Graduate student Denisha Parker is going to determine if native lady beetles that have remained common following the introduction of exotic species have a low degree of dietary niche overlap with their competitors. If this is true, it would aid in our understanding of why some species have declined dramatically following exotic introductions while others have remained. Denisha was recently awarded a highly competitive North Central Region Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Graduate Student Grant ($11,924) to support her work. She will be collecting two species of lady beetles (checker-spot lady beetle (exotic) and orange spotted lady beetle (native)) from our control and high-diversity wildflower vacant lot plots as well as urban farms using sweep nets and sticky traps. Using molecular gut content analysis she will determine the diet of these species and determine how much overlap exists and if it varies by foraging habitat.
Project Description: Native lady beetles are an important group of urban agricultural predators, but in recent decades many have declined dramatically coinciding with introductions of exotic lady beetle competitors. We will determine if the degree of overlap in predator diet, a form of exploitative competition, explains why some native species have declined while others have remained common following exotic establishment. Using this information, we can manage greenspaces to both conserve native biodiversity and promote urban farm sustainability.
Over the past year, graduate students Rodney Richardson and Katie Todd have co-authored, and were awarded, two student grants to conduct pollen research in Cleveland, OH. Rodney and Katie are supported by a North Central Region SARE graduate student grant ($11,930) and an OARDC SEEDS graduate student grant ($9,775) to investigate solitary bee’s pollen usage on urban farms. They are mid-way through their first year of pollen collection and will use pollen metabarcoding DNA analysis this fall to determine what their bee larvae were eating in Cleveland this summer. Check out the photos below to see some of their sites and bee X-rays!
Project Summary: Urban agriculture is highly reliant on the pollination services that wild bees provide. In order to support pollinator’s survival and reproduction, we need to supply both crop and non-crop pollen resources for these bees. However, we don’t have a clear picture of what solitary bees feed their young in urban farm environments. Therefore, we don’t know what flower plantings will best support local bees. In order to test what bees eat in urban farms of Cleveland, OH, we will collect bee larvae and pollen with “Bee Hotel” trap nests. We will then conduct a DNA analysis on the pollen within these nests in order to determine what floral resources are critical for solitary bee reproduction. With this insight into urban bee foraging behavior and reproductive success, our study will inform farmers about urban habitat management to support future generations of urban bees and urban farm sustainability.
Chris Riley, Dan Herms, and Mary Gardiner recently published a paper as part of a special issue of Urban Forestry and Urban Greening titled: Exotic trees contribute to urban forest diversity and ecosystem services in inner-city Cleveland, OH.
This study highlights the importance of vacant land to the urban forest – these sites had three times as many trees as residential sites! The majority of trees found on vacant land are exotic and naturally regenerated. This weedy forest, such as the tree-of-heaven individuals which have sprouted up alongside the abandoned building in the photo below are not traditionally thought to provide any benefits in their invaded ecosystems. But, in inner-city Cleveland exotic trees are providing many ecosystem services such as energy cost reduction, pollution removal and increased storm water infiltration. How the presence of these species influences the biodiversity of tree-dwelling herbivores and their predators in vacant lots is currently being investigated by Chris Riley.
Our paper was recently featured in the Anthropocene Weekly Science Magazine and is also highlighted on the OSU Grant development Support Unit Website.
Its amazing how quickly the vegetation shifts in an urban prairie. This week bee balm (Monarda fistulosa) is in full bloom! This native Ohio wildflower took three years to bloom in our plots, it is highly attractive to pollinators. Photos of the pocket prairies from June and July are archived HERE.
Recently, PhD student Yvan Delgado de la Flor was funded by an OARDC SEEDS graduate student grant to inventory the spider fauna within a region of Peru. Yvan has made one trip to initiate the study and train a great group of undergraduates who are helping him to collect spiders from several habitats within the Cusco region of the tropical Andes. A project summary and some photos from his first research trip are below.
Project Summary: Biodiversity assessments are critical for setting conservation goals as they can reveal changes in species composition providing evidence about the impact of human activity on natural habitats and wildlife communities. The tropical Andes is one of the most important biological hotspots on Earth, yet its fauna and flora remain mostly unknown to science. In 1911, Yale University organized an expedition to assess the biodiversity of Cusco, a region located in the tropical Andes of Peru. This resulted in the description of several new species, and the discovery of Machu Picchu. In collaboration with Peruvian institutions, we aim to replicate the Yale expedition. To do this, we will assess the current diversity and distribution of spiders in Cusco, and determine whether spider communities have changed following 100 years of human mediated habitat change in the region.