Abstract for Reserach Expo at Northwestern

Hello! My name is Gia and I am one of the undergrads interning at the lab this quarter. I recently applied to the undergrad research expo that is held at Northwestern every year in May to try and present my findings about ant communities as part of the broader Echinacea project. Below is the abstract/ summary of my project that I sent in for the application.
Gia Hallaman

Katherine Muller, Stuart Wagenius

Linking Prairie Ant Communities & Fire: The Effect of Fire on Ant Diversity in Prairie Remnants of Western Minnesota

Research within the field of conservation emphasizes the maintenance of diversity. The Echinacea project focuses on the diversity of several prairie remnants in Western Minnesota, specifically upon a native plant living within these remnants called Echinacea angustifolia. For my project, I joined this long term effort by delving into some of the complexities surrounding the diversities of these prairie ecosystems. I evaluated the diversity of ant communities, which interact with an aphid species that feed exclusively on this plant, in remnants affected differently by fire. Historically, the presence of fire in long grass prairies has been positively correlated with the quality of the prairie by maintaining the dominance of grasses over woody plants. Specifically, I test the hypothesis that the ant communities differ between burned and unburned areas of native prairie remnants in Minnesota.I identified approximately a thousand ants, using dichotomous keys collected in 24 pit fall traps at two different sites on two separate dates during summer 2012, in order to evaluate the community composition and diversity. Preliminary analyses indicate that the diversity between recently burned and non-burned remnants was highly unique, with a disproportionately higher morphospecies count at one remnant, and with several morphospecies of Myrmica and Formica appearing exclusively in one location. This study shows that even by studying small organisms within an ecosystem, a great deal can be discerned about the health and diversity of the overall area and adds to out knowledge of the importance of fir in maintaining quality prairies throughout the Midwest.


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