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Entomology

The Entomology Lab studies the diversity, functional roles, and forest health impacts of insects and fungi within the woodlands, fields, and wetlands of Ichauway, and the pine forests of the southern coastal plain. 

We track the abundance, presence, and impacts of the insects found in the diverse ecological communities within the 30,000 acres of Ichauway:

  • beetles that attack stressed trees and kill them
  • butterflies and bees that pollinate the wildflowers of Ichauway
  • beetles that break down animal carcasses and dung
  • all manner of insects crawling on or below the ground in the diverse understory of longleaf pine.

Our current research is seeking to answer key questions about insects in longleaf pine woodlands while exploring their incredible diversity at Ichauway. 

  • How do storms and their damage affect tree-killing beetles and fungi? Aboveground we are looking at bark beetles that attack lightning struck trees and wood borers that infest snapped off tree trunks. Belowground we collect root weevils and beetles that introduce pathogenic fungi, infecting stressed trees. Even as we target these groups we catch many, many other insects – predators, parasitoids, and so much more.
  • How do beetles interact with animals? In special areas where predatory animals have been excluded, we are studying the fascinating group of insects that break down animal carcasses and dung. These beetles set off a cascade of insects that play important roles in returning nutrients to the soil.
  • How are the numbers and types of insects changing over time? In brand new studies, we are sampling a huge diversity of insects using various traps, all across the ecological diversity of Ichauway. By comparing our catches with similar efforts across the nation, we can help learn about trends in insect abundance and diversity. Important information to have in our ever-changing world.

News

  • What happens when a tree is hit by lightning? See photos!
  • The entomology lab receives grants to study insect response to wind damage in forests. Working with collaborators JT Vogt (USDA Forest Service) and Kamal Gandhi (University of Georgia), the Entomology Lab recently received a $75,000 grant for “Assessing Wind Damage in Longleaf Pine and Gulf Coast Forest Ecosystems”. The increasing number and severity of tornados, hurricanes, and straight-line events in the southern US alter stand dynamics and succession, severely reduce merchantable timber, and increase the risk of subsequent damage by insects and pathogens. In this project, we will utilize past and future tornado tracks in several southern ecoregions as sampling sites and surrogates for understanding broader-scale damage events such as hurricanes. We will identify and characterize tornado tracks, and gather data on arthropods (ground-dwelling, forest pests, and pollinators), understory (native and invasive plants), tree physiology, and delayed tree mortality in relation to wind damage levels. Other collaborators come from the USDA Forest Service (Brian Sullivan, Tara Keyser) and the University of Georgia (Bronson Bullock, Dan Johnson).

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Focal Areas of Research

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