The Prather lab at the University of Dayton has funding for an MS student to work on an urban insect ecology project (see below for potential projects), funded by the Hanley Sustainability Institute that has recently started funding graduate opportunities across the university. One of these opportunities is to work in the Insect Ecology lab (PI Dr. Chelse Prather). Interested students should email Dr. Prather with a cover letter, CV, GPA and GRE scores as a start to the application process. Ideal candidates are intellectually curious students, that are excited about the often uncomfortable realities of tough field work, the careful work of experimentation, and who have an eagerness to learn and implement complex statistical analyses, and are excited to work with insects.
Potential project: How do sustainable practices in urban environments affect insect communities?
Urban ecology has been showing that urban environments are not biological deserts: there are suites of species that are well-suited to live in cities. Urban ecology has also been showing that social and cultural processes, like economic inequalities in cities or systemic racism, can influence ecological relationships in cities. To ameliorate the negative effects that cities might have on the environment, and in some cases, to help ameliorate inequalities that exist in cities, governments, private companies, and NGO’s are doing things like using green infrastructure (e.g., green roofs), and developing vacant as habitat (e.g., prairie restorations) or for use as urban farms. In my lab, I am very interested in developing the general idea of how sustainable practices in the city affect insect communities, which are vital to how green spaces in cities function through the ecosystem services they provide. I envision an MS student using Dayton and neighboring cities (like Columbus and Cincinnati) to look at how these sustainable practices in cities affect these higher trophic levels. Students in Dr. Prather's lab can develop their thesis questions based on their individual interests, but a thesis might answer one of the following questions:
· Do insect communities on green roofs differ from insect communities in other green spaces in cities? My lab is working on developing a network of green roofs of various ages, heights, and plant compositions in Dayton, Cincinnati, and Columbus. Green roofs likely have a higher thermal range of temperatures (because of their height, they are hotter during the day and potentially colder at night than the green spaces on the ground). Therefore, one might expect that the species that inhabitat green roofs also are species that can tolerate a higher range of temperatures, and also be larger bodied insects that for these exothermic species to tolerate both hotter and colder temperatures. The student would develop a chapter of their dissertation to determine if these predictions are indeed true to suite to determine what type of insects that green roofs attract.
· Are more sustainable urban farms attracting a diverse native pollinator community? Many urban farms practicing more sustainable farming practices (organic farming, no till farming, etc) have cropped up in Dayton in the recent decade (e.g., Mission of Mary farm, Homefull’s farm). Many of these farms have the stated intention of attracted a diverse native pollinator community by planting strips of native plants or a variety of wildflowers to attract native pollinators. However, we do not know how effective these measures are. A student could use pan-trapping methods to start to look at the pollinator community on these farms as well as other local farms that are not using these methods, and how effective different measures are at attracting pollinators.
· Can insect restoration in constructed prairies be sped up? My lab has been working to determine if insect communities can be used to indicate restoration success using a network of constructed and remnant prairies in the Miami Valley. We have been finding that insect communities are restored, but it takes a very long time to do so. One major question coming out of this research is: Can insect restoration (and the ecosystem services insects provide) be sped up by transplanting insect communities to new restoration projects? The student would determine this by developing methods to potential speed up insect restoration in local prairie restoration projects.
Interested students should email Dr. Prather (email@example.com) with a cover letter, CV, GPA and GRE scores as a start to the application process. Ideal candidates are intellectually curious students, that are excited about the often uncomfortable realities of tough field work, the careful work of experimentation, and who have an eagerness to learn and implement complex statistical analyses, and are excited to work with insects.