Tylor Keeley, my first undergrad mentee in Montana, finished an excellent project measuring flight performance in Lednia that were raised at different temperatures. This marks the first time flight has been measured in an alpine stonefly and Tylor did an incredible job! He found that flight ability declines when stoneflies have been raised at constant high temperatures (13C, 20C), but is retained when stoneflies experience much colder temperatures (1C, 4C, and variable temperatures), which are more similar to their native stream thermal regimes.
I am honored to have been selected to speak at a symposium called, "Bottom-up and top-down insect foodwebs", chaired by Shannon Murphy at the International Congress of Entomology in Helsinki, Finland! Shannon and her colleagues also selected me as 1 of 5 people to receive NSF travel funding for the conference. Looking forward to networking with new folks and seeing a new country! Stay tuned for details!
Incubator at the University of Montana holding Lednia tumana nymphs at 1ºC
We didn't know how things would turn out, but happily, our long-term thermal exposure project outlasted our worst expectations! This week we celebrate the 30-day mark for testing survival in Lednia in the lab. Lednia have not only survived in our incubators but we have even managed to get flight performance data from ~15 individuals!
Introducing our first speaker at the beginning of the symposium
Along with my former Ph.D. advisor, Dr. Cameron Ghalambor, I organized a symposium as part of the International Biogeography Society's celebration of 250 years of science based on Humboldt's initial work. The conference was held in Quito, Ecuador, one of the places Humboldt visited when he proposed the first version of the "climate variability hypothesis". Our symposium was called "Architects of Variation: How Climate and Physiology Shape Patterns of Biodiversity" and featured some excellent talks on a number of taxa, by a diversity of scientists from around the world.
A chalcidoid wasp after having been tested in a ULT experiment
After a long wait for wasps to emerge from pupae collected in the field, I was able to get some CTmax and upper lethal temperature estimates from these tiny little guys! I learned a lot from working with these animals this field season and will be able to generate much more data next year.
Part of my post doc is geared toward creating a program that broadens STEM participation in traditionally underrepresented students. I was lucky to have been invited to join an initiative led by Dr. Aaron Thomas from the U of M to participate as a STEM educator and create a short project for Native American middle school students to experience a STEM subject. I created a river biomonitoring project, where kids had to use aquatic insects to assess and compare the health of 2 streams in Missoula. Our program was a huge success and we even got featured in the Missoulian, our local news paper!
Newly unfurled aspen leaves with the Swan mountains in the background
Our field work has finally begun this Spring at the beautiful MPG North property! We are actively searching aspen trees at our field sites for leaf-miner presence. Though rain and generally colder spring temperatures have delayed the budding of aspen leaves, we hope we'll have a pretty great season! We'll be measuring thermal performance in leaf miners and wasp parasites (if we can find them!)
My new year began with a new job. I am now in Missoula, Montana as a post doc in the Woods Lab. Here I will continue to explore the effects of temperature on aquatic insect ecology and acquaint myself with a new system - the aspen leaf miner - to investigate micro- scale temperature variation and miner ecology. I am also honored and excited to teach concepts in biology to middle school students on the Flathead Indian Reservation.
My colleagues Nick Polato (Cornell) and Brian Gill (Brown University) along with fantastic co-authors have published a new study to explain why tropical mountains are more biodiverse than temperate ones. Our team of scientists studied the physiology, genetics, and genomics of aquatic insects in Andean and Rocky Mountain aquatic insects to test Janzen's 1967 hypothesis. We found that narrow thermal tolerance leads to reduced gene flow and therefore greater rates of speciation across elevation gradients in the tropics but not in temperate mountains. This study also highlights the importance of integrative and collaborative work to tackle the big questions of our time. University press articles about our study can be found here (CSU) and here (Cornell)
From left: Cameron Ghalambor, myself, and Chris Funk at the CSU graduate school 2018 Spring Commencement.
Graduation Day! I'm thankful to have finally made it here. This was definitely a day for reflection and for gratitude to all the amazing people I have met along the way, who have shaped this fantastic PhD experience. I am especially thankful to my two advisors, Cameron Ghalambor and Chris Funk for guiding me through and for believing in me until the end! In a few months, I'm off to Montana to begin my post doc chapter.