Nahant Marsh invited us to present our research to the public. Friends of Nahant joined for a breakfast where my freshman presented original research, which they conducted at the marsh last fall. Thank you Andrew Powell, Collin Link, Spencer Schlarmann, Jacob Mulvihill, and Liv Skelly-Williams for representing SAU with such poise. They discussed their research expertly and with confidence. #proudmentor
It’s finally warm enough for fieldwork, so SAU Intro Bio students headed to the woods to collect slugs. We caught three different species and lots of them. This week we are setting up experiments to test lots of original hypotheses including how far slugs will go for a beer (one of their favorite foods), whether hormones like melatonin effect food consumption, and even if dubstep music deters slugs. Stay tuned!
SAU Inro Bio students uprooted their clovers to see if the legumes had formed symbiotic relationships with the soil bacteria, called rhizobia. Success! It differed across treatments, and almost every tiny clover plant formed root nodules to house rhizobia bacteria. The rhizobia fix nitrogen for the plant in exchange for food and a home. Science is SO COOL!
I worked with a great undergraduate, Emily Mensch, at Colorado State University as well as the guppy gene flow dream team (pictured below minus John) to ask how mating behavior might impact the success or failure of translocations. When we move animals to a new location as a conservation/management strategy, we usually think only of genetic diversity. But what about the role of mating behavior, which may be complex and shaped by plasticity and gene-by-environment interactions? Emily watched immigrant guppies have sex for months. Check out our new publication to see what she discovered: A potential role for immigrant reproductive behavior in the outcome of population augmentations.
The government shutdown canceled our field season. A protestant pastor and a group of nuns made our evolutionary research possible.
The famous purring crickets live in Kalaupapa, which is a National Park on the island of Molokai. Kalaupapa is very difficult to access, and we had to set up a sponsor (Dr. Paul Hosten) through the NPS system and permits months in advance. Due to the shutdown, all NPS employees were banned from entering the park, even though many of them live there! Without a sponsor, we could not enter…
Let me tell you a bit more about Kalaupapa. The park was historically a prison for Hawaiians with Hanson’s disease (leprosy). People were exiled there to die beginning in the 1840s. The bacterial disease was cured with the the invention of antibiotics in the mid 1940s, but patients were not allowed to leave until 1969–most chose not to. The National Park Service manages the hundreds of historic properties, ancient ruins, thousands of grave stones, and endangered plants and animals on the islands. So, since all of the NPS staff were exiled from Kalaupapa, the only people there were the patients and some of the people caring for them including nurses and people officiated with religious institutions. There are 13 surviving patients, all of whom were cured of Hanson’s disease (leprosy) in the 40s.
At the last minute, Pastor Richard volunteered to sponsor us and host us. Richard used to work for NPS but is now in Kalaupapa as a pastor, so he wasn’t forced off the island like all of the other employees. We stayed at his church and were able to do all of our research there. While working for NPS, Richard worked to preserve hundreds of gravestones and many of the historic buildings, including the 1889 Catholic Church where Father Damien was canonized in 2009.
The Catholic Church has had a big presence in Kalaupapa since the 1840s, and there is still an Abbey there where Sister Alicia and Sister Barbara Jean live—our purring crickets live on their front lawn. They were very supportive of our research. There was also a group of nuns and priests who were visiting on a mission trip. They spent hours helping us search the lawn of the Abbey for purring crickets. We learned so much about the history of the island and about the people who live there. We were welcomed and supported by everyone there. It was a very special experience and we are so thankful that the religious community allowed us to complete our evolutionary research.
After Hilo, my group headed to Oahu where we again put in 18-hour nights and faced new challenges including food poisoning, some crazy roosters, and building a new recording set-up on the fly since ours broke in transit. I’m still surprised we were able to get everything finished. Aaron and Jay were so hardworking and capable with amazing attitudes–I was blown away and am very thankful. Team Kanaloa!
The first part of our field season was challenging but successful. The SAU and DU crews met in Hilo to collect data on ancestral Hawaiian field crickets. We worked 18-hour days (I guess I should say nights), I had a cough that kept people awake, and we accidentally stayed at a hippie commune, but we still made time to eat good Hawaiian food like ramen and HOT Hot Malasadas!