Terrestrial invertebrate topics

HO101 Dung beetle ecology in the Honduran cloud forest

(Start dates 07 June, 14 June or 21 June; need to complete HM001)

This topic allows students to work on one of the longest-running large-scale invertebrate ecology research projects in the Neotropics, studying the fantastically diverse dung beetles of Cusuco. The project could focus on how diversity and community structure changes over a complex matrix of elevational and habitat gradients, by adapting our existing sampling programme to set up experimental plots. There may also be the opportunity to investigate aspects of ecological genetics, or to utilise GIS in analysing local biogeography of dung beetles. Projects could involve analysing community data from the sampling programme in relation to the habitat structure measurements, or working with data from multiple teams to assess the role that dung beetles play as an indicator for forest quality or the occurrence of other species. Dung beetles also play a vital role in decomposition in the forest and in seed dispersal and the impact and effectiveness of these roles could be tested using various experimental designs. Alternatively, a project could focus on finding out more about some of the beetle species to assess how far they travel to their food source, via mark and recapture methods, or to study aspects of dung beetle ecology such as diet activity or feeding preferences.

 Extended Project Summary


HO103 Aquatic invertebrate communities in tank bromeliads

(Start dates 07 June, 14 June or 21 June; need to complete HM001)

This project has a waiting list

Several hundred species of aquatic organisms can be found living in the unique habitats of bromeliad pools. This project aims to gain insight into some of the deep ecological mechanisms driving diversity patterns. Building on a detailed study of the aquatic invertebrates in bromeliads carried out over the last seven years, a series of experimental setups will be used to look into metacommunity dynamics and how dispersal affects alpha, beta and gamma diversity of invertebrates. Cusuco National Park has the highest diversity of passive dispersers (invertebrates that need a vector to move between bromeliads) recorded, and the presence of both these and active dispersers allows projects to be developed that study how dispersal strategies affect community assemblages and diversity patterns. In this project students will use small plastic cups as artificial bromeliads strategically placed in the forest to experimentally test hypotheses concerning the impact of factors such as metacommunity size (the number of bromeliads) and patch size (bromeliad size) on the aquatic invertebrate diversity. This can help us to better understand the relationships of tank bromeliads with a wide variety of other organisms.

 Extended Project Summary


PE152 Tropical butterfly diversity and environmental gradients

(Start dates 11 June or 25 June)

This project has a waiting list

The forest of the Pacaya-Samiria Reserve is awash with a diversity of bright and colourful butterflies and moths (Lepidoptera), notably including species of the beautiful blue morpho. Lepidoptera make excellent indicators of environmental change due to their variety of life-history strategies and their rapid life cycles. The Lepidoptera of the Pacaya-Samiria are monitored using baited catch-andrelease traps containing fermenting fruit, sugar water or salt water, each attracting a different suite of species. This allows a number of research questions to be examined. Projects could investigate the niche-partitioning of butterflies and moths according to food source and food availability within forest types; alternatively the diversity and community composition changes along the natural environmental gradients from forest edge to centre could be studied; temporal niche-partitioning between butterflies and moths and whether the response to forest edges differs between day and night is also of interest; additionally, there is an opportunity to study the vertical stratification of the Lepidoptera community between the understorey and the mid-canopy. Permission is not granted to collect specimens, but as a diverse and abundant study group, the Lepidoptera project can be tailored to address any number of environmental questions, whilst also contributing to the long-term climate change data set.

Extended Project Summary


TR166 Butterfly communities as indicators of habitat changes in Tarnava Mare

(Start date 28 June)

Pollard counts of butterfly communities in different habitats (species rich grasslands, species poor grassland, abandoned land, scrub areas and farmland) have been completed at a series of sites around eight villages across Tarnava Mare in 2014, 2015 & 2016 and at six of those same villages in 2013. These surveys are revealing interesting patterns in butterfly habitat associations and changes in the communities over time. The same sites surveyed since 2013 will be resurveyed in 2017 and these data can be used to identify habitat associations and changes between years within the butterfly communities. One useful output from these studies might be the identification of butterfly species which could be used as indicators of high nature conservation grassland.

   Extended Project Summary