A team of collaborators and I have published a paper looking at the long-term effects of chronic warming on several fitness-related traits of glacial meltwater stoneflies. Our results reveal two important aspects of the biology of high-elevation aquatic insects. First, larvae (nymphs) are sensitive to temperatures only slightly higher than those they currently experience.
Second, although they can grow relatively quickly at warmer temperatures, they are unable to emerge successfully as adults at those same temperatures. Emergence may therefore be particularly sensitive to warming. Broadly, our results suggest that studies assessing vulnerability to climate change should go beyond measuring one or two response variables to more comprehensive analyses across multiple fitness-related traits.
Take a look at our paper out in Early View in Functional Ecology. Photo from Giersch et al. 2017 Global Change Biology
We are happy to welcome our first postdoc, Dr. Dale Stevens II to the Shah Lab! Dr. Stevens completed his PhD at Clark University inWorcester, Massachusetts, He will be leading an effort to understandthemechanisms (specifically physiological traits)underlyingoutcomesof dragonfly-fish-damselfly speciesinteractions in different environmental contexts.
Our work will focus on the tadpole stage. Photo from: californiaherps.com
I am thrilled to announce that our RAPID grant was funded! Our team are: coPI Chris Funk, postdoc Amanda Cicchino, collaborators Erin Landguth, Brenna Forester, Cameron Ghalambor, and Jason Dunham. We will be studying the response of Ascaphus truei to two different extreme climatic events, a heatwave and a catastrophic fire. We will explore changes that occur at the physiological and genomic levels by leveraging data we collected before the extreme events. In doing so, we will be able to better understand to what extent plasticity versus evolution contribute to organismal resilience to extreme climatic events. Stay tuned for more!
Pteronarcys californica, or the giant stonefly, is an important shredder in North American streams. Several populations in Montana may be imperiled because they live in streams with decreasing flow.
A really nice little study conducted in our lab by undergrad James Frakes (now a grad student) on how flow affects tolerance to heat stress and hypoxia in a stonefly. James found that when giant stoneflies (Pteronarcys californica) are exposed to heat, they can withstand higher temperatures when the water is flowing compared to when it is still. Similarly, they can handle lower oxygen concentrations (hypoxia) in flowing versus still water. These findings have implications for aquatic insect vulnerability to climate change. Insects living in streams where flows are decreasing may be much more vulnerable than previously thought.
I am absolutely THRILLED to announce that I have accepted a tenure track faculty position at the beautiful Kellogg Biological Station - Michigan State University! I am also grateful that KBS-MSU helped me solve the 'two-body problem' by interviewing and hiring my partner Chris, as well. The Shah Lab will be part of the Department of Integrative Biology and will be up and running by January 2022!!! Stay tuned!
After a long, long, long journey, I am proud to say the biggest chapter of my PhD dissertation is finally published. Learning how to use complicated metabolic rate equipment, creating an experiment to test hypotheses, and then moving our delicate set up from Colorado to Ecuador and back for 4 years was super tough. I'm so glad to see these data finally published. Tropical mayfly metabolic rates are more sensitive to temperature, but there are no differences between temperate and tropical stonefly sensitivities.
I am excited to announce the publication of this really awesome collaboration among folks at the Woods Lab and some of the biggest thinkers in high elevation stream ecology! Led by graduate student Jackson Birrell, we have compiled a review of the current knowledge about high elevation stream abiotic conditions, their effects on stream insects, and what the future holds for these delicate ecosystems.
Aspen leaves with leaf miner pupae in an incubator. We captured insects emerging from these leaves and conducted thermal tolerance experiments on them.
Phew. It has been hard to stay positive and focused on work as the world battles with a pandemic and the U.S. struggles with its history of racism. I have been lucky to have a job with flexibility to stay home and continue work. Our field season had to be cut down and we were not able to complete all the tasks we set out for. Still, I am immensely proud of the effort, my undergrad mentees blew me away with their hard work and positive attitude, and we will learn something more about leaf miners and wasps. We raised over 300 moths and wasps pupating on aspen leaves and measured their thermal tolerance. Data will be out soon!
A majestic view of the Teton mountains from the research station on Jackson Lake
Our paper linking thermal tolerance to gene expression in glacial meltwater stoneflies from the Grand Tetons recently got published in Global Change Biology! This was a co-led project will collaborator Scott Hotaling as well as a fantastic team of scientists studying meltwater stoneflies in the Rockies. Two lines of evidence suggest that Lednia tetonica may not be as much of a cold stenotherm as previously thought. First. they can handle some relatively warm temperatures in the short-term, and second, when in cold water, they produce heat shock proteins (which also indicate stress). ur challenge is now to understand why they are only found in extremely cold water and not elsewhere.