Search Results for: striped bass

Fishy origins

Fred Bogue holding a striped bass.

The activities are as follows:

Striped bass, or stripers, make up one of the most important fisheries for seafood and sport fishing on the East Coast of the United States. Carleigh and Chelsea, biology teachers in New Jersey, were at the beach one day when they saw a couple of stripers in the Barnegat Bay Inlet. Both teachers have always been interested in research and even met while participating in a summer research program as undergraduate students. Since then, both have gone on to complete more research projects in biology and education. Their curiosity about striper populations led them to work together yet again! 

They headed to Monmouth University in New Jersey, where they began working with two scientists, Megan and John. They learned that locations where fish reproduce are called spawning grounds. Young stripers spend 2-3 years developing in the spawning ground before moving downstream. When stripers become adults, they return to the same location to breed. 

There are four main spawning grounds for stripers on the East coast: the Hudson River, the Chesapeake Bay, Delaware River, and the Albermarle Sound. Stripers from these areas are considered to be different stocks. Stripers are migratory fish, and generally move north in the spring and south in the fall. Because they all migrate to New Jersey, fish from different stocks combine, which results in a mixed stock. When there is a population that has a mixed stock, we don’t know which spawning ground the fish originally came from. Conservation and management of New Jersey’s striper fishery requires knowing where the fish come from. Understanding which spawning grounds stripers are using helps managers make sure we are not overfishing or damaging these important environments. So, Carleigh and Chelsea joined a project that is working to find out how we can identify where mixed stock stripers come from. 

For their study, the scientists caught stripers in three different locations off the New Jersey coast in 2017. The fish were sampled by clipping off a small portion of the right pelvic fin. The scientists then extracted the DNA from each sample in the lab. They used polymerase chain reaction (PCR) to then copy regions of the DNA, called microsatellites. Microsatellites are small, repeating sections of DNA that can be variable enough to distinguish even close relatives. These data were then used to compare DNA samples from the unknown mixed stocks to the known spawning ground stocks. The scientists also recorded whether each fish was young or mature. The scientists then used the age data to tell whether the spawning grounds might be changing over time. 

Featured scientists: Carleigh Engstrom, Chelsea Barreto, Megan Phifer-Rixey, and John Tiedemann from Monmouth University 

Flesch–Kincaid Reading Grade Level = 9.2

NABT 2019 – BEACON Evolution Symposium

In this workshop, we will share strategies for using Data Nuggets in the classroom and introduce one that features microsatellite data for various populations of striped bass. This Data Nugget will give students an opportunity to explore genetic markers and how they can be used to inform the management of an important sport fishery by deciphering which spawning grounds the fish were born in.

The materials from the Data Nugget workshop are as follows:

Workshop organized and presented by: Megan Phifer-Rixey, Chelsea Barreto, Carleigh Engstrom, Elizabeth SchultheisMelissa Kjelvik, and Louise Mead. For more information on the NABT 2019 conference, check out their website, here.

BEACON CENTER FOR THE STUDY OF EVOLUTION IN ACTION, MICHIGAN STATE UNIVERSITY, THE AMERICAN SOCIETY OF NATURALISTS, & MONMOUTH UNIVERSITY

MEET THE SCIENTISTS!

Want to know more about the scientists behind each Data Nugget? Click on their name for a link to their professional websites, or on their Data Nugget to learn more about their research!

 NameInstitutionAbout MeData Nuggets
Ivan ArismendiOregon State UniversityI am from the southern cone of South America where empanadas, lamb, and temperate rainforests formed my early years. I am a quantitative aquatic ecologist interested in the links among water, land, and people. I focus on freshwater-terrestrial links, freshwater-marine links, invasive species impacts on aquatic and riparian ecosystems, and the consequences of climate change on freshwater food webs and ecosystems. I am also interested in issues related to diversity and inclusion in science.All washed up? The effect of floods on cutthroat trout
mbanvilleMélanie BanvilleArizona State UniversityEver since I was young I had a keen interest for wildlife. This led me to pursue a B.S. in Zoology at McGill University, Montreal, Canada. Shortly after I graduated I left Canada to travel and work in the United States. I have been working as a professional wildlife biologist on a wide variety of wildlife-related projects for over a decade, eight of which were in the desert southwest. I truly believe that a better understanding of urban ecology is of fundamental importance for the future of all living organisms as our urban boundaries expand and put more pressure on our ecological resources.Lizards, iguanas, and snakes! Oh my!
barbasch_photoTina BarbaschBoston UniversityI first became interested in science catching frogs and snakes in my backyard in Ithaca, NY. This inspired me to major in Biology at Cornell University, located in my hometown. As an undergraduate, I studied male competition and sperm allocation in the local spotted salamander (Ambystoma maculatum). After graduating, I joined the Peace Corps and spent 2 years in Morocco teaching environmental education and 6 months in Liberia teaching high school chemistry. As a PhD student in the Buston Lab, I study how parents negotiate over parental care in my study system the clownfish (Amphiprion percula), otherwise known as Nemo.Raising Nemo: Parental care in the clown anemonefish
Carina BaskettMichigan State UniversityI became interested in biology when I was in high school, so I joined Science Olympiad. I went to college at Rice University in Houston, Texas, my hometown. I did some research on pollination in college, and decided that I really enjoyed learning about the relationships between plants and insects. Before starting my PhD, I did a year-long Watson Fellowship, an independent study abroad. I traveled to different ecosystems in Ecuador, Chile, Panama, and Spain, and made a podcast about relationships between people and nature. For my PhD, I studied pollination and herbivory and how they change with latitude—lots of travel again!Where to find the hungry, hungry herbivores & Are plants more toxic in the tropics?
hbatemanHeather BatemanArizona State UniversityI am a field ecologist and conservation biologist interested in how human land-use affects vertebrate populations and habitats. As Earth’s ecosystems move into a future of growing human influence, restoring the integrity of these ecosystems will become central to the conservation of biodiversity. Human activities tend to perturb ecosystems by suppressing natural disturbances such as flooding or fire. This can lead to a decline in native species and proliferation of non-native species. My research interests lie in exploring population responses to habitat alteration, with a particular interest in amphibians, reptiles, and birds.Lizards, iguanas, and snakes! Oh my!
4821680Harriet BoothNortheastern UniversityI am interested in how species interactions drive community structure and dynamics in coastal ecosystems as well as how these interactions are altered by human influence. My graduate research will focus on predator-prey dynamics in a subtidal oyster reef system in Apalachicola Bay, Florida. I am examining the combined effects of intraspecific trait diversity and density of stone crabs on oyster survival and growth over time. The mystery of Plum Island Marsh
Jennifer BowenMarine Science Center, Northeastern UniversityMy work runs the gamut from modeling how changing land use on watersheds alters the geochemistry of receiving waters to understanding how climate change and nutrient enrichment alters the structure and function of microbial communities. In particular I have been focusing on both how human activities are altering the structure and function of microbial communities and in turn how microbial communities can help ameliorate pollution from human sources.Marsh makeover
Carrie BranchUniversity of Nevada RenoI have been interested in animal behavior and behavioral ecology since my second year in college at the University of Tennessee. I research how variation in ecology and environment affect communication and signaling in birds. I have also studied various types of memory and am interested in how animals learn and use information depending on how their environment varies over space and time. Once I finish my PhD I hope to become a professor at a university so that I can continue to conduct research and teach students about animal behavior. In my spare time I love hiking with my friends and dogs, and watching comedies!Finding Mr. Right
Adriana BriscoeUniversity of California, IrvineLike many scientists, I believe that communicating science to the public is becoming increasingly urgent. As a consequence, I have become very interested in how science communicated in K-12 lessons, short dispatches, blogs, podcasts and videos can be used as a tool for inviting the public to participate in science as students, citizen scientists or as consumers of scientific knowledge. My research is focused on understanding what happens to gene products underlying physiological and behavioral traits following gene duplication and functional diversification.Why are butterfly wings colorful?
robert-buchsbaum-headshot_mediumRobert BuchsbaumMass AudubonI enjoy sharing my knowledge and passion for the natural world as a trip leader and lecturer for Mass Audubon and other environmental groups. My particular interests include marine and coastal habitats, wildflowers, birds, climate change, and alpine ecology. I am a Mass Audubon’s Regional Scientist in the Southeast, Cape, and Islands Region and have been a staff scientist here since 1987. Make way for mummichogs & Does sea level rise harm saltmarsh sparrows?
20140702-JLH-Kristi-Bugajski-003Kristi BugajskiValparaiso UniversityI specialize in the area of forensic entomology. Forensic entomology looks at how insects are used in a court of law. My specialty is medico-legal forensic entomology, or how maggots can be used to estimate the amount of time that has passed since death. I am interested in oviposition timing and factors that influence oviposition.CSI: Crime Solving Insects
Ashley CarrollGull Lake Middle SchoolI teach 7th-grade science at Gull Lake Middle School in Richland, MI. In the summer of 2018 I worked in Jeff Conner’s lab and participated in a Research Experience for Teachers (RET). My research experience took place at one of Michigan State University's off-campus sites, Kellogg Biological Station (KBS). During my time at KBS I collaborated with scientists and college students to study a variety of radish plant adaptations.Fast weeds in farmer’s fields
Jessie K PearlUniversity of ArizonaI am a postdoc with the U.S. Geological Survey in Seattle, WA studying the recurrence and impacts of large mega-thrust earthquakes along the Cascadian subduction zone. I use dendrochronology, dendroecology, geochronology, and sedimentology to describe and analyze past landscapes, extreme events, and climate. I am interested in regional climate dynamics, and how knowledge of the past can inform our understanding of current global change and future hazards.A window into a tree’s world
Neil PedersonHarvard UniversityI am an ecologist at the Harvard Forest studying climate-forest dynamics and disturbance ecology. I was born and raised in Volney, NY. Throughout my career I have been a forester, professor, and research professor. My research focuses on the ecology of climate change of temperate, mesic forests including the eastern US, Spain, east Asia, and the Colchic Temperate Rainforest in Turkey and the Republic of Georgia.A window into a tree’s world
Damián A. Concepción PérezWilder Middle SchoolI am a middle and high school Science and Math teacher. I have always been searching for innovative ways to get my students engaged in the science classroom and to connect their new knowledge with the real-world. In thinking of ways to help my students learn, I engaged my self with the scientific community collaborating in scientific projects and creating hands-on, interactive, and inspiring teaching lessons. It is my main interest to develop ideas that could positively contribute to any student’s STEM education.What big teeth you have! Sexual selection in rhesus macaques
Jeff ConnerMichigan State UniversityI study the mechanisms by which natural selection on plants produces (sometimes very rapid) adaptation to a variable environment, as well as possible constraints on this adaptation. Members of my lab measure the strength of selection acting in present-day populations and combine this with quantitative and molecular genetic and genomic analyses to predict short-term evolutionary change and identify the genetic mechanisms underlying adaptation and constraint. Major projects focus on floral evolution and weed adaptations to agricultural habitats.Fast weeds in farmer’s fields
Robert CoxUniversity of VirginiaI am an evolutionary ecologist and my interests span from comparative endocrinology and physiology to behavioral ecology and evolutionary genetics. My current projects focus on integrating quantitative genetics, endocrinology, and genomics to study intralocus sexual conflict and life-history tradeoffs.Is it better to be bigger? & Is it dangerous to be a showoff?
Smiley-150x150Hans DamUniversity of Connecticut-Avery PointI am a biological oceanographer. My research interests are in the biology, ecology and evolution of planktonic organisms, particularly pelagic copepods. Earlier in my career I investigated questions dealing with the role of planktonic organisms in biogeochemical cycles in the ocean, and the formation and fate of marine aggregates. Recently, my interests have broadened to deal with questions of the evolutionary ecology of plankton. Dangerous aquatic prey: can predators adapt to toxic algae?
603798_10152751058695133_1302343582_nSarah Davies University of Texas at Austin & Boston UniversityChanging climates and ongoing anthropogenic habitat modifications threaten natural ecosystems worldwide. Research in my lab studies the potential roles of acclimation, adaptation, and dispersal in an organism’s response to rapid climate change. Understanding how symbioses are maintained is fundamental as climate change disrupts symbiotic relationships worldwide. The coral–Symbiodinium symbiosis is essential and serves as the cornerstone for the entire reef ecosystem. Won’t you be my urchin?
deserClara DeserNational Center for Atmospheric ResearchI study global climate variability and climate change using observations and models, with an emphasis on interactions among the atmosphere, ocean, and sea ice. My recent projects include the role of internal variability in regional climate change, the effects of projected Arctic sea ice loss on global climate, asymmetries between El Nino and La Nina, and Pacific decadal variability.The Arctic is Melting – So What?
1449132Leila DesotelleMichigan State UniversityMy research explores how food web subsidies can influence communities. I study the Kalamazoo River, which has several dams. Dams change the flow of the water and can increase the production of phytoplankton. The phytoplankton can act as a subsidy both temporally and spatially. Stream insect communities change along the river, and some of this response is to the subsidy from dams. Rivers frequently have multiple dams though many are aging and will be removed in the coming decades. Therefore, understanding how dams change food sources is important for the management of rivers.Float down the Kalamazoo River
Colin DonihueHarvard University & Washington UniversityI am an evolutionary ecologist studying the drivers and consequences in intra-specific variation in animal functional traits. In particular, my research focuses on predicting changes in behavioral, morphological, and performance traits as a result of changes in ecological context. My field research in Southern Europe, the West Indies, East Africa, and North America makes use of direct manipulative studies and landscape-scale natural experiments. My work generates fundamental insights into eco-evolutionary dynamics and critical applied lessons for conservation in human-dominated landscapes.Hold on for your life! Part 1 & Part 2
LizDuffLiz DuffMass Audubon, Salt Marsh Science ProjectI coordinate environmental education in the Great Marsh Region and beyond, primarily in salt marshes and other coastal ecosystems. I provide professional development workshops and courses for teachers. Currently, I am conducting long term ecological research with middle and high school students, investigating invasive Phragmites. I engage students in stewardship projects, and am passionate about my work teaching about climate change, working to raise awareness about rising sea levels, and to inspire actions and plan for the future.Make way for mummichogs & Invasive reeds in the salt marsh & Can a salt marsh recover after restoration?
Carleigh EngstromBiotechnology High School & Monmouth UniversityI teach Molecular and Agricultural Biotechnology to tenth graders in New Jersey. I hope to instill my love for biology with all of my students, and one way I do that is by staying current. During the summer of 2018, I participated in a Research Experience for Teachers (RET) program at Monmouth University's Phifer-Rixey lab. This research experience allowed me to get involved with a striped bass project, where we determined the stock populations for striped bass that were sampled off the NJ coast. I truly enjoy sharing this experience with my students, as a way to show them all that science has to offer. Fishy origins
everettMeredith EverettUniversity of Washington & NOAAMy research explores how organisms interact with and adapt to their environments on a genomic scale, and how knowledge of these interactions can be applied to conservation and management solutions. During my time in the Seeb Lab I worked on SNP discovery, developing novel genomic maps for Pacific salmonids, and using these maps to discover the genomic regions associated with ecological traits through QTL and association mapping. I was also involved in a project using SNPs to track sockeye salmon in Bristol Bay, Alaska. I currently work at NOAA on the phylogenetics of deep-water corals.Salmon in hot water
mf_profileMichael Finiguerra University of Connecticut-Avery PointMy PhD dissertation investigated the evolution of tolerance to toxins. Today I am a professor at the University of Connecticut, Teaching is my passion. I love interacting with students and coaching them through complex problems. To me, science is more than intellectual content. It is a lens through which to teach critical thinking. Helping my students become independent critical thinkers is my goal. I use my research as a tool for teaching; it connects the real-world to classroom lectures and gives student much needed hands-on experience, in both laboratory and field-settings. Dangerous aquatic prey: can predators adapt to toxic algae?
Susan FinkbeinerUniversity of California, Irvine & Boston UniversityI spent my childhood chasing butterflies and collecting insects in Illinois, with the dream of studying butterflies in the tropical rainforest. As an undergrad at Cornell I did a semester abroad in Costa Rica where I was introduced to Heliconius butterflies. For my PhD I worked with these butterflies to examine how natural and sexual selection drive the evolution of butterfly wing patterns. I am currently a postdoctoral researcher at Boston University (Mullen Lab) working with Adelpha butterflies to understand the ecological and evolutionary processes that shape patterns of biodiversity.Why are butterfly wings colorful?
Erika FosterColorado State UniversityI strive to answer complex questions about soil productivity and to inspire the next generation of soil ecologists. I aim to work with diverse communities from farmers to students, to discover best land management practices, and to ignite curiosity and passion for science. Broadly, I hope to continue serving as an interpreter in my field of soil ecology, delving into the mechanisms that build healthy soils. I want to dig deep into the science, and connect my work to management practices for climate-smart agriculture.Can biochar improve crop yields?
Becky FullerUniversity of IllinoisI grew up in a small town riding horses in 4-H and working in a veterinary clinic. I’ve always been interested in biology, but two key experiences lead me to my career. I took courses at Cedar Point Biological Field Station. There I met Dr. Tony Joern who hired me onto his field crew to study grasshopper community ecology. I caught the “science bug” and never looked back. After undergrad I worked with Dr. Anders Berglund on pipefish on the west coast of Sweden. There I developed my love for fish and aquatics. I feel very fortunate to have a job where I can do science and teach young, enthusiastic students.Why so blue? The determinants of color pattern in killifish Part 1 & Part 2
Iniyan GanesanIniyan GanesanMichigan State UniversityI am interested in the pore size of the chloroplast TOC and TIC protein translocons as well as the degree of folding present in proteins as they pass through chloroplast outer and inner membranes. My area of specialization is Molecular Biology, Biochemistry, and Genomics.Cheaters in nature – when is a mutualism not a mutualism?
2013-02-25 18.11.57Eben GeringMichigan State UniversityOne of the most exciting things I learned as a college student was that natural populations sometimes evolve very quickly. Biologists used to think evolution was too slow to be studied “in action”, so their research focused on evolutionary changes that occurred over thousands (or even millions) of years. I study feral animal populations to learn how rapid evolutionary changes help them survive and reproduce, without direct help from us.Feral chickens fly the coop
Anne-GiblinAnne GiblinMarine Biological Laboratory & Plum Island Ecosystems LTERMy major research interest has been on the cycling of elements in the environment, especially the biogeochemistry of nitrogen, sulfur, iron, and phosphorus. Much of my work has been focused in soils and sediments where element cycling takes place under different conditions of oxidation and reduction. Much of my current research focuses on the nitrogen cycle and has been centered on understanding how ecosystems respond to high nutrient inputs from wastewater and fertilizer.Keeping up with the sea level
Cara GiordanoUniversity of VirginiaMy research in sexual selection focuses on the dewlap, a secondary sexual trait in the brown anole lizard. I investigate if variation in the characteristics of this ornament relates to the fitness of the individual expressing it. I am interested in how ecological relationships change over time, particularly under pressures of environmental transition, as well as the physiological mechanisms that underlie conservation concerns.Is it dangerous to be a showoff?
kgKristine GraysonUniversity of RichmondI received my PhD in 2010 from the University of Virginia under the mentorship of Dr. Henry Wilbur. I got an NSF International Research Fellowship to Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand to conduct research on sex-ratio bias under climate change in tuatara, an endemic reptile. One of my claims to fame is capturing the state record holding snapping turtle for North Carolina – 52 pounds! In addition to my passion for amphibian and reptile conservation, my current work also examines the spread potential of gypsy moth, an invasive forest pest in North America.When a species can’t stand the heat
Skye GreenlerColorado College & Purdue UniversityAs a child I was always asking why; questioning the behavior, characteristics, and interactions of plants and animals around me. This love of discovery, observation, questioning, and experimentation led me to pursue a career in science. As a graduate student at Purdue I study the factors influencing oak regeneration after ecologically based timber harvest and prescribed fire. While my primary focus is ecological research, I love getting to leave the lab and bring science into classrooms to inspire the next generation of young scientists and encourage all students to be always asking why!Is chocolate for the birds?
Stanley GregoryOregon State UniversityI am a professor emeritus. My research focuses on the analysis of processes and patterns that shape aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems at landscape scales. I am particularly interested in the influence of human activities on ecosystem structure and function. My work evaluates patterns of historical change as a basis for developing restoration strategies and design future human development.All washed up? The effect of floods on cutthroat trout
Natasha HagemeyerOld Dominion UniversityI got an early start with bird research, and banded my first bird at 12 years old. Since then, I've worked with a variety of species and questions, looking at song sharing in orchard orioles, foraging behavior in black-backed woodpeckers, window strikes in migratory passerines, and social behavior in acorn woodpeckers. My true love, however, is movement ecology, and my PhD research focuses on the pre-dispersal movement patterns of the cooperatively breeding acorn woodpeckers, using a novel automated telemetry system with solar-powered radio tags.Deadly windows
dr-fowleriTravis HageyMichigan State University, BEACONEver since I was a kid, I've been interested in animals and wanted to be a paleontologist. I even had a bunch of dinosaur names memorized to back it up! In college I discovered evolutionary biology, which drove me to apply for graduate school and become a scientist. There, I fell in love with comparative biomechanics, which combines evolutionary biology and mechanical engineering. Today I study geckos and their sticky toes, which allow them to scale surfaces like glass windows and tree branches.Sticky situations: big and small animals with sticky feet
hammondMark HammondMichigan State UniversityI am the research technician for the Lau lab and the resident natural history, lab, and greenhouse guru! I manage all projects in the lab, and am a resource for grad students and mentor for summer researchers. Research in the lab focuses on community ecology and evolutionary ecology. We study how plant populations respond to human-cased environmental change, the ecology and evolution of species interactions, and natural selection in the wild.Invasion meltdown & Springing forward
adam_under_hoodAdam HeckColorado State UniversityI am a graduate of the University of Sioux Falls with a Bachelor of Science in Biology and a minor in Chemistry and Entrepreneurial Studies. Currently, I am continuing my education as a PhD graduate student at Colorado State University in Cell/Molecular Biology en route to a career in biomedical research.Gene expression in stem cells
Jennifer HellmannThe Ohio State University & University of IllinoisIt is becoming clear that past and current environmental influences can cause even genetically identical individuals to behave in very different ways. I use field and laboratory experiments, molecular tools, and modeling to understand behavioral differences among individuals and the mechanisms that permit individuals to plastically adjust their behavior given social and environmental pressures (e.g. predation risk). To do this, I study a variety of marine and freshwater fishes.Clique wars: social conflict in daffodil cichlids
Raisa Hernández PachecoUniversity of RichmondI am interested in understanding the drivers shaping population dynamics. In 2013, I obtained my PhD from the University of Puerto Rico after assessing the effects of mass bleaching on Caribbean coral populations. Right after, I joined the Caribbean Primate Research Center and the Max-Planck Odense Center to study the long-term dynamics of the Cayo Santiago rhesus macaque population. At the Grayson lab, I am studying the population of red-backed salamanders in Richmond; its density, spatial arrangement, and space use.What big teeth you have! Sexual selection in rhesus macaques
richard.t.holmesRichard HolmesHubbard Brook Experimental Forest & Dartmouth CollegeI am a Research Professor of Biology at Dartmouth College, where I am also a Harris Professor of Environmental Biology Emeritus. I live in Grantham, NH.The birds of Hubbard Brook, Part 1 & Part 2
chopkinsonCharles HopkinsonUniversity of Georgia & Marine Biological LaboratoryI have been studying estuaries since graduate school and in collaboration with colleagues from around the world, but especially here at Georgia and in Louisiana and Massachusetts (MBL). Estuaries are the most productive natural ecosystems of the world because they receive nutrient and water subsidies from every land use upstream and because of tidal pumping. It’s their location relative to land inputs however that also makes them vulnerable to N-enrichment and eutrophication.Urbanization and estuary eutrophication
Forrest HowkBayfield High School, OneEnergy RenewablesI grew up in Bayfield, Wisconsin. In high school, I partnered with various local organizations and my science teacher to complete an independent project looking at long-term boat traffic data as a proxy for changing ice seasons in the Bayfield Harbor of Lake Superior. After high school I went on to study conservation biology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and received a Master’s degree in public policy from the University of Washington-Seattle. I am now an associate in project development at OneEnergy Renewables, a company that helps with solar projects around the United States.The end of winter as we’ve known it?
Carly KenkelUniversity of Texas at Austin & University of Southern CaliforniaEnvironmental variation is ubiquitous in natural systems. I am interested in understanding the mechanisms marine organisms use to cope with environmental variation at multiple scales, from changes in the relationship between intracellular symbionts and their host environment, to the mechanisms enabling local populations to persist in different habitats. I also have a strong interest in “translational ecology”: turning scientific findings into tools for conservation management.Coral bleaching and climate change
kinsmanLauren Kinsman-CostelloKent State University & Michigan State UniversityI am an ecosystem ecologist interested in the effects of hydrology on aquatic nutrient biogeochemistry and ecosystem function. My research aims to inform larger questions about the resilience of ecosystems faced with environmental change and the ability of humans to manage, restore, and create ecosystems. A recurring theme in my research is the role that sediments play in freshwater ecosystem function (mud matters!).Marvelous mud
IMG_3984Melissa KjelvikMichigan State University & Data NuggetsI am a postdoctoral researcher and co-founder of Data Nuggets. I completed my PhD in Zoology and EEBB at the Kellogg Biological Station as a member of Gary Mittelbach’s Lab. For my research I work with juvenile bluegill sunfish. I am interested in how fitness tradeoffs may lead to the maintenance of individual-level biodiversity, particularly in the behaviors of fish. Dangerously bold
John KominoskiFlorida International University, MiamiI opt to be outside. I am an ecosystem ecologist whose research integrates spatial and temporal scales of biogeochemical cycling and organic matter processing. My research focuses on the interface (ecotone) between ecosystems where community transitions and exchanges of materials occur. I use theory to test fundamental questions in ecology, enabling me to study diverse ecosystems ranging from the mountains to the sea. I am passionate about field-based research and teaching, and I maintain long-term research in the southern Appalachian Mountains, Gulf Coast of Texas, and the Florida Everglades.The case of the collapsing soil
Bob KuhnCentennial High SchoolI have been an educator for 22 years, mostly at Centennial High School in Roswell, Georgia where I have taught freshman biology and AP biology for 19 years. I am a proud graduate of the University of Georgia (BS/MS) with degrees in paleontology. In addition to teaching biology, I mentor students in independent research.Hold on for your life! Part 1 & Part 2
Matt KustraUniversity of VirginiaI am a senior at the University of Virginia majoring in Biology and Computer Science. My research interests are in post-copulatory sexual selection as well as how social environment affects animal physiology and behavior. I am currently working on my distinguished major’s thesis in the Cox lab, looking at how spatial distributions of lizards change throughout the year. After graduation, I plan on pursuing a PhD in evolutionary biology. Is it better to be bigger?
alyciaAlycia LackeyMichigan State University & Murray State UniversityMy research lies at the intersection of evolution, ecology, and behavior. I am interested in how populations evolve in response to the environment, especially in cases of environmental change. I study what generates, maintains, and erodes diversity within and between populations. For my PhD I explored the evolution of reproductive isolation between species of stickleback fish. I studied how divergent sexual and natural selection maintained distinct species and how environmental change facilitated hybridization between one species pair. I am enthusiastic about teaching, mentoring, and outreach.Which guy should she choose? & Fish fights
larsonWesley LarsonUniversity of WashingtonMy graduate research is focused on the use of genotyping by sequencing to acquire data from Chinook salmon populations in western Alaska; these data will provide conservation options and new insights into local adaptation. I am also interested processes influencing variation in the genes of the major histocompatibility complex.Salmon in hot water
jen_lau_2-150Jen LauMichigan State University & Indiana UniversityI am an evolutionary ecologist interested in understanding the full range of ways that plant populations respond to changing environmental conditions. Much of my work focuses on how rapid environmental changes (e.g., biological invasions, rising CO2 concentrations, and global climate change) impact population dynamics, species interactions, and the evolution of plant populations.Invasion meltdown & Springing forward
Laura LillyScripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San DiegoMy research focuses on zooplankton responses to El Niño events in the California Current. I completed a joint B.S. and M.S. degrees at Stanford University in Earth Systems, with an oceanography focus. In conjunction with those degrees, I researched tuna physiology. Prior to graduate school, I completed a California Sea Grant Fellowship with the West Coast Governors' Alliance and Ocean Observing Systems to connect oceanographic data to policymakers. In my non-research time, I love to surf, ride horses, run, travel to Baja California, write poetry, and promote low-waste lifestyles.Crunchy or squishy? How El Niño events change zooplankton
michaelmartinMichael MartinUniversity of Maryland, Baltimore County & University of ArizonaI started my college career as an engineer, but after taking a zoology class I was hooked on biology. I was amazed by the millions of different types of animals that have lived, and currently live, on Earth. I needed to know how so many different types of animals evolved, and so I decided to study the process of speciation. I am currently working in a group of stream fish, called darters, to try and learn how differences in mating behavior might lead to new animal species. This work has led me to a more general interest in animal behavior that I now study in fruit flies as well.Are you my species?
erinErin McCulloughUniversity of Western AustraliaI am fascinated by morphological diversity, and my research aims to understand the selective pressures that drive (and constrain) the evolution of animal form. Competition for mates is a particularly strong evolutionary force, and I study how sexual selection has contributed to the elaborate and diverse morphologies found throughout the animal kingdom. Using horned beetles as a model system, I am interested in how male-male competition has driven the evolution of diverse weapon morphologies, and how sexual selection has shaped the evolution of physical performance capabilities.Beetle battles
Remington MollMichigan State UniversityI am currently a graduate student. My research uses cutting-edge technologies such as GPS collars and camera-traps to study predator-prey interactions between large carnivores and their prey. I am excited about evaluating how ecological theory developed in "natural" areas like national parks applies to urban contexts. I grew up in the city and fell in love with nature and ecology in city parks. Although it comes with challenges, I believe that humans and large predators can peaceably coexist, even in and around cities. It is my goal to use the lessons learned from my research to help make that belief a reality.City parks: wildlife islands in a sea of cement
MorrisJimWebJames MorrisUniversity of South CarolinaMy research spans the basic and applied aspects of the physiological ecology of plants adapted to wetland habitats and the biogeochemistry and systems ecology of wetlands, primarily salt and freshwater intertidal wetlands. We take an approach that combines field work, analytical chemistry, and numerical modeling.Is your salt marsh in the zone?
Bill MungerHarvard UniversityThe Harvard Forest Environmental Measurement Station began measurements in the fall of 1989. The objectives at this site are to make long-term measurements of net carbon exchange, canopy-atmosphere exchange of selected trace gases, and regional atmospheric chemistry. My emphasis has been on the regional atmospheric chemistry and nitrogen deposition, and long-term trends in carbon storage.Are forests helping in the fight against climate change?
novak-bioAlyssa NovakCenter for Coastal Studies, Boston UniversityI am a coastal ecologist who uses a combination of theoretical and empirical approaches to understand how coastal ecosystems experience and respond to stressors. The ultimate goal of my research is to provide information that facilitates initiatives to enhance ecosystem resilience. I have worked extensively in seagrass systems. Recently, I expanded my work to salt marsh systems and am investigating marsh-edge subsidence and its relationship to the invasive European green crab.Green Crabs: Invaders in the Great Marsh
828_Ali Mugshot 250pixAlison O’DonnellUniversity of Western AustraliaI have a broad research interest in biogeography and landscape ecology in relation to climate variability and fire regimes. I am particularly interested in utilising dendrochronology (tree ring) techniques to understand past climates and fire regimes of arid and semi-arid regions in Western Australia. I also have an ongoing interest in improving understanding of the interactions between climate and fire and vegetation, topography and ecosystem processes.What do trees know about rain?
Erik OlsonNorthland CollegeI currently study a wide-variety of topics focused on predator ecology and conservation. Some of my recent projects include: wolf management and ecology in the Great Lakes region, island biogeography theory in the Apostle Islands wildlife community, grey fox climbing behavior, monitoring of jaguars and other wildlife in two National Parks of Costa Rica, factors influencing nest site selection and reproductive success in American kestrels, and the habitat value of old-growth white pine canopies.Candid camera: Capturing the secret lives of carnivores
Logan PallinOregon State University & Palmer Station LTERPopulations of humpback whales in the Southern Hemisphere are recovering after intense commercial whaling during the last century. Along the Western Antarctic Peninsula (WAP) this recovery is occurring in an environment that is experiencing the fastest warming of any region on the planet. For my master’s research, I will employ a suite of genetic, biochemical, and photographic techniques to assess the demography of humpback whales along the WAP and how these demographics change with the onset of climate change. Specifically, I will measure changes in sex ratios and quantify pregnancy rates.When whale I sea you again?
Robert ReedCornell University My research focuses on the question of where butterfly color patterns come from - how they originated and how they change over time. My work examines this question using multiple approaches, ranging from developmental genetics to behavioral ecology. I became interested in butterflies as an undergraduate at U.C. Berkeley. I later earned a PhD in Molecular and Cellular Biology at University of Arizona, where I characterized several genes involved in wing patterning and pigmentation. I am currently an Associate Professor at Cornell University where my lab works on many different types of butterflies, including Heliconius.Why are butterfly wings colorful?
Aaron ReedyUniversity of VirginiaI lead field research in Florida, where I'm conducting my PhD research on the quantitative genetics and genomics of intralocus sexual conflict in brown anoles. Before grad school, I taught biology at Thomas Kelly High School in Chicago, where I pioneered the new model of teacher-scientist collaboration and classroom experimentation that is the centerpiece of our Evolution Education program.Is it better to be bigger? & Is it dangerous to be a showoff?
1368734335Gal RibakTel-Aviv University, IsraelMy field of research covers comparative biomechanics and ecophysiology of locomotion in animals. I study the biomechanical, physiological and evolutionary mechanisms that shape the diversity of animal abilities to move (e.g. fly, swim jump) through their natural environment. The flight of the stalk-eyed fly
Clare RittschofUniversity of KentuckyI am broadly interested in the evolutionary consequences and mechanistic underpinnings of behavioral plasticity, particularly in the context of social interactions. I have addressed this topic to-date with studies of alternative reproductive strategies and tactics in the spider Nephila clavipes, and more recently in the context of socially-induced variation in aggression in the honey bee. My research combines perspectives from behavioral ecology, behavioral genomics, and neuroscience.To bee or not to bee aggressive
Nick RobertsonNorthland CollegeMy research group focuses on using synthetic chemistry to reduce the environmental impact of society. We work to develop new biorenewable and/or biodegradable materials as well as developing methods for reducing the quantity of waste materials heading to landfills. All of the lab work for these projects is performed by Northland students. I have two young daughters who keep me on my toes and constantly entertained. When I am not spending time with my family, I love silent sports—cross country skiing, biking (road, mountain, cyclocross and snowbiking) and paddling.Working to reduce the plastics problem
9CB91B30-155D-E635-18608A03FB74AFF6_mediumAshlee RoweUniversity of OklahomaI am interested in sensory and motor systems and their role in the evolution of adaptive behavior, particularly traits that mediate interactions between animals. My ultimate goal is to understand how animals adapt to their environment. My research program is integrative and focuses on understanding the biochemical, molecular, genetic and physiological bases of adaptive behavior. To address these questions, I study traits that are at the interface of species interactions.A tail of two scorpions
Ashlee & Matt Rowe 2Matt RoweUniversity of OklahomaMy research in behavioral ecology uses integrative approaches to study coevolution between predators and prey. These dynamic interactions show remarkable sophistication, from ground squirrels using rattling they provoke in rattlesnakes to assess the body size and temperature of their reptilian enemies, to grasshopper mice capable of feeding on highly neurotoxic scorpions because of subtle modifications in the mouse’s peripheral nerves. My conservation biology research examines habitat selection and habitat requirements in vertebrates.A tail of two scorpions
leileiLTERLeilei RuanMichigan State University & University of California, BerkeleyI study the effects of nitrogen fertilizers on greenhouse gas emissions, a project that will help to maximize crop productivity while reducing emissions. In another research project, I examine biofuel crops. Most people think that if we use biofuel crops, what we burn doesn’t increase or decrease carbon in the atmosphere, and my research studies that question.Fertilizing biofuels may cause release of greenhouse gasses
gsanfordGregg SanfordGLBRC, University of Wisconsin-MadisonI am responsible for the management of a 40 acre intensive biofuel cropping systems trial located at the UW agricultural research station in Arlington, WI. I was involved in the design and implementation of 3 new bioenergy cropping systems trials in WI. I conduct independent research related to the sustainable production of dedicated bioenergy crops with an emphasis on soil quality metrics such as carbon pools and dynamics.Growing energy: comparing biofuel crop biomass
schemske_dougDoug SchemskeMichigan State UniversityThe goal of my research is to characterize the mechanisms of adaptation. This requires information on both the ecological significance of putative adaptive traits as well as an understanding of their genetic basis. Such comprehensive studies are extremely difficult to accomplish; thus it is perhaps not surprising that our current knowledge of adaptation is inadequate. A central theme of my work is the link between temporal and spatial variation in ecological conditions and the adaptive differentiation of populations and species. I rely on ecological and genetic approaches to investigate the origin and maintenance of biological diversity. Winter is coming! Can you handle the freeze?
Elizabeth SchultheisMichigan State University & Data NuggetsI am a postdoctoral researcher and co-founder of Data Nuggets. For my PhD I studied the role of biotic interactions during invasion and how release from enemies could drive the success of invasive plants. My work on Data Nuggets includes science education research, curriculum development, running training workshops for scientists looking to improve their science communication, and running professional development for teachers. My research will help to determine whether Data Nuggets increase student quantitative reasoning abilities and interest and engagement in science.Do insects prefer local or foreign foods? & Do invasive species escape their enemies? & Springing forward
screenJames ScreenUniversity of ExeterMy research examines climate varaibility and change in the polar regions, and the effects these changes on the global climate system. My research utilises a combination of observational analyses and numerical modeling to elucidate the physical drivers of climate variability on seasonal and longer timescales, and the two-way interactions between polar and lower-latitude regions. Currently, my research focusses on exploring how the inexorable retreat of Arctic sea ice effects extreme weather in Europe and the U.S.The Arctic is Melting – So What?
Jim-Seeb1-528x528Jim SeebUniversity of WashingtonMy research focuses on identifying genetic differences that distinguish one Pacific salmon population from another. My current work uses genetic markers to track the migration of adult salmon in the North Pacific Ocean and Bering Sea. My wife, Lisa Seeb, and I run the program which provides an important intersection between the Alaska Salmon Program and the SAFS Molecular Ecology Research Laboratory to conduct both basic and applied research. We want to better understand the genetic mechanisms underlying how salmon respond to environmental change.Salmon in hot water
Shelby ServaisFlorida International University, MiamiMy current research is focused on how soil microbes are affected by environmental stresses and subsidies. I work in the Everglades ecosystem where carbon-rich soils are threatened by climate change and land management practices. Microbial communities influence biochemical cycles, and microbial function is controlled by environmental conditions. Specifically, I am testing how soil microbial function is affected by changes in salinity, inundation, and phosphorus. I am also passionate about science communication and outreach. I actively communicate my research to the public, stakeholders, students, and educators.The case of the collapsing soil
msuresearchjpg-8020ab42df67cf3cIurii ShcherbakMichigan State UniversityI am a crop modeling scientist, experienced in programming and statistics. I have a strong interest in developing improved crop models with emphasis on limiting complexity while representing features sufficient for model to be widely applicable. I also want to understand ways to enhance efficiency of farm management and achieve sustainable crop production.The ground has gas!
Arial ShogrenMichigan State UniversityI am a stream ecologist - and I like to say that I literally fell in love with river research. As part of a high school outdoor education course, I fell into the St. Croix River in Northern Wisconsin. While I briefly floated downstream, I realized that I wanted to know more about how rivers work, sparking my early interest in aquatic ecology and hydrology. My research broadly focuses on how rivers move and transform material as they cross the landscape, and I currently work primarily in the Arctic. I am particularly interested in how physical and biological variables interact to drive the signals we see in river water.Streams as sensors & Limit by limit
scientistsPaula StollerValparaiso UniversityI am a hardworking and dedicated person who is personable and enjoys interacting with others. I am also a public speaker. My biggest academic goal is to graduate from Valparaiso University with a Bachelors of Science degree in Biology and Environmental Science. I would like to go onto graduate school and pursue a Master's in Entomology. I am very passionate about the environment as well.CSI: Crime Solving Insects
Nora StraquadineMichigan State UniversityI am currently an undergraduate getting my B.S. in Zoology with a concentration in Zoo and Aquarium as well as a minor in Marine Ecosystem Management. Although aquatic life is my main interest, I think it’s important to appreciate other animal groups and take a break to play and explore the nature around you. That curiosity was how I was able to volunteer in labs on campus from entomology to genetics, and how I came to spend a summer at the Kellogg Biological Station in Michigan. Which would a woodlouse prefer?
Lantao_SunLantao SunUniversity of Colorado at Boulder & National Center for Atmospheric ResearchI am currently a research scientist at Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES), University of Colorado at Boulder and NOAA Earth System Research Laboratory (ESRL).The arctic is melting – so what?
img_0287Tomomi SuwaMichigan State UniversityI am broadly interested in population, community, and evolutionary ecology in agricultural and natural systems. I work on topics including plant-insect interactions, biological invasions, and plant-microbe symbiosis. I completed my PhD in Plant Biology and EEBB at the Kellogg Biological Station as a member of Jen Lau’s Lab. My dissertation research examined the role of resource mutualisms in plant adaptation to abiotic environments.Does a partner in crime make it easier to invade?
johnswallowJohn SwallowUniversity of Colorado, DenverMy research focuses on how morphology, physiology, and behavior evolve together as an integrated phenotype. I use stalk-eyed flies as a model system to investigate how evolution, driven by sexual selection (e.g. ornamentation that serves as secondary sexual signals), conflicts with locomotor performance and, ultimately, fitness. Sexual selection provides a selective engine with the ability to drive large changes in suites of behavioral, physiological and morphological characters with the potential for rapid speciation. Research in my lab includes ecological, organismal, biomechanical and behavioral approaches.How to escape a predator & The flight of the stalk-eyed fly & How do brain chemicals influence who wins a fight?
Casey terHorstCalifornia State University, NorthridgeI am an evolutionary ecologist, studying how rapid evolution alters interactions between competitors, mutualists, and predator and prey. My lab is also interested in how evolution occurs in communities, where any species lives with many other types of species in a complicated web of interactions. When I'm not in the lab, I spend too much time consuming pop culture and playing pub-trivia with friends.Testing the tolerance of invasive plants
robinRobin TinghitellaUniversity of DenverWork in our lab centers on the roles of ecology and behavior in rapid evolutionary change. We work with real organisms in their real habitats, and also use laboratory experimentation and phylogenetic tools to understand the forces that shape diversity in animal communication and social systems. Recently, we’ve been thinking a lot about the consequences of anthropogenic change for sexual selection.How the cricket lost its song Part 1 & Part 2
turnell-headshotBiz TurnellCornell University & Dresden University of TechnologyI am interested in how sexual selection drives evolution, and in the interplay between pre- and postcopulatory sexual selection. For my PhD work at Cornell University I studied a Hawaiian cricket, quantifying the different stages of sexual selection in the field and developing a mathematical model of strategic sperm allocation. As a postdoc at the Dresden University of Technology in Germany I will investigate how sperm metabolism changes in female storage organs, and whether these changes can explain the differences in sperm use patterns we see in different species of Drosophila.Bon Appétit! Why do male crickets feed females during courtship?
Tony VorsterColorado State UniversityI am a PhD candidate in the Graduate Degree Program in Ecology. My research addresses natural resource management questions related to managing beetle-killed forests, forest carbon and invasive species. I have taught at both the elementary and undergraduate level and continue to enjoy taking science to K-12 classrooms.Tree-killing beetles
243328Martha WeissGeorgetown UniversityMy research focuses on the role of behavior, by both plants and insects, in mediating interactions among the two groups of organisms. The sensory and behavioral attributes of insects, including vision, taste, smell, and touch, as well as a capacity to learn and remember, ultimately shape the insects' ability to interact with and exert selection on plants and on other insects. Similarly, the active behavior of plants allows them to take advantage of insects' sensory and behavioral capabilities. Shooting the poop
me-at-Grand-TetonDanielle WhittakerMichigan State University, BEACONMy current work focuses on avian chemical communication, addressing the following questions: what information is present in a bird's odor, what can birds detect, and what are their preferences when it comes to choosing a mate? Sexy smells
Caroline WilliamsUniversity of California, BerkeleyAn organism’s task is to get nutrients from the environment, and divide those nutrients among competing demands in the way that best enhances the passing on of its genes. This task is complicated by the fact that environments vary in concentrations of nutrients, and in abiotic factors that impact the acquisition and processing of those nutrients. My research combines field-based natural history and experiments with laboratory-based biochemistry and physiology. Research in my lab focuses on linking detailed biochemical and physiological measurements to life history and fitness consequences.Beetle, it’s cold outside!
img_0117Amy WorthingtonCreighton University & Washington State UniversityI strive to help my students attain a broader scientific literacy that will serve them long after their formal education is complete. Specifically, I want my students to learn how science works, why it is an ever-changing field, what the scientific method is and how to use it, how to critically evaluate science in the news, and how to effectively communicate science to both peers and laypeople. I particularly enjoy engaging with the general public about science and I frequently seek out unique opportunities to interact with people of all ages. How to escape a predator
Jay ZarnetskeMichigan State UniversityI am a hydrologist, which means I spend my days observing, quantifying, and advancing our understanding of how water interacts with human and ecological processes. In other words, I ask “How does the physics of water regulate ecosystems?” I have the opportunity to develop measurements, models, and methods that are relevant to a wide range of stakeholders dealing with climate change, sustainability, hydrology, biogeochemistry, aquatic ecology, and landscape ecology issues. This work has taken me from my roots in the Adirondack region of New York, to school, research, and jobs around the world.Streams as sensors: Arctic watersheds as indicators of change

VIEW IN SEARCHABLE TABLE

Below, you will find a table of all the Data Nugget activities. Click on the Title to open a page displaying the teacher guide, student activities, grading rubric, and associated resources. The table can be sorted using the arrows located next to each column header. It can also be searched by content area using the search bar, located to the top right of the table.

 TitleKeywordsSummaryContent LevelStudy Location
DSC_0060Won’t you be my urchin?coral reef, herbivory, marine, sea urchin, water, animals, competitionCorals are the most important reef animals since they build the reef for all of the other animals to live in. But corals only like to live in certain places. In particular they hate living near algae because the algae and coral compete for the space they both need to grow. Perhaps if there are more vegetarians, like urchins, eating algae on the reef then corals would have less competition and more space to grow.1Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary, Texas
DSC_0060Coral bleaching and climate changeclimate change, coral reef, marine, mutualism, temperature, animals, algae, adaptation, evolutionCorals are animals that build coral reefs. They look brown and green because they have small plants, called algae, that live inside them. The coral animal and the algae work together to produce food so that corals can grow big. When the water gets too warm, sometimes the coral and algae can no longer work together. The algae leave and the corals turn white, called coral bleaching. Scientists want to study coral bleaching so they can protect corals and the reefs that provide a home for so many different species.1Florida Keys, Florida
pcare2Raising Nemo: Parental care in the clown anemonefishanimals, behavior, coral reef, ecology, fish, marine, mating, tradeoff, plasticityOffspring in many animal species rely on parental care; the more time and energy parents invest in their young, the more likely it is that their offspring will survive. However, parental care is costly for the parents. The more time spent on care, the less time they have to find food or care for themselves. In the clown anemonefish, the amount of food available may impact parental care behaviors. When there is food freely available in the environment, are parents able to spend more time caring for their young?3Boston University, Massachusetts
City parks: wildlife islands in a sea of cementanimals, biodiversity, ecology, urban, island biogeography, parksIt's tempting to think that wild places are only somewhere "out there", far away from humans and cities. However, as more and more people move into cities, they are quickly becoming the main place where many people experience nature and interact with wildlife. A camera-trapping project in the Cleveland Metroparks reveals a vast urban wilderness that is home to countless wild creatures living among us.3Cleveland Metroparks, Ohio
Candid camera: capturing the secret lives of carnivoresanimals, biodiversity, carnivores, ecology, island biogeographyCarnivores captivate people’s interest for many reasons – they are charismatic, stealthy, and can be dangerous. Not only are they fascinating, they’re also ecologically important. Carnivores help keep prey populations in balance. While they are important, they are also difficult to monitor.3Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, Wisconsin
Picky eaters: dissecting poo to examine moose dietsanimal behavior, animals, ecology, foraging, herbivory, national park, predator-preySince wolves have disappeared from Isle Royale, moose populations have exploded. Moose are important herbivores, and with so many on the island they are having strong impacts on the island's plant communities. Do moose just eat any plant they find, or do they have a preference for certain types?3Isle Royale National Park, Michigan
Deadly windowsanimals, behavior, birds, environmental, urbanGlass makes for a great windowpane because you can see right through it. However, this makes windows very dangerous for birds. Many birds die from window collisions in urban areas. In North America window collisions kill up to 1 billion birds every year! Perhaps local urban birds are able to learn the locations of windows and avoid collisions. By comparing window collisions by local birds to those of migrant birds just passing through, we can determine if local birds have learned to deal with this challenge.2Virginia Zoological Park, Virginia
Bringing back the Trumpeter Swananimals, biodiversity, birds, ecology, environmental, restorationTrumpeter swans are the biggest native waterfowl species in North America. At one time they were found across North America, but by 1935 there were only 69 known individuals in the continental U.S.! In the 1980s, many biologists came together to create a Trumpeter Swan reintroduction plan. Since then the North American Trumpeter Swan survey has been conducted to measure swan populations and determine whether this species is recovering.3Kellogg Bird Sanctuary, Michigan
DSC_0060The birds of Hubbard Brook, Part Ianimals, biodiversity, birds, climate change, succession, disturbance, ecologyAvian ecologists at the Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest have been monitoring bird populations for over 50 years. The data collected during this time is one of the longest bird studies ever conducted! What can we learn from this long-term data set? Are bird populations remaining stable over time?2Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest, New Hampshire
DSC_0060The birds of Hubbard Brook, Part IIanimals, biodiversity, birds, climate change, succession, disturbance, ecologyHubbard Brook was heavily logged and disturbed in the early 1900s. When logging ended in 1915, trees began to grow back. The forest then went through secondary succession, which refers to the naturally occurring changes in forest structure that happen as a forest ages after it has been cut or otherwise disturbed. Can these changes in habitat availability, due to succession, explain why the number of birds are declining at Hubbard Brook? Are all bird species responding succession in the same way?3Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest, New Hampshire
 junglefoulFeral chickens fly the coopadaptation, animals, behavior, birds, ecology, evolution, invasive species, mating, heredity, geneticsSometimes domesticated animals escape captivity and interbreed with closely related wild relatives. Their hybrid offspring have some traits from the wild parent, and some from the domestic parent. Traits that help hybrids survive and reproduce will be favored by natural selection. On the island of Kauai, domestic chickens escaped and recently interbred with wild Red Junglefowl to produce a hybrid population. Over time, will the hybrids on Kauai evolve to be more like chickens, or more like Red Junglefowl?3Kauai, Hawaii
DSC_0060Sexy smellsadaptation, animal behavior, animals, birds, mating, evolution, sexual selectionAnimals collect information about each other and the rest of the world using multiple senses, including sight, sound, and smell. They use this information to decide what to eat, where to live, and who to pick as a mate. Many male birds have brightly colored feathers and ornaments that are attractive to females. Visual signals like these ornaments have been studied a lot in birds, but birds may be able to determine the quality of a potential mate using other senses as well, such as their smell!2Mountain Lake Biological Station, Virginia
chickadee2Finding Mr. Rightadaptation, animals, behavior, biodiversity, birds, evolution, genes, mating, local adaptationMountain chickadees are small birds that live in the mountains. To deal with living in a harsh environment during the winter, mountain chickadees store large amounts of food throughout the forest. Compared to populations at lower elevations, birds from higher elevations are smarter and have better spatial memory, helping them better find stored food. Smarter females from high elevations may be contributing to local adaptation by preferring to breed with males from their own population.4University of Nevada Reno & Sagehen Experimental Forest
DSC_0060A tail of two scorpionsanimal behavior, animals, predationSpecies rely on a variety of methods to defend against predators, including camouflage, speedy escape, or retreating to the safety of a shelter. Other animals, such as scorpions, have painful venomous stings. Scientists wanted to know whether the pain of a scorpion sting was enough to deter predators, like the grasshopper mouse.2Santa Rita Mountains, Arizona
Why are butterfly wings colorful?adaptation, animals, insects, models, predationBig wings allow butterflies to fly everywhere with ease. But you may wonder, why are the wings of some species so brightly colored? The red postman butterfly lives in rainforests in Mexico, Central America, and South America. The color pattern on its wing is usually a mix of red, yellow, and black. These bright colors may warn birds and other predators that they would not make a tasty meal. Another potential reason for butterflies to have bright colors and dramatic patterns is to attract mates.3La Selva Tropical Biological Station, Sarapiquí, Costa Rica
To bee or not to bee aggressiveanimals, behavior, genes, insects, tradeoff, plasticityHoney bees turn nectar from flowers into honey, and honey serves as an energy-rich food source for the colony. Honey also makes hives a target for break ins by animals that want to steal it. Bees need to aggressively defend their honey when the hive is threatened. They also need to ensure that they do not waste energy on unnecessary aggressive behaviors when the threat level is low. One way bees might match their aggressiveness to the threat level in the environment is learning from adults when they are young.3University of Kentucky, Kentucky
DSC_0060CSI: Crime Solving Insectsanimals, insects, parasitismYou might think maggots (blow fly larvae) are gross, but without their help in decomposition we would all trip over dead bodies every time we went outside! Forensic entomologists also use these amazing insects to help solve crimes. Blow flies oviposit on dead bodies; the age of the maggots helps scientists determine how long ago a body died. Scientists noticed parasitic wasps were also present at some bodies. Might these wasps delay blow fly oviposition and interfere with scientists' estimates of time of death?3Pierce Cedar Creek Institute, Michigan & Valparaiso University, Indiana
DSC_0060Shooting the poopadaptation, animal behavior, animals, insects, predationCaterpillars are a great source of food for many species. The silver-spotted skipper caterpillar has a variety of defense strategies against predators, including building leaf shelters for protection. This caterpillar was also discovered to “shoot its poop”, sometimes launching it over 1.5m! Might this very strange behavior serve as some sort of defense against predators?2Georgetown University, Washington DC
DSC_0060How the cricket lost its song, Part Iadaptation, animal behavior, animals, evolution, mating, parasitismPacific field crickets live on several Hawaiian Islands, including Kauai. Male field crickets make a loud, long-distance song to help females find them, and then switch to a quiet courtship song once a female comes in close. One summer scientists noticed that the crickets on the island were unusually quiet. Back in the lab they saw males that had lost their specialized wing structures used to produce song! Why did these males lose their wing structures?3Kauai Agricultural Research Center - Kapaa, Hawaii
DSC_0060How the cricket lost its song, Part IIadaptation, animal behavior, animals, evolution, mating, parasitismWithout their song, how are flatwing crickets able to attract females? In some other animals species, males use an alternative to singing, called satellite behavior. Satellite males hang out near a singing male and attempt to mate with females who have been attracted by the song. Perhaps the satellite behavior gives flatwing males the opportunity to mate with females who were attracted to the few singing males left on Kauai. 3Kauai Agricultural Research Center - Kapaa, Hawaii
dungbeetleBeetle battlesadaptation, animals, behavior, competition, evolution, insects, matingMale animals spend a lot of time and energy trying to attract females. They may fight with other males or court females directly. Is there one trait that is both good for fighting males and attracting females? In the horned dung beetle, males have to fight with other males for space in underground tunnels where females mate and lay their eggs. Males also attract females by tapping on their backs. Males that are stronger may potentially be better at both defending tunnels and at attracting females by tapping.2Perth, Australia
Tree-killing beetlesanimals, biodiversity, disturbance, ecology, environmental, insects, plantsA beetle the size of a grain of rice seems insignificant compared to a vast forest. However, during outbreaks the number of mountain pine beetles can skyrocket, leading to the death of many trees. Recent outbreaks of mountain pine beetles killed millions of acres of lodgepole pine trees across western North America. Widespread tree death caused by mountain pine beetles can impact human safety, wildfires, nearby streamflow, and habitat for wildlife.2Colorado State University, Colorado
Where to find the hungry, hungry herbivoresherbivory, plants, insects, ecologyWhen travelling to warm, tropical places you are exposed to greater risk of diseases. The same pattern of risk is true for other species like plants grown for food; crops in warm places have more problems with pests than those in colder areas. Does this pattern hold for plants in the wild as well?2Michigan State University
Are plants more toxic in the tropics?herbivory, diversity, plants, insects, ecology, adaptationLong before chemists learned how to make medicines in the laboratory, people found their medicines in plants. To this day, people still extract some medicinal drugs from plants. But, why do plants make these chemicals that are often so useful to people? Many of these chemicals are to reduce herbivory. Carina thought that this might differ by latitude, or distance from the Equator. Are tropical plants more toxic?
3Michigan State University
DSC_0060Do insects prefer local or foreign foods?herbivory, invasive species, plants, insects, enemy release, ecologyInsects that feed on plants, called herbivores, can have big effects on how plants grow. A plant with leaves eaten by herbivores will likely do worse than a plant that is not eaten. Herbivores may even determine how well an exotic plant does in its new habitat and whether it becomes invasive. Understanding what makes a species become invasive could help control invasions already underway, and prevent new ones in the future.2Kellogg Biological Station, Michigan
DSC_0060Do invasive species escape their enemies?herbivory, invasive species, plants, insects, enemy release, ecologyInvasive species have been introduced by humans to a new area and negatively impact places they invade. Many things change for an invasive species when it is moved from one area to another. For example, a plant that is moved across oceans may not bring its enemies along for the ride. Now that the plant is in a new area with nothing to eat or infect it, the plant could potentially do very well and become invasive.2Kellogg Biological Station, Michigan
Testing the tolerance of invasive plantsecology, herbivory, invasive species, plants, tolerancePeople move species around the globe, and some of these species cause problems where they are introduced. What is it about these invasive species that makes them able to invade? Perhaps certain traits cause invasive species to be more troublesome than others. By studying trait differences between native and invasive populations of the same species, we can learn something about the causes of invasions.3McLaughlin Natural Reserve, California
DSC_0060Invasion meltdownclimate change, ecology, invasive species, plants, temperatureHumans are changing the earth in many ways, including adding greenhouse gasses to the atmosphere, which contributes to climate change, and introducing species around the globe, which can lead to invasive species. Scientists wanted to know, could climate change actually help invasive species? Because invasive species have already survived transport from one habitat to another, they may be species that are better able to handle change, such as temperature changes.3Kellogg Biological Station, Michigan
DSC_0060Springing forwardclimate change, phenology, plants, temperatureWhat does climate change mean for flowering plants that rely on temperature cues to determine when it is time to flower? Scientists who study phenology, or the timing if life-history events in plants and animals, predict that with warming temperatures, plants will produce their flowers earlier and earlier each year.1 & 3Kellogg Biological Station, Michigan
The end of winter as we’ve known it?climate change, ice coverLake Superior plays a vital role in the lives of people who live and work on its shores, and therefore all sorts of data are recorded to help understand and take care of it. Forrest, a high school student, used data from archives to figure out if the ice season was getting shorter each winter in his home town. The length of the ice season is important because it frees the island residents from working around a ferry schedule, allowing them to drive on the ice to get to the mainland.3Madeline Island, Wisconsin
kgrayson1When a species can’t stand the heatanimals, climate change, disturbance, ecology, environmental, mating, temperatureTuatara are a unique species of reptile found only in New Zealand. In this species, the temperature of the nest during egg development determines the sex of offspring. Warm nests lead to more males, and cool nests lead to more females. With warming temperatures due to climate change, scientists expect the sex ratio to become more and more unbalanced over time, with males making up more of the population. This could leave tuatara populations with too few females to sustain their numbers.3North Brother Island, New Zealand
A window into a tree’s worldclimate change, dendrochronology, ecology, plants, temperatureScientists are very interested in learning how trees respond to rapidly warming temperatures. Luckily, trees offer us a window into their lives through their growth rings. Growth rings are found within the trunk, beneath the bark. These rings provide a long historical record, which can be used to study how trees respond to climate change.2Harvard Forest LTER, Massachusetts
DSC_0060What do trees know about rain?climate change, dendrochronology, ecology, plants, precipitation, temperature, waterThe typical climate of arid northwest Australia consists of long drought periods with a few very wet years sprinkled in. Scientists predict that climate change will cause these cycles to become more extreme – droughts will become longer and periods of rain will become wetter. When variability is the norm, how can scientists tell if the climate is changing and droughts and rain events today are more intense than what we've seen in the past? The answer to this challenge comes from trees! 3Pilbara region, northwest Australia
Beetle, it’s cold outside!animals, climate change, ectotherm, insects, temperature, snowMany species rely on the snow for protection from the winter’s cold. The snow acts as an insulating blanket, covering the soil and keeping it from getting too cold. If temperatures get too hot in the winter, snow melts and leaves the soil uncovered for longer periods of time. This leads to the shocking pattern that warmer temperatures actually means the soil gets colder! How will species that rely on the snow, like lady beetles, respond to warmer temperatures due to climate change?2University of California, Berkeley
DSC_0060The Arctic is melting – so what?climate change, marine, models, temperature, water, weather, snowThink of the North Pole as one big ice cube – a vast sheet of ice, only a few meters thick, floating over the Arctic Ocean. With global warming, more sea ice is melting than ever before. If more ice melts in the summer than is formed in the winter, the Arctic Ocean will become ice-free. Scientists ran a climate model to determine whether this loss of sea ice could affect extreme weather in the northern hemisphere.4Arctic Ocean, North Pole
When whale I sea you again?climate change, marine, temperature, water, whalesPeople have hunted whales for over 5,000 years for their meat, oil, and blubber. Today, as populations are struggling to recover from whaling, humpback whales are faced with additional challenges due to climate change. Their main food source is krill, which are small crustaceans that live under sea ice. As sea ice disappears, the number of krill is getting lower and lower. Humpback whale population recovery may be limited because their main food source is threatened by ongoing ocean warming.4Western Antarctic Peninsula, Palmer Station LTER
Can biochar improve crop yields?agriculture, environmental, fertilization, plants, soil, waterBiochar is a pretty unique material. It is created when things burn without oxygen. Most biochar has lots of tiny spaces, or pores, that cause it to act like a hard sponge when it is in the soil. Due to these pores, the biochar can hold more water and nutrients than the soil can by itself. Adding biochar to the soil may help farmers grow more crops, especially in areas prone to drought where water is limited.3Colorado State University Agricultural Research and Development Center
DSC_0060Growing energy: comparing biofuel crop biomassagriculture, biofuels, climate change, fertilization, plantsCorn is one of the best crops for producing biomass for fossil fuels, however it is an annual and needs very fertile soil. To grow corn, farmers add a lot of chemical fertilizers and pesticides to their fields. Other crops, like switchgrass, prairie, poplar trees, and Miscanthus grass are perennials and require fewer fertilizers and pesticides to grow. If perennials can produce high levels of biomass with low inputs, perhaps they could produce more biomass than corn under certain low nutrient conditions.3GLBRC, Kellogg Biological Station & University Wisconsin-Madison
DSC_0060Fertilizing biofuels may cause release of greenhouse gassesbiofuels, climate change, fertilization, greenhouse gasses, nitrogen, plantsOne way to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases we release into the atmosphere could be to grow our fuel instead of drilling for it. Unlike fossil fuels that can only release CO2, biofuels remove CO2 from the atmosphere as they grow and photosynthesize, potentially balancing the CO2 released when they are burned for fuel. However, the plants we grow for biofuels don’t necessarily absorb all greenhouse gas that is released during the process of growing them on farms and converting them into fuels.3GLBRC, Kellogg Biological Station, Michigan
DSC_0060The ground has gas!climate change, temperature, greenhouse gasses, nitrogen, plantsNitrous oxide and carbon dioxide are responsible for much of the warming of the global average temperature that is causing climate change. Sometimes soils give off, or emit, these greenhouse gases into the earth’s atmosphere, adding to climate change. Currently scientists figuring out what causes differences in how much of each type of greenhouse gas soils emit.3GLBRC, Kellogg Biological Station, Michigan
Are forests helping in the fight against climate change?climate change, ecology, environmental, greenhouse gasses, photosynthesis, plantsIn the 1990s, scientists began to wonder what role forests were having in the exchange of carbon in and out of the atmosphere. Were forests overall storing carbon (carbon sink), or releasing it (carbon source)? To test this, they built large metal towers that stand taller than the forest trees around them and use sensors to measure the speed, direction, and CO2 concentration of each puff of air that passes by. These long term measurements can tell us whether forests help in the fight against climate change.3Harvard Forest LTER, Massachusetts
The carbon stored in mangrove soilscarbon, climate change, disturbance, ecology, environmental, nutrients, greenhouse gasses, plantsMangroves are globally important for many reasons. They form dense forested wetlands that protect the coast from erosion and provide critical habitat for many animals. Mangrove forests also help in the fight against climate change by storing carbon in their soils. The balance between how much carbon is added to the soils and how much is released might be dependent on a variety of factors, including tree size and amount of disturbance to the site.2Biscayne National Park, Florida Everglades
Streams as sensors: Arctic watersheds as indicators of changeclimate change, ecology, environmental, carbon, nitrogen, permafrostAs the world warms from climate change, the Alaskan Arctic is heating up. This is causing permafrost, or the frozen underground layer of rock and ice, to melt. When permafrost melts, plant material that has been stored for thousands of years begins to decay, releasing carbon and nitrogen from the system. Ecologists can act like “ecosystem accountants” measuring the balance of material that goes into and out of these systems.3Toolik Field Station, Alaska
Limit by limit: Nutrients control algal growth in Arctic streamsclimate change, ecology, environmental, nitrogen, nutrients, phosphorusAquatic algae, a type of microbe that live in the water, need to take in nutrients from their surroundings for growth. Two important nutrients for algal growth are nitrogen (N) and phosphorous (P). Climate change may be altering which nutrients are limiting to algae, changing food webs in the ecosystem.3Toolik Field Station, Alaska
DSC_0060Cheaters in nature – when is a mutualism not a mutualism?evolution, legume, plants, mutualism, parasitism, rhizobia, nitrogen, fertilizationMutualisms are a special type of relationship in nature where two species work together and both benefit. This cooperation should lead to each partner species doing better when the other is around – without their mutualist partner, the species will have a harder time acquiring resources. But what happens when one partner cheats and takes more than it gives?4Kellogg Biological Station, Michigan
DSC_0060Fair traders or freeloaders?evolution, legume, plants, mutualism, rhizobia, nitrogen, fertilizationOne example of a mutualism is the relationship between a type of bacteria, rhizobia, and plants like peas, beans, soybeans, and clover. Rhizobia live in bumps on the plant roots, where they trade their nitrogen for sugar from the plants. Rhizobia turn nitrogen from the air into a form that plants can use. Under some conditions, this mutualism could break down, for example, if one of the traded resources is very abundant in the environment.3Kellogg Biological Station, Michigan
DSC_0060Does a partner in crime make it easier to invade?evolution, legume, plants, mutualism, rhizobia, invasive speciesInvasive plants are species that have been transported by humans from one location to another, and grow and spread quickly compared to other plants. Mutualisms can affect what happens when a plant species is moved somewhere it hasn’t been before. For invasive legumes with rhizobia mutualists, there is a chance that the rhizobia will not be transported with it and the plant will have to form new relationships with rhizobia in the new location.3Kellogg Biological Station, Michigan
Fast weeds in farmer’s fieldsadaptation, agriculture, evolution, plants, heredity, geneticsWeeds in agricultural fields cost farmers $28 billion per year in just the United States alone. One of the world’s worst weeds is weedy radish, which evolved from native radish not very long ago. While weedy radish is able to take over agricultural fields, native radish cannot. What causes this difference? Perhaps it could be due to the weedy radish’s ability to flower quickly and make seeds before crops are harvested.2Kellogg Biological Station, Michigan
What big teeth you have! Sexual selection in rhesus macaquesanimals, evolution, sexual selection, sexual dimorphismIn Cayo Santiago there is one of the oldest free-ranging rhesus macaque colonies in the world. Scientists have gathered data on these monkeys and their habitat for over 70 years. The program monitors individual monkeys over their entire lives, and when they die their bodies are recovered and skeletal specimens are stored in a museum. These skeletal specimens can be used by scientists today to ask new and exciting questions, for example, what traits are under sexual selection in this population?3Laboratory of Primate Morphology, University of Puerto Rico Medical Sciences Campus
Is it better to be bigger?adaptation, animals, evolution, predationBrown anoles are very small when they hatch out of the egg. Because of their small size, these anole hatchlings are eaten by many different animals, including birds, crabs, other species of anole lizards, and even adult brown anoles! Predators could be a significant force of natural selection on brown anole hatchlings. Juvenile anoles that get eaten by predators will not survive to reproduce.3Matanzas River, Florida
Is it dangerous to be a showoff?adaptation, animals, evolution, predation, tradeoff, sexual dimorphismBrown anoles are small lizards that are abundant in Florida. They have an extendable red and yellow flap of skin on their throat, called a dewlap. To communicate with other brown anoles, they extend their dewlap and move their head and body. Males have particularly large dewlaps, which they often display to defend territory or attract females. Females also have dewlaps but use them less often. How might natural selection on this trait differ between males and females?3Matanzas River, Florida
Hold on for your life! Part Iadaptation, animals, disturbance, evolution, natural selection, genetic drift, hurricaneIn the fall of 2017, a team of scientists from Harvard University and the Paris Natural History Museum visited Pine Cay and Water Cay in the Turks and Caicos Islands. They were there to collect data on a small local lizard, the Turks and Caicos anole, as part of a larger environmental conservation project. Unbeknownst to them, a storm was brewing to the south of the islands, and it was about to change the entire trajectory of their research.3Turks and Caicos, Caribbean
Hold on for your life! Part IIadaptation, animals, disturbance, evolution, natural selection, genetic drift, hurricaneThe scientists needed to find out how lizards behave in hurricane-force winds. Obviously, they couldn’t stick around to watch lizards ride out a storm, so they designed a safe experiment that would simulate hurricane force winds. They bought the strongest leaf blower they could find, set it up in their hotel room on Pine Cay, and videotaped 40 lizards as they clung to a perch while slowly ramping up the leaf blower until the lizards were blown (unharmed) into a safety net.3Turks and Caicos, Caribbean
tad-toe-detachment-phelsuma_mediumSticky situations: big and small animals with sticky feetadaptation, animals, chemistry, physics, scale, surface areaSticky, or adhesive, toe pads have evolved in many different kinds of animals, including insects, arachnids, reptiles, amphibians, and mammals. The heavier the animal, the more adhesion they will need to stick and support their mass. For tiny species like mites and flies, tiny toes can do the job. Each fly toe only has to be able to support a small amount of weight. But when looking at larger animals like geckos, their increased weight means they need much larger toe pads to support them.4BEACON Center for the Study of Evolution in Action
DSC_0060Lizards, iguanas, and snakes! Oh my! animals, biodiversity, disturbance restoration, urbanPeople have dramatically changed the natural riparian habitat found along rivers and streams. In many urban areas today, these riparian habitats are being rehabilitated with the hope of bringing back native species, such as reptiles. Reptiles, including snakes and lizards, are extremely important to monitor as they play important roles in ecosystems. Are rehabilitation efforts in Phoenix successful at restoring reptile diversity and abundance?3Salt River, Phoenix, Arizona
DSC_0060Is chocolate for the birds?agriculture, animals, birds, biodiversity, ecology, rainforest, successionHumans invented agriculture 9,000 years ago, and today it covers 40% of Earth’s land surface. To grow our crops, native plants are often removed, causing the loss of animals that relied on these native plants for habitat. However, sometimes animals can use crop species for food and shelter. For example, the cacao tree may provide habitat for bird species in the rainforests of Costa Rica. Will the abundance and types of birds differ in cacao plantations, compared to native rainforests?2Limón Province, Costa Rica
DSC_0060Urbanization and estuary eutrophicationalgae, eutrophication, fertilization, marine, nitrogen, phosphorus, wetland, urbanEstuaries are very productive habitats found where freshwater rivers meet the ocean. They are important natural filters for water and protect the coast during storms. A high diversity of plants, fish, shellfish and birds call estuaries home. Estuaries are threatened by eutrophication, or the process by which an ecosystem becomes more productive when excess nutrients are added to the system. Parts of the Plum Island Estuary in MA may be more at risk from eutrophication due to their proximity to urban areas.4Plum Island Estuary, Massachusetts
DSC_0060Green Crabs: Invaders in the Great Marshanimals, invasive species, substrate, wetland, erosionThe introduction of invasive species, such as the European Green Crab, poses a great threat to marshes. Digging behaviors of the Green Crab disturb sediments on the marsh floor and may have lead to the destruction of native eelgrass populations, which are sensitive to disturbance. Scientists aimed to identify locations where crab numbers are low and eelgrass can be restored.2Essex Bay, Massachusetts
DSC_0060The mystery of Plum Island Marshfertilization, fish, marine, mollusk, water, wetlandSalt marshes are among the most productive coastal ecosystems, and support a diversity of plants and animals. Algae and marsh plants feed many invertebrates, like snails and crabs, which are then eaten by larger fish and birds. In Plum Island, scientists have been fertilizing and studying salt marsh creeks to see how added nutrients affect the system. They noticed that fish populations seemed to be crashing in the fertilized creeks, while the mudflats were covered in mudsnails. Could there be a link?3Plum Island Estuary, Massachusetts
DSC_0060Does sea level rise harm saltmarsh sparrows?animals, birds, sea level rise, climate change, disturbance, ecology, wetlandFor the last 100 years, sea levels around the globe have increased dramatically. Salt marshes grow right at sea level and are therefore very sensitive to sea level rise. Saltmarsh sparrows rely completely on salt marshes for feeding and nesting, and therefore their numbers are expected to decline as sea levels rise and they lose nesting sites. Will this threatened bird species decline over time as sea levels rise?3Plum Island Estuary, Massachusetts
DSC_0060Keeping up with the sea levelclimate change, disturbance, ecology, sea level rise, plants, substrate, wetlandSalt marshes are very important habitats for many species and protect the coast from erosion. Unfortunately, rising sea levels due to climate change are threatening these important ecosystems. As sea levels rise, the elevation of the marsh soil must rise as well so the plants have ground high enough to keep them above sea level. Basically, it is like a race between the marsh floor and sea level to see who can stay on top! 3Plum Island Estuary, Massachusetts
DSC_0060Is your salt marsh in the zone?climate change, ecology, plants, sea level rise, substrate, wetlandBeginning in the 1980s, scientist James began measuring the growth of marsh grasses. He discovered that their growth was higher in some years and lower in others and that there was a long-term trend of growth going up over time. Marsh grasses grow around mean sea level, or the average elevation between high and low tides. Are the grasses responding to mean sea level changing year-to-year, and increasing as our oceans warm and water levels rise due to climate change?3Plum Island Estuary, Massachusetts
The case of the collapsing soilclimate change, carbon, ecology, plants, phosphorus, sea level rise, respiration, substrate, wetlandThe Everglades are a unique and vital ecosystem threatened by rising sea levels due to climate change. Recently scientists have observed in some areas of the wetland the soils are collapsing. What is causing this strange phenomena? Sea level rise might be stressing microbes, causing carbon to be lost to the atmosphere through increased respiration.4Everglades, Florida
DSC_0060Marvelous mudecology, environmental, fertilization, mud, phosphorus, substrate, water, wetlandBecause mud is wet most of the time, it tends to have different properties than soil. Dead organic matter (partially decomposed plants) is an important part of mud and tends to build up in wetlands because it is decomposed more slowly under water where microbes do not have all the oxygen they need to break it down quickly. The amounts of organic matter may determine the levels of phosphorus and other nutrients held in wetland muds.2Fort Custer Recreation Area, Michigan
Marsh makeoverbiodiversity, disturbance, ecology, greenhouse gasses, mud, plants, restoration, wetlandThe muddy soils in salt marshes store a lot of carbon, compared to terrestrial dry soils. This is because they are low in oxygen needed for decomposition. For this reason they play a key role in the carbon cycle and climate change. If humans disturb marshes, reducing plant diversity and biomass, are they also disturbing the marsh's ability to sequester carbon? If a marsh is restored, can the carbon holding capacity also be brought back to previous levels?3Oak Island and Neponset Marsh, Boston, Massachusetts
DSC_0060Dangerously boldanimal behavior, animals, tradeoff, fish, predationThere are two main habitats that young bluegill sunfish can use to find food to eat – open water and cover. There is lots of food in the open water, but this habitat also has very few plants for bluegill to hide from predators, like the largemouth bass, so it’s not safe when bluegill are small! The cover habitat has less food, but it has lots of plants that make it hard for predators to see the bluegill. This sets up a situation where there are costs and benefits to using either habitat, called a tradeoff.1Pond Lab, Kellogg Biological Station, Michigan
DSC_0060Which guy should she choose?animal behavior, animals, fish, matingMating behavior is intriguing to study because in many animal species, males use a lot of energy to attract a female. Yet some males are able to attract zero females and other males attract many females. What accounts for this difference? What about the way a male looks, moves, or smells attracts the female? A female could benefit from identifying “high quality” males that would serve as a good father to her offspring or that would make offspring that are attractive to females in the next generation.2Michigan State University lab and British Columbia, Canada
DSC_0060Fish fightsanimal behavior, animals, fish, matingMale stickleback fish fight each other to gain territories along the bottom of the shallow areas of a lake. In these territories, males build a nest out of sand, aquatic plants, and glue they produce from their kidneys. Males then attract females to their territories with courtship dances. If a female likes a male, she will deposit her eggs in his nest. Then the male will care for those eggs and the offspring that hatch. Perhaps more aggressive males are better at defending their territory and nests.2Michigan State University lab and British Columbia, Canada
Clique wars: social conflict in daffodil cichlidsanimal behavior, animals, competition, fishDaffodil cichlids live in social groups of several small fish and one breeding pair. The breeding male and female are the largest fist in the group, and the smaller fish help defend territory against predators and help care for newly hatched baby fish. About 200 social groups together make up a colony. Behavior within a social group may be influenced by the presence of other groups in the colony. For example, neighboring groups can be a threat because they may try to take away territory or resources.4The Ohio State University, Ohio
Fishy originscitizen science, DNA, evolution, fish, PCR, marineThe population of striped bass in New Jersey is a mixed stock, meaning fish come together from different spawning grounds. Scientists want to understand where these fish come from in order to better manage their population. For their study, they needed DNA from many fish, so they turned to fishermen to help collect fin clip samples. They used these samples to identify the stocks migrating to New Jersey, and to determine if they was changing over time.4Monmouth University
DSC_0060Salmon in hot wateradaptation, animals, climate change, evolution, fish, genes, temperature, heredity, geneticsSalmon are important members of freshwater and ocean food webs. Climate change threatens salmon by warming the waters of rivers where they reproduce. To maintain healthy populations, salmon rely on cold, freshwater habitats and may go extinct as temperatures rise. However, some salmon individuals have higher thermal tolerance and are able to survive when water temperatures rise. Scientists want to know whether there is a genetic basis for the variation observed in salmon’s thermal tolerance.4University of Washington Hatchery, Seattle, Washington
6298983_origAre you my species?adaptation, animals, behavior, biodiversity, competition, evolution, fish, matingHow do animals know who to choose as a mate and who is a member of their own species? One way is through communication. Animals collect information about each other and the rest of the world using multiple senses, including sight, sound, and smell. Darters are a group of over 200 colorful fish species that live in lakes and rivers across the US. The bright color patterns on males may signal to females during mating who is a member of the same species and who would make a good mate.3University of Maryland, Baltimore
Why so blue? The determinants of color pattern in killifish, Part Iadaptation, animals, biodiversity, evolution, fish, genes, mating, heredity, geneticsIn nature, animals can be found in a dazzling display of different colors and patterns. Even within one species there can be variation in color. For example, male bluefin killifish can have fins that are bright blue, red, or yellow. Becky, a scientist studying this species noticed an interesting pattern - males found in springs with crystal clear water have mostly red or yellow fins, while males found in swamps have bright blue fins. Becky wants to know, what is the driving mechanism behind this interesting pattern?4University of Illinois, Illinois
Why so blue? The determinants of color pattern in killifish, Part IIadaptation, animals, biodiversity, evolution, fish, genes, mating, heredity, geneticsTo take a closer look at her data, Becky added information on paternal fin color into her analysis.4University of Illinois, Illinois
cricketsBon Appétit! Why do male crickets feed females during courtship?adaptation, animals, behavior, competition, insects, matingIn many species of insects and spiders, males provide females with gifts of food during courtship and mating. This is called nuptial feeding. These offerings are eaten by the female and can take many forms, including prey items the male captured, substances produced by the male, or parts from the male’s body. These gifts can cost the male a lot, so why do they give them? They may increase the male's chances of mating with a female, or they may help the female have more and healthier offspring.4Cornell University, New York
DSC_0060How to escape a predatoradaptation, animal behavior, animals, predation, physiologyStalk-eyed flies have their eyes at the tip of eyestalks on the sides of their heads. Males with longer eyestalks are better at attracting mates – females find them sexy! However, long eyestalks may come at a cost. Males with long eyestalks may not be able to move easily and quickly, and could be easy targets for predators. Males also use a variety of behaviors to defend themselves against predators. Are these behaviors enough to compensate for long eyestalks?4Washington State University and University of Colorado, Denver
DSC_0060The flight of the stalk-eyed flyphysics, moment of inertia, adaptation, animals, flight, physiologyMoment of inertia (I) is an object’s tendency to resist rotation – in other words how difficult it is to make something turn. Stalk-eyed flies have eyes located on the ends of long projections on the sides of their head, called eyestalks. Because moment of inertia goes up with the square of the distance from the axis, we might expect that as the length of the flies’ eyestalks goes up, the harder and harder it will be for the fly to maneuver during flight.4Tel-Aviv University, Israel and University of Colorado, Denver
flyfightHow do brain chemicals influence who wins a fight?animals, behavior, competition, insects, aggression, brain chemistry, physiologyAnimals compete for resources, including space, food, and mates. What are the factors that determine who wins in a fight? Within the same species, larger individuals tend to win fights. However, if two opponents are the same size, other factors can influence outcomes. Serotonin is a chemical compound found in the brains of all animals, including stalk-eyed flies. Even a small amount of this chemical can make a big impact on aggressive behavior, and perhaps the outcome of competition.2University of Colorado, Denver and University of South Dakota
Which would a woodlouse prefer?animals, behavior, ecology, predationWoodlice are small crustaceans that live on land. They look like bugs, but are actually more closely related to crabs and lobsters. To escape predators they hide in dark places. They spend most of their time underground and have very poor eyesight. If they can't see very well, how do they decide where to live?2Kellogg Biological Station, Michigan
Crunchy or squishy? How El Niño events change zooplanktonalgae, animals, marine, El NiñoEl Niño events happen every 5 to 10, and in California they cause the ocean to be much warmer than usual. Warm ocean waters during El Niño events have lower nutrient levels, so fewer phytoplankton grow leading to less food available for zooplankton. This may cause a change balance between the two main groups of zooplankton, “crunchy” crustaceans and “squishy” gelatinous animals. These changes could have cascading effects up the food chain.3San Diego, California
DSC_0060Dangerous aquatic prey: can predators adapt to toxic algae?adaptation, algae, evolution, marine, predationPhytoplankton are microscopic algae that form the base of all aquatic food chains. Some phytoplankton produce toxins, and when these algae reach high population levels it is known as toxic algal blooms. Can predators feeding on toxic prey for many generations evolve resistance, by natural selection, to the toxic prey?4Maine and New Jersey
DSC_0060Finding a footholdanimals, ecology, marine, substrate, waterThe ground at the beach is made of rocks of many different sizes, called substrates. These can range from large boulders down to fine grains of sand, with many size variations in between. Just like there are different types of substrates, there are different types of organisms that can live there. How can we determine which types of organisms prefer which types of substrates?2Puget Sound, Washington
DSC_0060Invasive reeds in the salt marshdisturbance, invasive species, plants, wetlandPhragmites australis is an invasive reed that is taking over saltwater marshes of New England, outcompeting other plants that serve as food and homes for marsh animals. Once Phragmites has invaded, it is sometimes the only plant species left, called a monoculture. Phragmites does best where humans have disturbed a marsh, and scientists were curious why that might be. They thought that perhaps it was caused by changing salinity, or amount of salt in the water, after a marsh is disturbed.2Ipswich High School, Massachusetts
DSC_0060Can a salt marsh recover after restoration?disturbance, ecology, invasive species, plants, wetland, salinity, restorationBefore restoration began, it was clear the Saratoga Creek salt marsh was in trouble. Invasive Phragmites plants covered large areas of the marsh, crowding out native plants and animals. Human activity was thought to be the culprit – storm drains were dumping freshwater into the marsh, lowering salinity. In 1999 a restoration took place to divert freshwater away from the marsh in an attempt to reduce Phragmites numbers. Did it work?2Saratoga Creek Salt Marsh, Rockport, Massachusetts
DSC_0060Make way for mummichogsanimals, biodiversity, disturbance, fish, restoration, wetlandMummichogs are small fish that live in tidal marshes all along the US Atlantic coast. Because they are so widespread and can be found in most streams, they are a valuable tool for scientists looking to compare the health of different marshes. The absence of mummichogs in a salt marsh is a sign that it is highly damaged. Students collected data on mummichog numbers before and after a marsh restoration. Did the restoration successfully bring back mummichogs to the marsh?4Gloucester, Massachusetts
All washed up? The effect of floods on cutthroat troutanimals, disturbance, ecology, fish, water, stream, floodsFloods are very common disturbances in streams. If floods happen right after fish breed and eggs hatch, young fish that cannot swim strongly may not survive. Although floods can be dangerous for fish, they are also very important for creating new habitat. Cutthroat trout are a species of fish living in Mack Creek, which experiences occasional floods. Trout breed in the early spring, right at the peak of flooding, so scientists are collecting long-term data on this species. Will floods hurt trout populations or help?2Mack Creek, Andrews Forest, Oregon
DSC_0060Float down the Kalamazoo Riverriver, water, suspended solids, dam, reservoirThere is a lot more in river water than you might think! As the river flows, it picks up bits of dead plants, algae, and other living and non-living particles from the bottom of the river. These suspended solids are important for the river food web, but can be influenced by human activities, such as the construction of dams.2Kalamazoo River, Michigan
sweeden1Winter is coming! Can you handle the freeze?adaptation, ecology, evolution, genes, plants, local adaptationDepending on where they live, plant populations each face their own challenges. For example, in Arabidopsis thaliana there are some populations of this species growing in very cold habitats, and some populations growing in very warm habitats. The idea that populations of the same species have evolved as a result of certain aspects of their environment is called local adaptation.4Michigan State University, Michigan
adam_microscopeGene expression in stem cellsgene expression, stem cells, geneticsEvery cell in your body contains the same DNA. Genetically identical skin, brain, and muscle cells can look very different and perform very different functions by turning particular genes on and off. But once they differentiate, their role in the body is fixed. Unlike these cells, stem cells have the ability to turn into any other type of cell in the body. Can we uncover the genes expressed in stem cells that give them that ability?4Colorado State University, Colorado
Alien life on Mars – caught in crystals?astrobiology, salt, solution, Mars, extraterrestrial life, chemistryIs there life on other planets besides Earth? This question is not just for science fiction. Scientists are actively exploring the possibility of life on Mars. Mars is cold, dry, and has a very thin atmosphere. However, there might still be places on Mars where life could exist, despite its extreme conditions. While there is no liquid water on the surface of Mars anymore, it once had a saltwater ocean covering much of its surface. Certain solutions of salt may trap liquid water in pockets as it evaporates, preserving conditions for life.2UK Centre for Astrobiology, University of Edinburgh, Great Britain
Working to reduce the plastics problemplastics, synthetic materials, chemistry, biodegradable, elastomer, polymer, monomer, stress, strainPlastics can be shaped easily and are used for many functions, making them extremely popular across the world. However, most plastics negatively impact the environment and some can take thousands of years or longer to break down. Scientists are testing new ways to make plastics that are biodegradable so they can be decomposed and won’t last as long in the environment. How can researchers use knowledge about the chemical properties of different monomers to make alternatives for synthetic plastics? 3Northland College

Search Current Data Nuggets

Below, you will find a table of all the Data Nugget activities. Click on the Title to open a page displaying the teacher guide, student activities, grading rubric, and associated resources. The table can be sorted using the arrows located next to each column header. It can also be searched by content area using the search bar, located to the top right of the table.

Below the table, Data Nuggets are placed on a map to help you search for research conducted in your local area!

 TitleKeywordsSummaryContent LevelStudy Location
DSC_0060Won’t you be my urchin?coral reef, herbivory, marine, sea urchin, water, animals, competitionCorals are the most important reef animals since they build the reef for all of the other animals to live in. But corals only like to live in certain places. In particular they hate living near algae because the algae and coral compete for the space they both need to grow. Perhaps if there are more vegetarians, like urchins, eating algae on the reef then corals would have less competition and more space to grow.1Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary, Texas
DSC_0060Coral bleaching and climate changeclimate change, coral reef, marine, mutualism, temperature, animals, algae, adaptation, evolutionCorals are animals that build coral reefs. They look brown and green because they have small plants, called algae, that live inside them. The coral animal and the algae work together to produce food so that corals can grow big. When the water gets too warm, sometimes the coral and algae can no longer work together. The algae leave and the corals turn white, called coral bleaching. Scientists want to study coral bleaching so they can protect corals and the reefs that provide a home for so many different species.1Florida Keys, Florida
pcare2Raising Nemo: Parental care in the clown anemonefishanimals, behavior, coral reef, ecology, fish, marine, mating, tradeoff, plasticityOffspring in many animal species rely on parental care; the more time and energy parents invest in their young, the more likely it is that their offspring will survive. However, parental care is costly for the parents. The more time spent on care, the less time they have to find food or care for themselves. In the clown anemonefish, the amount of food available may impact parental care behaviors. When there is food freely available in the environment, are parents able to spend more time caring for their young?3Boston University, Massachusetts
City parks: wildlife islands in a sea of cementanimals, biodiversity, ecology, urban, island biogeography, parksIt's tempting to think that wild places are only somewhere "out there", far away from humans and cities. However, as more and more people move into cities, they are quickly becoming the main place where many people experience nature and interact with wildlife. A camera-trapping project in the Cleveland Metroparks reveals a vast urban wilderness that is home to countless wild creatures living among us.3Cleveland Metroparks, Ohio
Candid camera: capturing the secret lives of carnivoresanimals, biodiversity, carnivores, ecology, island biogeographyCarnivores captivate people’s interest for many reasons – they are charismatic, stealthy, and can be dangerous. Not only are they fascinating, they’re also ecologically important. Carnivores help keep prey populations in balance. While they are important, they are also difficult to monitor.3Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, Wisconsin
Picky eaters: dissecting poo to examine moose dietsanimal behavior, animals, ecology, foraging, herbivory, national park, predator-preySince wolves have disappeared from Isle Royale, moose populations have exploded. Moose are important herbivores, and with so many on the island they are having strong impacts on the island's plant communities. Do moose just eat any plant they find, or do they have a preference for certain types?3Isle Royale National Park, Michigan
Deadly windowsanimals, behavior, birds, environmental, urbanGlass makes for a great windowpane because you can see right through it. However, this makes windows very dangerous for birds. Many birds die from window collisions in urban areas. In North America window collisions kill up to 1 billion birds every year! Perhaps local urban birds are able to learn the locations of windows and avoid collisions. By comparing window collisions by local birds to those of migrant birds just passing through, we can determine if local birds have learned to deal with this challenge.2Virginia Zoological Park, Virginia
Bringing back the Trumpeter Swananimals, biodiversity, birds, ecology, environmental, restorationTrumpeter swans are the biggest native waterfowl species in North America. At one time they were found across North America, but by 1935 there were only 69 known individuals in the continental U.S.! In the 1980s, many biologists came together to create a Trumpeter Swan reintroduction plan. Since then the North American Trumpeter Swan survey has been conducted to measure swan populations and determine whether this species is recovering.3Kellogg Bird Sanctuary, Michigan
DSC_0060The birds of Hubbard Brook, Part Ianimals, biodiversity, birds, climate change, succession, disturbance, ecologyAvian ecologists at the Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest have been monitoring bird populations for over 50 years. The data collected during this time is one of the longest bird studies ever conducted! What can we learn from this long-term data set? Are bird populations remaining stable over time?2Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest, New Hampshire
DSC_0060The birds of Hubbard Brook, Part IIanimals, biodiversity, birds, climate change, succession, disturbance, ecologyHubbard Brook was heavily logged and disturbed in the early 1900s. When logging ended in 1915, trees began to grow back. The forest then went through secondary succession, which refers to the naturally occurring changes in forest structure that happen as a forest ages after it has been cut or otherwise disturbed. Can these changes in habitat availability, due to succession, explain why the number of birds are declining at Hubbard Brook? Are all bird species responding succession in the same way?3Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest, New Hampshire
 junglefoulFeral chickens fly the coopadaptation, animals, behavior, birds, ecology, evolution, invasive species, mating, heredity, geneticsSometimes domesticated animals escape captivity and interbreed with closely related wild relatives. Their hybrid offspring have some traits from the wild parent, and some from the domestic parent. Traits that help hybrids survive and reproduce will be favored by natural selection. On the island of Kauai, domestic chickens escaped and recently interbred with wild Red Junglefowl to produce a hybrid population. Over time, will the hybrids on Kauai evolve to be more like chickens, or more like Red Junglefowl?3Kauai, Hawaii
DSC_0060Sexy smellsadaptation, animal behavior, animals, birds, mating, evolution, sexual selectionAnimals collect information about each other and the rest of the world using multiple senses, including sight, sound, and smell. They use this information to decide what to eat, where to live, and who to pick as a mate. Many male birds have brightly colored feathers and ornaments that are attractive to females. Visual signals like these ornaments have been studied a lot in birds, but birds may be able to determine the quality of a potential mate using other senses as well, such as their smell!2Mountain Lake Biological Station, Virginia
chickadee2Finding Mr. Rightadaptation, animals, behavior, biodiversity, birds, evolution, genes, mating, local adaptationMountain chickadees are small birds that live in the mountains. To deal with living in a harsh environment during the winter, mountain chickadees store large amounts of food throughout the forest. Compared to populations at lower elevations, birds from higher elevations are smarter and have better spatial memory, helping them better find stored food. Smarter females from high elevations may be contributing to local adaptation by preferring to breed with males from their own population.4University of Nevada Reno & Sagehen Experimental Forest
DSC_0060A tail of two scorpionsanimal behavior, animals, predationSpecies rely on a variety of methods to defend against predators, including camouflage, speedy escape, or retreating to the safety of a shelter. Other animals, such as scorpions, have painful venomous stings. Scientists wanted to know whether the pain of a scorpion sting was enough to deter predators, like the grasshopper mouse.2Santa Rita Mountains, Arizona
Why are butterfly wings colorful?adaptation, animals, insects, models, predationBig wings allow butterflies to fly everywhere with ease. But you may wonder, why are the wings of some species so brightly colored? The red postman butterfly lives in rainforests in Mexico, Central America, and South America. The color pattern on its wing is usually a mix of red, yellow, and black. These bright colors may warn birds and other predators that they would not make a tasty meal. Another potential reason for butterflies to have bright colors and dramatic patterns is to attract mates.3La Selva Tropical Biological Station, Sarapiquí, Costa Rica
To bee or not to bee aggressiveanimals, behavior, genes, insects, tradeoff, plasticityHoney bees turn nectar from flowers into honey, and honey serves as an energy-rich food source for the colony. Honey also makes hives a target for break ins by animals that want to steal it. Bees need to aggressively defend their honey when the hive is threatened. They also need to ensure that they do not waste energy on unnecessary aggressive behaviors when the threat level is low. One way bees might match their aggressiveness to the threat level in the environment is learning from adults when they are young.3University of Kentucky, Kentucky
DSC_0060CSI: Crime Solving Insectsanimals, insects, parasitismYou might think maggots (blow fly larvae) are gross, but without their help in decomposition we would all trip over dead bodies every time we went outside! Forensic entomologists also use these amazing insects to help solve crimes. Blow flies oviposit on dead bodies; the age of the maggots helps scientists determine how long ago a body died. Scientists noticed parasitic wasps were also present at some bodies. Might these wasps delay blow fly oviposition and interfere with scientists' estimates of time of death?3Pierce Cedar Creek Institute, Michigan & Valparaiso University, Indiana
DSC_0060Shooting the poopadaptation, animal behavior, animals, insects, predationCaterpillars are a great source of food for many species. The silver-spotted skipper caterpillar has a variety of defense strategies against predators, including building leaf shelters for protection. This caterpillar was also discovered to “shoot its poop”, sometimes launching it over 1.5m! Might this very strange behavior serve as some sort of defense against predators?2Georgetown University, Washington DC
DSC_0060How the cricket lost its song, Part Iadaptation, animal behavior, animals, evolution, mating, parasitismPacific field crickets live on several Hawaiian Islands, including Kauai. Male field crickets make a loud, long-distance song to help females find them, and then switch to a quiet courtship song once a female comes in close. One summer scientists noticed that the crickets on the island were unusually quiet. Back in the lab they saw males that had lost their specialized wing structures used to produce song! Why did these males lose their wing structures?3Kauai Agricultural Research Center - Kapaa, Hawaii
DSC_0060How the cricket lost its song, Part IIadaptation, animal behavior, animals, evolution, mating, parasitismWithout their song, how are flatwing crickets able to attract females? In some other animals species, males use an alternative to singing, called satellite behavior. Satellite males hang out near a singing male and attempt to mate with females who have been attracted by the song. Perhaps the satellite behavior gives flatwing males the opportunity to mate with females who were attracted to the few singing males left on Kauai. 3Kauai Agricultural Research Center - Kapaa, Hawaii
dungbeetleBeetle battlesadaptation, animals, behavior, competition, evolution, insects, matingMale animals spend a lot of time and energy trying to attract females. They may fight with other males or court females directly. Is there one trait that is both good for fighting males and attracting females? In the horned dung beetle, males have to fight with other males for space in underground tunnels where females mate and lay their eggs. Males also attract females by tapping on their backs. Males that are stronger may potentially be better at both defending tunnels and at attracting females by tapping.2Perth, Australia
Tree-killing beetlesanimals, biodiversity, disturbance, ecology, environmental, insects, plantsA beetle the size of a grain of rice seems insignificant compared to a vast forest. However, during outbreaks the number of mountain pine beetles can skyrocket, leading to the death of many trees. Recent outbreaks of mountain pine beetles killed millions of acres of lodgepole pine trees across western North America. Widespread tree death caused by mountain pine beetles can impact human safety, wildfires, nearby streamflow, and habitat for wildlife.2Colorado State University, Colorado
Where to find the hungry, hungry herbivoresherbivory, plants, insects, ecologyWhen travelling to warm, tropical places you are exposed to greater risk of diseases. The same pattern of risk is true for other species like plants grown for food; crops in warm places have more problems with pests than those in colder areas. Does this pattern hold for plants in the wild as well?2Michigan State University
Are plants more toxic in the tropics?herbivory, diversity, plants, insects, ecology, adaptationLong before chemists learned how to make medicines in the laboratory, people found their medicines in plants. To this day, people still extract some medicinal drugs from plants. But, why do plants make these chemicals that are often so useful to people? Many of these chemicals are to reduce herbivory. Carina thought that this might differ by latitude, or distance from the Equator. Are tropical plants more toxic?
3Michigan State University
DSC_0060Do insects prefer local or foreign foods?herbivory, invasive species, plants, insects, enemy release, ecologyInsects that feed on plants, called herbivores, can have big effects on how plants grow. A plant with leaves eaten by herbivores will likely do worse than a plant that is not eaten. Herbivores may even determine how well an exotic plant does in its new habitat and whether it becomes invasive. Understanding what makes a species become invasive could help control invasions already underway, and prevent new ones in the future.2Kellogg Biological Station, Michigan
DSC_0060Do invasive species escape their enemies?herbivory, invasive species, plants, insects, enemy release, ecologyInvasive species have been introduced by humans to a new area and negatively impact places they invade. Many things change for an invasive species when it is moved from one area to another. For example, a plant that is moved across oceans may not bring its enemies along for the ride. Now that the plant is in a new area with nothing to eat or infect it, the plant could potentially do very well and become invasive.2Kellogg Biological Station, Michigan
Testing the tolerance of invasive plantsecology, herbivory, invasive species, plants, tolerancePeople move species around the globe, and some of these species cause problems where they are introduced. What is it about these invasive species that makes them able to invade? Perhaps certain traits cause invasive species to be more troublesome than others. By studying trait differences between native and invasive populations of the same species, we can learn something about the causes of invasions.3McLaughlin Natural Reserve, California
DSC_0060Invasion meltdownclimate change, ecology, invasive species, plants, temperatureHumans are changing the earth in many ways, including adding greenhouse gasses to the atmosphere, which contributes to climate change, and introducing species around the globe, which can lead to invasive species. Scientists wanted to know, could climate change actually help invasive species? Because invasive species have already survived transport from one habitat to another, they may be species that are better able to handle change, such as temperature changes.3Kellogg Biological Station, Michigan
DSC_0060Springing forwardclimate change, phenology, plants, temperatureWhat does climate change mean for flowering plants that rely on temperature cues to determine when it is time to flower? Scientists who study phenology, or the timing if life-history events in plants and animals, predict that with warming temperatures, plants will produce their flowers earlier and earlier each year.1 & 3Kellogg Biological Station, Michigan
The end of winter as we’ve known it?climate change, ice coverLake Superior plays a vital role in the lives of people who live and work on its shores, and therefore all sorts of data are recorded to help understand and take care of it. Forrest, a high school student, used data from archives to figure out if the ice season was getting shorter each winter in his home town. The length of the ice season is important because it frees the island residents from working around a ferry schedule, allowing them to drive on the ice to get to the mainland.3Madeline Island, Wisconsin
kgrayson1When a species can’t stand the heatanimals, climate change, disturbance, ecology, environmental, mating, temperatureTuatara are a unique species of reptile found only in New Zealand. In this species, the temperature of the nest during egg development determines the sex of offspring. Warm nests lead to more males, and cool nests lead to more females. With warming temperatures due to climate change, scientists expect the sex ratio to become more and more unbalanced over time, with males making up more of the population. This could leave tuatara populations with too few females to sustain their numbers.3North Brother Island, New Zealand
A window into a tree’s worldclimate change, dendrochronology, ecology, plants, temperatureScientists are very interested in learning how trees respond to rapidly warming temperatures. Luckily, trees offer us a window into their lives through their growth rings. Growth rings are found within the trunk, beneath the bark. These rings provide a long historical record, which can be used to study how trees respond to climate change.2Harvard Forest LTER, Massachusetts
DSC_0060What do trees know about rain?climate change, dendrochronology, ecology, plants, precipitation, temperature, waterThe typical climate of arid northwest Australia consists of long drought periods with a few very wet years sprinkled in. Scientists predict that climate change will cause these cycles to become more extreme – droughts will become longer and periods of rain will become wetter. When variability is the norm, how can scientists tell if the climate is changing and droughts and rain events today are more intense than what we've seen in the past? The answer to this challenge comes from trees! 3Pilbara region, northwest Australia
Beetle, it’s cold outside!animals, climate change, ectotherm, insects, temperature, snowMany species rely on the snow for protection from the winter’s cold. The snow acts as an insulating blanket, covering the soil and keeping it from getting too cold. If temperatures get too hot in the winter, snow melts and leaves the soil uncovered for longer periods of time. This leads to the shocking pattern that warmer temperatures actually means the soil gets colder! How will species that rely on the snow, like lady beetles, respond to warmer temperatures due to climate change?2University of California, Berkeley
DSC_0060The Arctic is melting – so what?climate change, marine, models, temperature, water, weather, snowThink of the North Pole as one big ice cube – a vast sheet of ice, only a few meters thick, floating over the Arctic Ocean. With global warming, more sea ice is melting than ever before. If more ice melts in the summer than is formed in the winter, the Arctic Ocean will become ice-free. Scientists ran a climate model to determine whether this loss of sea ice could affect extreme weather in the northern hemisphere.4Arctic Ocean, North Pole
When whale I sea you again?climate change, marine, temperature, water, whalesPeople have hunted whales for over 5,000 years for their meat, oil, and blubber. Today, as populations are struggling to recover from whaling, humpback whales are faced with additional challenges due to climate change. Their main food source is krill, which are small crustaceans that live under sea ice. As sea ice disappears, the number of krill is getting lower and lower. Humpback whale population recovery may be limited because their main food source is threatened by ongoing ocean warming.4Western Antarctic Peninsula, Palmer Station LTER
Can biochar improve crop yields?agriculture, environmental, fertilization, plants, soil, waterBiochar is a pretty unique material. It is created when things burn without oxygen. Most biochar has lots of tiny spaces, or pores, that cause it to act like a hard sponge when it is in the soil. Due to these pores, the biochar can hold more water and nutrients than the soil can by itself. Adding biochar to the soil may help farmers grow more crops, especially in areas prone to drought where water is limited.3Colorado State University Agricultural Research and Development Center
DSC_0060Growing energy: comparing biofuel crop biomassagriculture, biofuels, climate change, fertilization, plantsCorn is one of the best crops for producing biomass for fossil fuels, however it is an annual and needs very fertile soil. To grow corn, farmers add a lot of chemical fertilizers and pesticides to their fields. Other crops, like switchgrass, prairie, poplar trees, and Miscanthus grass are perennials and require fewer fertilizers and pesticides to grow. If perennials can produce high levels of biomass with low inputs, perhaps they could produce more biomass than corn under certain low nutrient conditions.3GLBRC, Kellogg Biological Station & University Wisconsin-Madison
DSC_0060Fertilizing biofuels may cause release of greenhouse gassesbiofuels, climate change, fertilization, greenhouse gasses, nitrogen, plantsOne way to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases we release into the atmosphere could be to grow our fuel instead of drilling for it. Unlike fossil fuels that can only release CO2, biofuels remove CO2 from the atmosphere as they grow and photosynthesize, potentially balancing the CO2 released when they are burned for fuel. However, the plants we grow for biofuels don’t necessarily absorb all greenhouse gas that is released during the process of growing them on farms and converting them into fuels.3GLBRC, Kellogg Biological Station, Michigan
DSC_0060The ground has gas!climate change, temperature, greenhouse gasses, nitrogen, plantsNitrous oxide and carbon dioxide are responsible for much of the warming of the global average temperature that is causing climate change. Sometimes soils give off, or emit, these greenhouse gases into the earth’s atmosphere, adding to climate change. Currently scientists figuring out what causes differences in how much of each type of greenhouse gas soils emit.3GLBRC, Kellogg Biological Station, Michigan
Are forests helping in the fight against climate change?climate change, ecology, environmental, greenhouse gasses, photosynthesis, plantsIn the 1990s, scientists began to wonder what role forests were having in the exchange of carbon in and out of the atmosphere. Were forests overall storing carbon (carbon sink), or releasing it (carbon source)? To test this, they built large metal towers that stand taller than the forest trees around them and use sensors to measure the speed, direction, and CO2 concentration of each puff of air that passes by. These long term measurements can tell us whether forests help in the fight against climate change.3Harvard Forest LTER, Massachusetts
The carbon stored in mangrove soilscarbon, climate change, disturbance, ecology, environmental, nutrients, greenhouse gasses, plantsMangroves are globally important for many reasons. They form dense forested wetlands that protect the coast from erosion and provide critical habitat for many animals. Mangrove forests also help in the fight against climate change by storing carbon in their soils. The balance between how much carbon is added to the soils and how much is released might be dependent on a variety of factors, including tree size and amount of disturbance to the site.2Biscayne National Park, Florida Everglades
Streams as sensors: Arctic watersheds as indicators of changeclimate change, ecology, environmental, carbon, nitrogen, permafrostAs the world warms from climate change, the Alaskan Arctic is heating up. This is causing permafrost, or the frozen underground layer of rock and ice, to melt. When permafrost melts, plant material that has been stored for thousands of years begins to decay, releasing carbon and nitrogen from the system. Ecologists can act like “ecosystem accountants” measuring the balance of material that goes into and out of these systems.3Toolik Field Station, Alaska
Limit by limit: Nutrients control algal growth in Arctic streamsclimate change, ecology, environmental, nitrogen, nutrients, phosphorusAquatic algae, a type of microbe that live in the water, need to take in nutrients from their surroundings for growth. Two important nutrients for algal growth are nitrogen (N) and phosphorous (P). Climate change may be altering which nutrients are limiting to algae, changing food webs in the ecosystem.3Toolik Field Station, Alaska
DSC_0060Cheaters in nature – when is a mutualism not a mutualism?evolution, legume, plants, mutualism, parasitism, rhizobia, nitrogen, fertilizationMutualisms are a special type of relationship in nature where two species work together and both benefit. This cooperation should lead to each partner species doing better when the other is around – without their mutualist partner, the species will have a harder time acquiring resources. But what happens when one partner cheats and takes more than it gives?4Kellogg Biological Station, Michigan
DSC_0060Fair traders or freeloaders?evolution, legume, plants, mutualism, rhizobia, nitrogen, fertilizationOne example of a mutualism is the relationship between a type of bacteria, rhizobia, and plants like peas, beans, soybeans, and clover. Rhizobia live in bumps on the plant roots, where they trade their nitrogen for sugar from the plants. Rhizobia turn nitrogen from the air into a form that plants can use. Under some conditions, this mutualism could break down, for example, if one of the traded resources is very abundant in the environment.3Kellogg Biological Station, Michigan
DSC_0060Does a partner in crime make it easier to invade?evolution, legume, plants, mutualism, rhizobia, invasive speciesInvasive plants are species that have been transported by humans from one location to another, and grow and spread quickly compared to other plants. Mutualisms can affect what happens when a plant species is moved somewhere it hasn’t been before. For invasive legumes with rhizobia mutualists, there is a chance that the rhizobia will not be transported with it and the plant will have to form new relationships with rhizobia in the new location.3Kellogg Biological Station, Michigan
Fast weeds in farmer’s fieldsadaptation, agriculture, evolution, plants, heredity, geneticsWeeds in agricultural fields cost farmers $28 billion per year in just the United States alone. One of the world’s worst weeds is weedy radish, which evolved from native radish not very long ago. While weedy radish is able to take over agricultural fields, native radish cannot. What causes this difference? Perhaps it could be due to the weedy radish’s ability to flower quickly and make seeds before crops are harvested.2Kellogg Biological Station, Michigan
What big teeth you have! Sexual selection in rhesus macaquesanimals, evolution, sexual selection, sexual dimorphismIn Cayo Santiago there is one of the oldest free-ranging rhesus macaque colonies in the world. Scientists have gathered data on these monkeys and their habitat for over 70 years. The program monitors individual monkeys over their entire lives, and when they die their bodies are recovered and skeletal specimens are stored in a museum. These skeletal specimens can be used by scientists today to ask new and exciting questions, for example, what traits are under sexual selection in this population?3Laboratory of Primate Morphology, University of Puerto Rico Medical Sciences Campus
Is it better to be bigger?adaptation, animals, evolution, predationBrown anoles are very small when they hatch out of the egg. Because of their small size, these anole hatchlings are eaten by many different animals, including birds, crabs, other species of anole lizards, and even adult brown anoles! Predators could be a significant force of natural selection on brown anole hatchlings. Juvenile anoles that get eaten by predators will not survive to reproduce.3Matanzas River, Florida
Is it dangerous to be a showoff?adaptation, animals, evolution, predation, tradeoff, sexual dimorphismBrown anoles are small lizards that are abundant in Florida. They have an extendable red and yellow flap of skin on their throat, called a dewlap. To communicate with other brown anoles, they extend their dewlap and move their head and body. Males have particularly large dewlaps, which they often display to defend territory or attract females. Females also have dewlaps but use them less often. How might natural selection on this trait differ between males and females?3Matanzas River, Florida
Hold on for your life! Part Iadaptation, animals, disturbance, evolution, natural selection, genetic drift, hurricaneIn the fall of 2017, a team of scientists from Harvard University and the Paris Natural History Museum visited Pine Cay and Water Cay in the Turks and Caicos Islands. They were there to collect data on a small local lizard, the Turks and Caicos anole, as part of a larger environmental conservation project. Unbeknownst to them, a storm was brewing to the south of the islands, and it was about to change the entire trajectory of their research.3Turks and Caicos, Caribbean
Hold on for your life! Part IIadaptation, animals, disturbance, evolution, natural selection, genetic drift, hurricaneThe scientists needed to find out how lizards behave in hurricane-force winds. Obviously, they couldn’t stick around to watch lizards ride out a storm, so they designed a safe experiment that would simulate hurricane force winds. They bought the strongest leaf blower they could find, set it up in their hotel room on Pine Cay, and videotaped 40 lizards as they clung to a perch while slowly ramping up the leaf blower until the lizards were blown (unharmed) into a safety net.3Turks and Caicos, Caribbean
tad-toe-detachment-phelsuma_mediumSticky situations: big and small animals with sticky feetadaptation, animals, chemistry, physics, scale, surface areaSticky, or adhesive, toe pads have evolved in many different kinds of animals, including insects, arachnids, reptiles, amphibians, and mammals. The heavier the animal, the more adhesion they will need to stick and support their mass. For tiny species like mites and flies, tiny toes can do the job. Each fly toe only has to be able to support a small amount of weight. But when looking at larger animals like geckos, their increased weight means they need much larger toe pads to support them.4BEACON Center for the Study of Evolution in Action
DSC_0060Lizards, iguanas, and snakes! Oh my! animals, biodiversity, disturbance restoration, urbanPeople have dramatically changed the natural riparian habitat found along rivers and streams. In many urban areas today, these riparian habitats are being rehabilitated with the hope of bringing back native species, such as reptiles. Reptiles, including snakes and lizards, are extremely important to monitor as they play important roles in ecosystems. Are rehabilitation efforts in Phoenix successful at restoring reptile diversity and abundance?3Salt River, Phoenix, Arizona
DSC_0060Is chocolate for the birds?agriculture, animals, birds, biodiversity, ecology, rainforest, successionHumans invented agriculture 9,000 years ago, and today it covers 40% of Earth’s land surface. To grow our crops, native plants are often removed, causing the loss of animals that relied on these native plants for habitat. However, sometimes animals can use crop species for food and shelter. For example, the cacao tree may provide habitat for bird species in the rainforests of Costa Rica. Will the abundance and types of birds differ in cacao plantations, compared to native rainforests?2Limón Province, Costa Rica
DSC_0060Urbanization and estuary eutrophicationalgae, eutrophication, fertilization, marine, nitrogen, phosphorus, wetland, urbanEstuaries are very productive habitats found where freshwater rivers meet the ocean. They are important natural filters for water and protect the coast during storms. A high diversity of plants, fish, shellfish and birds call estuaries home. Estuaries are threatened by eutrophication, or the process by which an ecosystem becomes more productive when excess nutrients are added to the system. Parts of the Plum Island Estuary in MA may be more at risk from eutrophication due to their proximity to urban areas.4Plum Island Estuary, Massachusetts
DSC_0060Green Crabs: Invaders in the Great Marshanimals, invasive species, substrate, wetland, erosionThe introduction of invasive species, such as the European Green Crab, poses a great threat to marshes. Digging behaviors of the Green Crab disturb sediments on the marsh floor and may have lead to the destruction of native eelgrass populations, which are sensitive to disturbance. Scientists aimed to identify locations where crab numbers are low and eelgrass can be restored.2Essex Bay, Massachusetts
DSC_0060The mystery of Plum Island Marshfertilization, fish, marine, mollusk, water, wetlandSalt marshes are among the most productive coastal ecosystems, and support a diversity of plants and animals. Algae and marsh plants feed many invertebrates, like snails and crabs, which are then eaten by larger fish and birds. In Plum Island, scientists have been fertilizing and studying salt marsh creeks to see how added nutrients affect the system. They noticed that fish populations seemed to be crashing in the fertilized creeks, while the mudflats were covered in mudsnails. Could there be a link?3Plum Island Estuary, Massachusetts
DSC_0060Does sea level rise harm saltmarsh sparrows?animals, birds, sea level rise, climate change, disturbance, ecology, wetlandFor the last 100 years, sea levels around the globe have increased dramatically. Salt marshes grow right at sea level and are therefore very sensitive to sea level rise. Saltmarsh sparrows rely completely on salt marshes for feeding and nesting, and therefore their numbers are expected to decline as sea levels rise and they lose nesting sites. Will this threatened bird species decline over time as sea levels rise?3Plum Island Estuary, Massachusetts
DSC_0060Keeping up with the sea levelclimate change, disturbance, ecology, sea level rise, plants, substrate, wetlandSalt marshes are very important habitats for many species and protect the coast from erosion. Unfortunately, rising sea levels due to climate change are threatening these important ecosystems. As sea levels rise, the elevation of the marsh soil must rise as well so the plants have ground high enough to keep them above sea level. Basically, it is like a race between the marsh floor and sea level to see who can stay on top! 3Plum Island Estuary, Massachusetts
DSC_0060Is your salt marsh in the zone?climate change, ecology, plants, sea level rise, substrate, wetlandBeginning in the 1980s, scientist James began measuring the growth of marsh grasses. He discovered that their growth was higher in some years and lower in others and that there was a long-term trend of growth going up over time. Marsh grasses grow around mean sea level, or the average elevation between high and low tides. Are the grasses responding to mean sea level changing year-to-year, and increasing as our oceans warm and water levels rise due to climate change?3Plum Island Estuary, Massachusetts
The case of the collapsing soilclimate change, carbon, ecology, plants, phosphorus, sea level rise, respiration, substrate, wetlandThe Everglades are a unique and vital ecosystem threatened by rising sea levels due to climate change. Recently scientists have observed in some areas of the wetland the soils are collapsing. What is causing this strange phenomena? Sea level rise might be stressing microbes, causing carbon to be lost to the atmosphere through increased respiration.4Everglades, Florida
DSC_0060Marvelous mudecology, environmental, fertilization, mud, phosphorus, substrate, water, wetlandBecause mud is wet most of the time, it tends to have different properties than soil. Dead organic matter (partially decomposed plants) is an important part of mud and tends to build up in wetlands because it is decomposed more slowly under water where microbes do not have all the oxygen they need to break it down quickly. The amounts of organic matter may determine the levels of phosphorus and other nutrients held in wetland muds.2Fort Custer Recreation Area, Michigan
Marsh makeoverbiodiversity, disturbance, ecology, greenhouse gasses, mud, plants, restoration, wetlandThe muddy soils in salt marshes store a lot of carbon, compared to terrestrial dry soils. This is because they are low in oxygen needed for decomposition. For this reason they play a key role in the carbon cycle and climate change. If humans disturb marshes, reducing plant diversity and biomass, are they also disturbing the marsh's ability to sequester carbon? If a marsh is restored, can the carbon holding capacity also be brought back to previous levels?3Oak Island and Neponset Marsh, Boston, Massachusetts
DSC_0060Dangerously boldanimal behavior, animals, tradeoff, fish, predationThere are two main habitats that young bluegill sunfish can use to find food to eat – open water and cover. There is lots of food in the open water, but this habitat also has very few plants for bluegill to hide from predators, like the largemouth bass, so it’s not safe when bluegill are small! The cover habitat has less food, but it has lots of plants that make it hard for predators to see the bluegill. This sets up a situation where there are costs and benefits to using either habitat, called a tradeoff.1Pond Lab, Kellogg Biological Station, Michigan
DSC_0060Which guy should she choose?animal behavior, animals, fish, matingMating behavior is intriguing to study because in many animal species, males use a lot of energy to attract a female. Yet some males are able to attract zero females and other males attract many females. What accounts for this difference? What about the way a male looks, moves, or smells attracts the female? A female could benefit from identifying “high quality” males that would serve as a good father to her offspring or that would make offspring that are attractive to females in the next generation.2Michigan State University lab and British Columbia, Canada
DSC_0060Fish fightsanimal behavior, animals, fish, matingMale stickleback fish fight each other to gain territories along the bottom of the shallow areas of a lake. In these territories, males build a nest out of sand, aquatic plants, and glue they produce from their kidneys. Males then attract females to their territories with courtship dances. If a female likes a male, she will deposit her eggs in his nest. Then the male will care for those eggs and the offspring that hatch. Perhaps more aggressive males are better at defending their territory and nests.2Michigan State University lab and British Columbia, Canada
Clique wars: social conflict in daffodil cichlidsanimal behavior, animals, competition, fishDaffodil cichlids live in social groups of several small fish and one breeding pair. The breeding male and female are the largest fist in the group, and the smaller fish help defend territory against predators and help care for newly hatched baby fish. About 200 social groups together make up a colony. Behavior within a social group may be influenced by the presence of other groups in the colony. For example, neighboring groups can be a threat because they may try to take away territory or resources.4The Ohio State University, Ohio
Fishy originscitizen science, DNA, evolution, fish, PCR, marineThe population of striped bass in New Jersey is a mixed stock, meaning fish come together from different spawning grounds. Scientists want to understand where these fish come from in order to better manage their population. For their study, they needed DNA from many fish, so they turned to fishermen to help collect fin clip samples. They used these samples to identify the stocks migrating to New Jersey, and to determine if they was changing over time.4Monmouth University
DSC_0060Salmon in hot wateradaptation, animals, climate change, evolution, fish, genes, temperature, heredity, geneticsSalmon are important members of freshwater and ocean food webs. Climate change threatens salmon by warming the waters of rivers where they reproduce. To maintain healthy populations, salmon rely on cold, freshwater habitats and may go extinct as temperatures rise. However, some salmon individuals have higher thermal tolerance and are able to survive when water temperatures rise. Scientists want to know whether there is a genetic basis for the variation observed in salmon’s thermal tolerance.4University of Washington Hatchery, Seattle, Washington
6298983_origAre you my species?adaptation, animals, behavior, biodiversity, competition, evolution, fish, matingHow do animals know who to choose as a mate and who is a member of their own species? One way is through communication. Animals collect information about each other and the rest of the world using multiple senses, including sight, sound, and smell. Darters are a group of over 200 colorful fish species that live in lakes and rivers across the US. The bright color patterns on males may signal to females during mating who is a member of the same species and who would make a good mate.3University of Maryland, Baltimore
Why so blue? The determinants of color pattern in killifish, Part Iadaptation, animals, biodiversity, evolution, fish, genes, mating, heredity, geneticsIn nature, animals can be found in a dazzling display of different colors and patterns. Even within one species there can be variation in color. For example, male bluefin killifish can have fins that are bright blue, red, or yellow. Becky, a scientist studying this species noticed an interesting pattern - males found in springs with crystal clear water have mostly red or yellow fins, while males found in swamps have bright blue fins. Becky wants to know, what is the driving mechanism behind this interesting pattern?4University of Illinois, Illinois
Why so blue? The determinants of color pattern in killifish, Part IIadaptation, animals, biodiversity, evolution, fish, genes, mating, heredity, geneticsTo take a closer look at her data, Becky added information on paternal fin color into her analysis.4University of Illinois, Illinois
cricketsBon Appétit! Why do male crickets feed females during courtship?adaptation, animals, behavior, competition, insects, matingIn many species of insects and spiders, males provide females with gifts of food during courtship and mating. This is called nuptial feeding. These offerings are eaten by the female and can take many forms, including prey items the male captured, substances produced by the male, or parts from the male’s body. These gifts can cost the male a lot, so why do they give them? They may increase the male's chances of mating with a female, or they may help the female have more and healthier offspring.4Cornell University, New York
DSC_0060How to escape a predatoradaptation, animal behavior, animals, predation, physiologyStalk-eyed flies have their eyes at the tip of eyestalks on the sides of their heads. Males with longer eyestalks are better at attracting mates – females find them sexy! However, long eyestalks may come at a cost. Males with long eyestalks may not be able to move easily and quickly, and could be easy targets for predators. Males also use a variety of behaviors to defend themselves against predators. Are these behaviors enough to compensate for long eyestalks?4Washington State University and University of Colorado, Denver
DSC_0060The flight of the stalk-eyed flyphysics, moment of inertia, adaptation, animals, flight, physiologyMoment of inertia (I) is an object’s tendency to resist rotation – in other words how difficult it is to make something turn. Stalk-eyed flies have eyes located on the ends of long projections on the sides of their head, called eyestalks. Because moment of inertia goes up with the square of the distance from the axis, we might expect that as the length of the flies’ eyestalks goes up, the harder and harder it will be for the fly to maneuver during flight.4Tel-Aviv University, Israel and University of Colorado, Denver
flyfightHow do brain chemicals influence who wins a fight?animals, behavior, competition, insects, aggression, brain chemistry, physiologyAnimals compete for resources, including space, food, and mates. What are the factors that determine who wins in a fight? Within the same species, larger individuals tend to win fights. However, if two opponents are the same size, other factors can influence outcomes. Serotonin is a chemical compound found in the brains of all animals, including stalk-eyed flies. Even a small amount of this chemical can make a big impact on aggressive behavior, and perhaps the outcome of competition.2University of Colorado, Denver and University of South Dakota
Which would a woodlouse prefer?animals, behavior, ecology, predationWoodlice are small crustaceans that live on land. They look like bugs, but are actually more closely related to crabs and lobsters. To escape predators they hide in dark places. They spend most of their time underground and have very poor eyesight. If they can't see very well, how do they decide where to live?2Kellogg Biological Station, Michigan
Crunchy or squishy? How El Niño events change zooplanktonalgae, animals, marine, El NiñoEl Niño events happen every 5 to 10, and in California they cause the ocean to be much warmer than usual. Warm ocean waters during El Niño events have lower nutrient levels, so fewer phytoplankton grow leading to less food available for zooplankton. This may cause a change balance between the two main groups of zooplankton, “crunchy” crustaceans and “squishy” gelatinous animals. These changes could have cascading effects up the food chain.3San Diego, California
DSC_0060Dangerous aquatic prey: can predators adapt to toxic algae?adaptation, algae, evolution, marine, predationPhytoplankton are microscopic algae that form the base of all aquatic food chains. Some phytoplankton produce toxins, and when these algae reach high population levels it is known as toxic algal blooms. Can predators feeding on toxic prey for many generations evolve resistance, by natural selection, to the toxic prey?4Maine and New Jersey
DSC_0060Finding a footholdanimals, ecology, marine, substrate, waterThe ground at the beach is made of rocks of many different sizes, called substrates. These can range from large boulders down to fine grains of sand, with many size variations in between. Just like there are different types of substrates, there are different types of organisms that can live there. How can we determine which types of organisms prefer which types of substrates?2Puget Sound, Washington
DSC_0060Invasive reeds in the salt marshdisturbance, invasive species, plants, wetlandPhragmites australis is an invasive reed that is taking over saltwater marshes of New England, outcompeting other plants that serve as food and homes for marsh animals. Once Phragmites has invaded, it is sometimes the only plant species left, called a monoculture. Phragmites does best where humans have disturbed a marsh, and scientists were curious why that might be. They thought that perhaps it was caused by changing salinity, or amount of salt in the water, after a marsh is disturbed.2Ipswich High School, Massachusetts
DSC_0060Can a salt marsh recover after restoration?disturbance, ecology, invasive species, plants, wetland, salinity, restorationBefore restoration began, it was clear the Saratoga Creek salt marsh was in trouble. Invasive Phragmites plants covered large areas of the marsh, crowding out native plants and animals. Human activity was thought to be the culprit – storm drains were dumping freshwater into the marsh, lowering salinity. In 1999 a restoration took place to divert freshwater away from the marsh in an attempt to reduce Phragmites numbers. Did it work?2Saratoga Creek Salt Marsh, Rockport, Massachusetts
DSC_0060Make way for mummichogsanimals, biodiversity, disturbance, fish, restoration, wetlandMummichogs are small fish that live in tidal marshes all along the US Atlantic coast. Because they are so widespread and can be found in most streams, they are a valuable tool for scientists looking to compare the health of different marshes. The absence of mummichogs in a salt marsh is a sign that it is highly damaged. Students collected data on mummichog numbers before and after a marsh restoration. Did the restoration successfully bring back mummichogs to the marsh?4Gloucester, Massachusetts
All washed up? The effect of floods on cutthroat troutanimals, disturbance, ecology, fish, water, stream, floodsFloods are very common disturbances in streams. If floods happen right after fish breed and eggs hatch, young fish that cannot swim strongly may not survive. Although floods can be dangerous for fish, they are also very important for creating new habitat. Cutthroat trout are a species of fish living in Mack Creek, which experiences occasional floods. Trout breed in the early spring, right at the peak of flooding, so scientists are collecting long-term data on this species. Will floods hurt trout populations or help?2Mack Creek, Andrews Forest, Oregon
DSC_0060Float down the Kalamazoo Riverriver, water, suspended solids, dam, reservoirThere is a lot more in river water than you might think! As the river flows, it picks up bits of dead plants, algae, and other living and non-living particles from the bottom of the river. These suspended solids are important for the river food web, but can be influenced by human activities, such as the construction of dams.2Kalamazoo River, Michigan
sweeden1Winter is coming! Can you handle the freeze?adaptation, ecology, evolution, genes, plants, local adaptationDepending on where they live, plant populations each face their own challenges. For example, in Arabidopsis thaliana there are some populations of this species growing in very cold habitats, and some populations growing in very warm habitats. The idea that populations of the same species have evolved as a result of certain aspects of their environment is called local adaptation.4Michigan State University, Michigan
adam_microscopeGene expression in stem cellsgene expression, stem cells, geneticsEvery cell in your body contains the same DNA. Genetically identical skin, brain, and muscle cells can look very different and perform very different functions by turning particular genes on and off. But once they differentiate, their role in the body is fixed. Unlike these cells, stem cells have the ability to turn into any other type of cell in the body. Can we uncover the genes expressed in stem cells that give them that ability?4Colorado State University, Colorado
Alien life on Mars – caught in crystals?astrobiology, salt, solution, Mars, extraterrestrial life, chemistryIs there life on other planets besides Earth? This question is not just for science fiction. Scientists are actively exploring the possibility of life on Mars. Mars is cold, dry, and has a very thin atmosphere. However, there might still be places on Mars where life could exist, despite its extreme conditions. While there is no liquid water on the surface of Mars anymore, it once had a saltwater ocean covering much of its surface. Certain solutions of salt may trap liquid water in pockets as it evaporates, preserving conditions for life.2UK Centre for Astrobiology, University of Edinburgh, Great Britain
Working to reduce the plastics problemplastics, synthetic materials, chemistry, biodegradable, elastomer, polymer, monomer, stress, strainPlastics can be shaped easily and are used for many functions, making them extremely popular across the world. However, most plastics negatively impact the environment and some can take thousands of years or longer to break down. Scientists are testing new ways to make plastics that are biodegradable so they can be decomposed and won’t last as long in the environment. How can researchers use knowledge about the chemical properties of different monomers to make alternatives for synthetic plastics? 3Northland College