I’m really happy to say that I’m back to doing research as a Research Assistant in the Youngsteadt Lab. We’re setting up a research project in the Peruvian Amazon, in the city of Puerto Maldonado, where we will study the effects of urban warming on ants. We plan to assess whether ants’ physiological traits predict species’ persistence in warmed habitats, whether species adapt or acclimate to rapid warming, and to what extent these species compensate behaviorally for rapid warming. Cities provide an excellent study system to assess the effects of warming on organisms because of the ‘urban heat island effect’. We’ve all experienced this, when we’ve walked outside on the hot pavement and felt the heat radiating not only from above, but also from the asphalt. Buildings, streets and other urban structures can retain heat resulting in cities being warmer than the natural areas around them. In Puerto Maldonado, Peru, on one given day, temperatures in the city were 5-9°C warmer than natural forests around it. We all know that temperatures are predicted to rise over the coming years as the global climate changes. Here we use cities as a window into the future to see what might happen to ants if temperatures were to increase. Overall, we’re hoping this study will improve our understanding of tropical insect vulnerability to global warming.
I’m also putting together a project in Puerto Rico with a new collaborator from Arizona State University, Kevin Grady. We’re planning on studying visitation to and floral traits (appearance and floral reward quality) of several trees that are currently being used for habitat restoration in the Guanica State Forest. These trees are being used for restoration but very little is known about their relationship with native pollinators. I’m excited to go back to Puerto Rico…it’s been three years since I last visited. I haven’t seen the devastation from hurricane Maria or from the recent series of earthquakes that hit the southeast.
I’m looking forward to getting these projects underway and will be posting more regularly over the coming months to share my experiences.