It's been a long time and a few busy months! Last month Lauren and I attended the ESA annual meeting in Portland, OR. We were able to attend some fantastic presentations and meet with some great researchers in addition to enjoying a bit of Portland! I highly recommend attending the next meeting in New Orleans. Lauren was able to present her senior research on crab spider abundance in eastern Oregon and I presented a bit of my dissertation that focused on the impact grassland restoration has on native bee and spider communities in the Pacific Northwest.
David Frey from The Wildlife Study wrote an article about our lab's latest paper that was published in Natural Areas Journal. Our paper examines how native bees compete for floral resources with ungulates including elk, deer, and cattle.
See the article here: http://wildlife.org/bees-compete-for-flowers-with-elk-deer-and-cattle/
Read our paper here: http://www.bioone.org/doi/abs/10.3375/043.036.0412
DeBano, SJ, SM Roof, MM Rowland, and LA Smith. 2017. Diet overlap of mammalian herbivores and native bees: implications for managing co-occuring grazers and pollinators. Natural Areas Journal 36(4): 458-477.
Here's a great article on pollinators that just came out in The Atlantic! It discusses the importance of habitat connectivity and how The Pollinator Pathway group was able to create a large wildlife corridor in Seattle for native bees .
"Tiny Pollinators Need Wildlife Corridors Too"
Check out this conservation canine that works out at The Nature Conservancy Boardman grasslands (one of our study sites)! "Captain" helps locate Washington ground squirrels, a near threatened species that lives in arid prairie habitat in eastern Oregon.
Read the article here:
Conservation Canine Article "Putting a Good Sniffer to Work"
Or watch a short video here
We have kicked off our summer field sampling and it has been busy! We have two new OSU BES interns, Keelie and Lexie, both from Tri-Cities, WA. This summer we are working on several new projects in eastern Oregon including: wildfire impacts on grassland native bee and spider communities, beneficial grassland invertebrate presence on adjacent farms, and predator-prey interactions in both grasslands and surrounding agricultural areas. There is a lot going on this summer and we will be detailing each project in following posts! For now here are a few photos we have taken this summer:
When the weather turns cold and rainy it's time to retreat to the lab to sort all of the samples collected in the summer. We have finished sorting through all of the pitfall traps (see this post about the pitfalls) and are now working on spider identification. Lauren J. and Estany are both learning how to identify spider families! It's slow work at first but goes pretty quick when you learn all of the spider anatomy terms.
Our lab has also been giving some presentations this winter! Estany gave a poster presentation at the RAFWE (Research Advances in Fisheries, Wildlife, and Ecology) symposium in Corvallis, OR. RAFWE is a symposium that is completely organized by the Fish and Wildlife Graduate students at OSU.
I also attended the Society for Ecological Restoration Northwest Conference last week in Portland, OR and presented some of my dissertation research. There were some amazing presentations!
I think that this is an amazing idea for people who don't want to kill spiders but would also prefer not to touch them!
In 2009 I attended the Duke University and Organization for Tropical Studies (OTS) Study Abroad Program in Costa Rica. The OTS program focuses on tropical field biology and travels to various biological field stations around Costa Rica. If you are interested in learning more about the program you can find more information here.
I was with OTS for one week, the week after was Thanksgiving week so my family decided to come down for a vacation! We went to two different locations: the Arenal Volcano area and to Tamarindo on the west coast. Here are some photos of our trip!
Last week the interns had a chance to present what they did over the summer during their Branch Experiment Station internships. All of the interns made a poster and presented during an College of Agriculture symposium that focused on student opportunities, including a job interview workshop, a networking lunch, and a social with local companies that have internship opportunities. Here are some photos of the interns presenting their posters! They did great!
While Samantha, Estany, and Lauren J. have completed their summer internships they will still be making occasional appearances on the blog as they have transitioned to working for me in the lab on campus! News from the lab soon to come!
Sometimes field work just doesn't go as planned...here is a list of summer "bloopers" that I have arranged for you to see.
Due to the fire, a lot of the dirt roads became very sandy, in some areas about knee-high. Unfortunately, our truck just couldn't handle them and got stuck going downhill. It took us about an hour to dig it out. After this we decided to rent a UTV to drive through the burned areas.
...and then the UTV trailer got a flat tire on I-84.
...and then the truck got a flat tire on I-84. Apparently I just don't have very good luck when it comes to tires. We were able to change the tire but the spare tire was also flat! Luckily we were near a truck repair shop and they were able to help and fill up the spare for us. Note to self: check the air pressure of your spare tire at least a few times a year!
Lastly, sometimes you just can't control what happens in your plots. We have arrived to plots plenty of times with our pitfalls dug up or trampled (by what we expect are coyotes, badgers, and elk) but the best day was when we arrived at our plot and there was a herd of cows grazing in it!
Hopefully you enjoyed our bloopers! We would love to hear about some of your field work mishaps!
Recently, the Forest Service restored some of the land along Meadow Creek, including planting thousands of native plants. In each of the three pastures along Meadow Creek, three enclosures were built. The plan is to have one enclosure where deer and elk will be allowed to graze, one just for cattle, one control where nothing can graze, and one site left open allowing all three to graze. Sandy’s goal is to look at how grazing will impact native bee communities. The animals will not be added to the pastures until next year, so Sandy and I are just gathering preliminary data at each of the sites to get an idea of what bees and plants are already out there.
Starkey is a great example of the collaboration that goes on in order to understand all aspects of an ecosystem, and how a restoration project affects each. In addition to our research looking at native bees, there are wildlife biologists studying deer, elk, cattle, and small mammals; botanists looking at native and exotic plants in the area; and ichthyologists studying fish and stream ecology. Sandy and I have actually run into the problem of not knowing which of the flagging tape in the sites are ours, and now label it PP (for Pollinator People, apparently this has become our unofficial nickname around Headquarters). I am sure there are other studies going on that I don’t even know about!
So, what is my project? I am studying how flowering plants at each of the sites impacts the diversity and abundance of native bees. I am really interested in looking at which plants bees prefer foraging on, and whether or not they have a preference for native or exotic plants. This could be important for figuring out what flowers people should plant to encourage more native bees near their fields or gardens, or how best to restore degraded land to help bees. I have learned a lot about identifying plants by working on this project, and am still working on memorizing the names of the flowers we have found. One of my personal favorites is Gairdner’s yampah. It’s native to Oregon, and though not a particularly exciting looking flower, its scientific name is Perideridia gairdneri, which is really just fun to try to say.
I have two pet jumping spiders that I have kept since June and I am asking you for name suggestions!
I originally caught the spiders to show the kids at "Farmtastic!" how jumping spiders catch prey but the day of the feeding both spiders decided to lay eggs! I am now keeping the spiders to document their life cycle and eggs hatching.
Both spiders are mature female jumping spiders from the Phidippus genus. Spiders from this genus are characterized by their iridescent green chelicerae (mouth parts) and usually live 1-2 years. Jumping spiders do not catch prey by spinning webs but by stalking and pouncing on their prey. Their favorite diet consists of flies and crickets. It is actually quite exciting to watch as the spiders are incredibly fast!
Jumping spiders are very friendly and curious spiders. There are many times when I see the spiders observing what I am doing, but when I try to photograph them they run and hide. They are also arguably the most adorable spiders (see many posts such this)! I have several photos of my two cute spiders and will have more soon of the spiderlings!
Please leave your name suggestions in the comments below!
In the next set of photos you can see a before and after of the plots. The before is immediately after planting in September (following the dry season). The after photo shows growth in the plot after five months. Most of the growth is common weeds. We had a lot of problems with residual weeds in the plots. In several plots the weeds were several feet tall! To get rid of the weeds we mowed all of the plots twice this spring before the native plants germinated.
To read more about why I restored the field margins and some of the benefits you can visit my personal webpage here:
Above is a photo of my favorite spider so far. It is a female jumping spider (Family Salticidae) and is from the Phidippus genus (species soon to be determined) and I think that it is so cute! While it is hard to tell from the photo through my microscope lense, these spiders are very furry and have beautiful irridescent green chelicerae (mouthparts) as seen in the Alex Wild photograph!
Thank you so much for reading my post! These are all of the spiders that I have identified so far!
More to come soon...
Rachel Olsson is a graduate student at Washington State University and runs the blog What's the buzz? Her blog is shaping up to be a great resource on all things pollinators! Here you can listen to me talk about my research on her first podcast at minute 3:40
Here are some photos of the Agapostemon bee that I described in the podcast. Agapostemon bees, also known as sweat bees, are a common group of bees in North America. This was the most common bee that I collected last year (~1500 specimens). While they are very common in eastern Oregon, very little is known about which flowers they pollinate, which is something that I hope to discover with my research. I think that they are beautiful!
It's been a long time since I've blogged on here...but I have excuses! So I'll tell you a bit about what I've been up to and all of my excuses.
Dr. Hayashi is a professor of Biology at University of California, Riverside. Here is her TED talk from 2010!
This is on Big Tree in The Redwoods National Park! Mike and I decided to take a quick trip to the redwoods since he had never been there. We were taking a photo in front of Big Tree and I turned around and lo and behold there was a spider web! Then I started noticing many webs in nooks and crannies on the bark. I looked for spiders but either 1) they were very small, 2) they blended in with the bark, or 3) they were hiding in the bark. Here are a few more photos from our trip:
During the winter between field seasons I sort through invertebrate samples in the lab. Here is a photo of what one sample looks like. This sample contains invertebrates that I collected from pitfall traps in a native grassland site (a site with relatively little invasive plant species) at TNC Boardman Preserve, OR. I sort through the sample taking out all of the insects and freeze them in case I want to use them later. Then I preserve all of the spiders and arachnids (wind scorpions) in ethanol. I will eventually identify each of the spiders to genus. In this photo it is easy to see all of the different beetles that I collect in the traps.
Here is an example of what a pitfall trap looks like. It's a plastic cup that is placed in a hole with the lip flush to the surface. Invertebrates crawl across the soil and fall into the trap. You can fill the trap with a mixture of soap and water or propylene glycol (RV or marine antifreeze -- it's safe for wildlife and the environment). This trap is filled with propylene glycol because in eastern Oregon heat evaporates the water too quickly! I leave these traps out for one week and then pick them up and collect the invertebrates.
It's winter here in Oregon which means that I am back to school taking classes and doing lab work. It also means that I am back closer to all of my friends. I love being back in western Oregon because there are so many magnificent places to visit! This weekend we went to the coast and visited Tillamook for the first time! We had lunch at the local Pelican Brewery and Tap Room, went to the beach to let the doggies play in the sand, and then visited the Tillamook Creamery for ice cream! I had the mango sorbet and Mike had the blueberry and they both were delicious! Here are some photos of the beach! Isn't the West Coast beautiful?
Mike and I decided that we were going to go on a New Year's Diet and get back into shape (this is mostly for me). Which basically means eat like we normally do but try to make some better decisions, i.e. not as much bacon and go running every so often. This is what he made me for a surprise breakfast. I think this would be an excellent breakfast to fill you up during the field season!
Here is an interesting webinar about beneficial invertebrates that I will be sitting in on next week!
Integrating conservation agricultural practices that enhance beneficial insects.
TNC Grassland Conservation Network Webinar Monday, January 26th 10:00 PST
Gwendolyn Ellen, Farmscaping for Beneficials Program Coordinator, Integrated Plant Protection Center, Oregon State University
About the Webinar:
Participants will have a general introduction to three different functional groups of beneficial insects: pollinators, predators and parasitic wasps and the importance of conserving their populations within western farming systems. Examples of practices from diverse farming systems in and adjacent to sagebrush steppe, upland savannahs and rangelands will be presented. How to fit these practices within farming systems and other advantages that can be gained from them will be discussed.
About the Presenter:
Gwendolyn Ellen is the Coordinator of the Farmscaping for Beneficials Program at Oregon State University’s Integrated Plant Protection Center. The FSB Program is now in its tenth year! Gwendolyn holds a BS in Plant Pathology from Colorado State University and over 30 years’ experience in sustainable and organic agriculture. Her diverse experience stems from her work as a farm laborer, farmers market manager, organic vegetable farmer, ornamental and research greenhouse manager, field consultant in agricultural biodiversity and biological pest management, community activist and educator. She has also been a research assistant in entomology, botany, plant pathology, and crop and soil science in land grant universities and an agricultural program manager in the non-profit sector. In addition to her agricultural conservation work Gwendolyn also advocates and facilitates farmer-centric, participatory research and runs her own agricultural biodiversity consulting business.
You can visit her website at http://www.ipmnet.org/BeetleBank/Farmscaping_for_Beneficials.html
Topic: Beneficial Insects in Grassland Conservation
Date: Monday, January 26, 2015
Time: 11:00 am, Mountain Standard Time (Denver, GMT-07:00)
To join the online meeting
Go to https://nethope.webex.com/nethope/j.php?MTID=m1c6f58677a2bb58a33c0226218430afd
Lauren Smith is currently an assistant professor at Westfield State University researching the effect of grassland restoration on native bee and spider communities. Visit her website here.