So, I know this post is under the ‘tropical ecology’ tab, which is where this research should be, but unfortunately Covid 19 put a damper on those plans. As a tropical ecologist living in North Carolina, my research plans have all had to change due to Covid. Our university pretty much forbade all international travel in March, meaning my plans to travel to Peru in May were ruined. But, in order to still be able to get some research done, and collect some data which could be used to apply for larger grants, my supervisor and I have adapted the project to carry it out in Raleigh, NC.
Strangely, even though I’ve lived in NC for 10 years, I’ve never really studied any of the plants or animals living here. So, even though this is my home, I don’t feel at home when it comes to research! Anyway, we started our research in June and still have another month to go before we’re done collecting all of our data; but it’s going well.
What are we doing, you ask? Well, essentially, we’re studying how ant species diversity changes with ambient temperature, and how the ambient temperature an ant is exposed to in its natural environment may affect it’s temperature tolerance, preference and hydration state. We’re sampling ants in forest patches in cool and hot locations around the city of Raleigh. Hot forest patches are usually surrounded by dense residential or commercial buildings and roads, and cool forest patches are in parks.
We’re a team of three, and each one of us is carrying out a component of the research to minimize social contact and passing equipment back and forth. My work involves going out to each site 3 times a day (morning, midday and night) to set out baits and see who’s there. In the evening, my supervisor accompanies me and she collects live ants for the thermal preference and desiccation study. She and our undergraduate technician also return to the site the following day to collect live ants to see what their thermal maximum is.
It’s a lot of work, but I’m so grateful to be able to get out of the house and be in nature. I’ll post another update when we start analyzing the data!
Stay safe and healthy, and if you’re feeling blue, go take a walk in nature…being out in nature does wonders for your mental health!