When tropical research is halted due to Covid 19…

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!

Posted in Tropical Ecology Research | Leave a comment

New tropical research on the horizon!

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.

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Bullying in academia and the #MeToo movement

We’ve all heard of the #MeToo movement for sexual harassment and assault, where brave people, particularly women, come forward to share their experience. Well, recently I saw that this same movement has been picked up by academics, sharing their experiences as students or professionals. Sadly but perhaps fortunately, many women have come forward to share their stories of how male tenured professors have abused of their power. Here I am thinking about this, not because I’ve experienced sexual harassment and not because I’ve experienced any wrongdoings on the part of any of my male professors, but because this together with an even more recent newstory has hit home with me: that of the abuse of power in higher-education settings.

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Posted in Women in academia | Leave a comment

National Cacao and Coffee conference in Piura, Peru

Last week I had the honor and pleasure of presenting at the national conference on cacao and coffee organized by INIA in Piura, Peru. It was an intense three-day conference, but it was really great to be able to hear about some of the research that is going on in Peru as well as learn about some of the difficulties and obstacles that the research staff have to overcome. One of the most interesting things that one of the INIA scientists brought up was that we were 4 women and 1 man sitting at the ‘honor table’. 80% representation by women in this field is a really big deal and a sign of progress, especially in a country that is still quite machista (chauvinistic). It was nice to be a part of the change.

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Posted in Agroecology, International research and extension, Women in academia | Leave a comment

New publication on the impact of coffee management practices (shade/sun) on floral traits!

A couple of months ago, I published my second dissertation chapter. Thank goodness it was almost completely ready for submission before I graduated…It’s no joke when your advisers suggest you publish before you move onto your next job! Take a look at the article here! It’s free an open access 🙂

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-019-43753-y

I’m currently working on my third manuscript regarding the role flowering vegetation in the coffee plantation may play on pollinator visitation to coffee plants. Stay tuned!

Posted in Agroecology, Interesting read

Would they ask a man to do that?

I’d heard of sexism in academia and spoken to friends and colleagues about the obstacles they’d faced as women, but I’d been very lucky to not have experienced it myself….until recently that is. Never once had I felt like being a woman made life more challenging, or made people look at me and my abilities differently, and I realize now that I was very lucky. That being said, I’ve recently caught myself wondering ‘is this sexism’? ‘would they have asked a man to do the same’? ‘am I being too sensitive’?

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Posted in Interesting publications, Women in academia

Graduation, motherhood and a new job

Wow, it’s been about 2 years since I last posted and realized that just now, when checking out the website. These past two years have been super busy. In fall 2017 I found out I was pregnant and due in June, so that definitely ignited a fire in me to finish my dissertation before our baby girl was due. I wrote and wrote, analyzed data, mentored an undergaduate student, worked part-time with the College of Ag. and Life Sciences International Programs (CALS IP) office and finally defended in May 2018 – hurray! It was stressful, but I’m so glad I did that, because once our baby girl was born, my brain just ceased to function due to sleep depravation haha.

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Posted in Academic motherhood, New Life Experiences

New publication on sampling bees in tropical forests and agroecosystems!

Just wanted to share this new review paper that some collaborators and I wrote. It’s lengthy, but full of useful information for selecting your sampling method in the tropics.

Please feel free to message me, if you have any questions!

Happy reading!

Posted in Agroecology, Interesting publications, Something for you

Heartbroken

I’m heartbroken, today. I just learned that one of the most amazing professors I’ve had in my career as a student has passed away of brain cancer. His name was Terry Wheeler, and he was an inspiring human being and professor.

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Posted in Something for you

Polen polooza!

Well folks, in case you’re wondering what people do after their field work, here’s an example! All those pollen swabs that I took during the field season need to be analyzed, and the way to do that is to compare the shape/color/size of the pollen particles swabbed off the bees’ bodies to a reference vegetation pollen swab library. So, that’s what the images below are…my pollen library.

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Posted in Agroecology, Something for you