeneous landscapes. Nevertheless, discerning the effects of spatial pattern on the mechanisms and outcomes of BEF relationships will greatly advance ecosystem ecology and inform conservation.

This NSF grant will establish a large-scale field experiment to examine how the surrounding landscape influences predator resource partitioning and resource capture. 
Objective 1 tests the hypothesis that spatial heterogeneity (a mix of different land uses) facilitates resource partitioning. This objective will document how patch and landscape heterogeneity affect the dietary niche (ecological role of the organisms regarding food consumption, or in simpler terms...what do these predators eat?) overlap of five generalist predator species, as a measure of resource partitioning. The goal of this objective will be to determine if the extent of niche overlap present among this indicator community is a significant predictor of predator species richness, abundance, and resource capture. Heterogeneity-resource partitioning relationships could affect resource capture via several mechanisms. 
Objective 2 will test whether changes in heterogeneity affect resource capture via: random gain/loss in species richness, non-random gain/loss of highly effective predatory species, and/or altering the per-capita contributions of species. This objective utilizes the Extended Price Equation Partition to calculate how each of these mechanisms independently changes in response to altered patch and/or landscape heterogeneity. To inform conservation and management, it’s important to understand how these changes affect the provision of ecosystem services. 
Objective 3 will track the dispersal of predators among patches within a landscape to determine if heterogeneity affects the ability of a patch to serve as a source of biological control services.

The city of Cleveland, OH will serve as a model system to test relationships between predator richness, abundance, and function. Cleveland contains over 10,000 vacant city lots. Decisions regarding vacant land management will shape the ecological and social quality of inner-city neighborhoods for decades to come. Therefore, understanding how the composition of these habitats and their landscape context influence BEF relationships is a critical task facing ecologists. This research will take place within a network of 64 vacant lot sites assigned to one of eight plant community treatments. These treatments represent a range of available options for vacant land management and were selected through a partnership with the Cleveland City Planning Commission. The outcomes of this research will inform future green space design in Cleveland and other cities engaged or interested in vacant land management.
Objective 4: Additionally, this proposal creates significant opportunities for high school students within Cleveland and throughout the state of Ohio to conduct field ecology research by establishing the Ohio Ecological Research School Sites . This network of Environmental Science classrooms will study arthropod predator-prey relationships by conducting an experiment entitled The Prey Buffet. 
Objective 5 will also provide internships to talented Cleveland high school students to gain direct research experience in my laboratory. This program will provide experience in proposal writing and experimental design, field data collection, data analysis, and presentation of findings.         

Finally, the growth of crop production on vacant land provides important health benefits to inner-city communities lacking access to fresh produce.
Objective 6 will create the Sustainable Urban Food Production Program to address the need for urban gardener and farmer training. This OSU Master Gardener specialization program will produce a network of trained volunteers who will develop and present programs within urban communities focused on sustainable gardening and farming practices.

Congratulations Mary!

2013 OARDC Annual Research Conference

Yesterday was the 2013 OARDC Annual Research Conference which gives faculty students, and staff a chance to gather and talk about the research that we have all been busy with!

The ALE lab was represented by two posters:

Ben presented his findings regarding predation and parasitism of pests in pumpkin fields across Ohio

Chelsea presented her finding regarding predation of native and exotic lady beetle eggs in alfalfa, grassland, and soybean habitats.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Hops Yard progress

Preparation of the sites for our hops yards is well underway! Piketon has had better luck with the weather. They have constructed their beds, and laid the ground fabric down.

Here in Wooster we are a little further behind, but making progress!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Bugs World at OARDC!

Today and tomorrow is A Bugs World at OARDC! A Bugs World is a two-day interactive learning experience for elementary school students. There are many different sessions which are organized by members of Ohio State's entomology department and some other departments as well. We developed a program to teach school children about the diversity of lady beetles and their life cycle.

We always have a great time with the students!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Insect of the week!

Recently a retired OARDC-Entomology staff member, Bill, brought in a mystery insect which he suspected might be a lady beetle. He found them aggregated on some logs near his home.
Specimen: Found aggregated on logs in NW Ohio
Upon closer inspection of the beetle, the antennae looked too long and it was clear this was not a lady beetle.  All we could tell Bill at the time was that this was not a lady beetle, but it was perhaps a mimic. With that limited information Bill researched and found the species name before members of the ALE lab even had a chance!

This species, Endomychus biguttatus, is a member of the Handsome Fungus Beetle family (Endomychidae). It feeds on fungus which may explain why it was discovered on a log pile. Below is a much better image of this species, which clearly shows the long antennae and a pronotum without the spots which are normally present on lady beetles.
It is easy to see how this insect could be confused for a lady beetle, the color and shape of the wing covers are very similar to some lady beetle species, pictured below:
The Columbus Dispatch
Great detective work Bill!


Thursday, April 4, 2013

Hops project is a go!

Piketon broke ground for their hops yard today. We are very excited to see this project finally starting! 

Posts have arrived!

Yep! Soil loos good!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

ALE Lab Publication

ALE Lab was published! The article titled: Vacant land conversion to community gardens: influences on generalist arthropod predators and biocontrol services in urban greenspaces, was published in Urban Ecosystems over the weekend.

Abstract: Due to economic decline and the recent rise in home foreclosure, many U.S. cities are faced with managing large acreages of vacant land. Interest in local food production on this land has the potential to dramatically reshape the composition of greenspace found within urban landscapes. This study examined how the conversion of vacant land to urban gardens and farms influenced arthropod generalist predator populations and their ability to support biocontrol services. We found that the abundance of Coccinellidae and Syrphidae, and the activity density of Carabidae, Formicidae, and Lycosidae were equivalent among vacant lot and urban garden sites. Dolichopodidae abundance and the activity density of Linyphiidae and Opiliones were reduced in urban gardens whereas Anthocoridae abundance and the activity density of Staphylinidae were greater within urban gardens relative to vacant lots. The biocontrol service supplied by generalist predators was measured using sentinel eggs (Helicoverpa zea (Noctuiidae)) and pupae (Sarcophaga bullata (Sarcophagidae) and Musca domestica (Muscidae)).We found no difference in the biocontrol of H. zea eggs or M. domestica pupae among the focal greenspaces. We found no difference in the removal of S. bullata pupae by predators in June 2010, whereas in August 2010 a greater proportion of pupae were removed in urban garden sites relative to vacant lots. Based on these findings, we discuss the potential of the urban landscape to support generalist predators and sustainable urban gardening and farming.

Urban Garden
Urban Garden
Urban Garden
Vacant Lot
Vacant Lot

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Google celebrates birthday of naturalist Maria Sibylla Merian

Today the Google Doodle is celebrating the 366th birthday of Maria Sibylla Merian, a naturalist and artist who studied insects and plants. Some of her entomological artwork is below:

(more at the source: Wikipedia)

Article: Huff Post