Gratton Lab member Kaitlin recently gave a research talk as part of the Ecology Seminar series for the Associated Colleges of the Chicago Area, a consortium of 15 private liberal arts colleges in and around Chicago. The schools share a biology colloquium. This fall, the seminar series is located at Benedictine University in Lisle, Illinois. She was invited by Dr. Chris Anderson, a behavioral ecologist at Dominican University who studies dragonflies and damselflies. Apparently it was the first time most of the students had ever heard the terms ‘landscape ecology’ or ‘ecosystem services’!
Recently, members of the Gratton lab (Tania Kim, Savannah Bartel, and Natalie Hernandez) and Doug Landis lab at MSU (Bill Wills) visited the Chicago Field Museum of Natural History to view specimens from their ant collection. Ants play important roles in perennial grasslands. As natural predators, they eat insect pests (right) and as ecosystem engineers, their nests (like the mound building ants, left) aerate the soil thus facilitating decomposition and plant root formation, and reducing soil compaction.
While a lot of research has been done on ants in the tropics and certain parts of the US (southwest, southeast, and northeast), less is known about the ant communities in the upper Midwest. As a result, we reached out to Sean Menke (an ant taxonomist) at Lake Forest College and borrowed voucher specimens from the Field Museum to help identify some of our trickier ant specimens (Myrmica and Formica genera). Thanks Sean and Crystal Maier (collection manager at the Field Museum) for your help and for a great visit!
Postdoc Hannah Gaines Day was recently interviewed by Rock Your Research, a website dedicated to helping graduate students find success. In the interview, Hannah discusses her experience as a dissertator finding her path to productivity (also detailed in this blog post).
Listen to the interview here.
Take home messages from the interview:
Listen to the “elephant”: If you need to do something (e.g., clean your desk, take out the garbage, drink coffee) before you can sit down and focus on your work, do it. It will take more time trying to convince the elephant to get right to work than it will to just get the task done.
Read: Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard by Chip and Dan Heath
Ask questions. Your job as a graduate student is to learn. Asking questions is the first step.
Build your toolbox. Acquire as many skills as you can. It will make you more attractive to employers.
Embrace your hobbies. It’s easy to get stuck in the academic bubble and forget about the things you enjoy. Make time each week to focus on your hobbies. Your brain will thank you.
Gratton lab member Kaitlin was recently invited by American Scientist to write a brief response to the federal strategy to protect pollinators put forth by the interagency Pollinator Health Task Force in May of this year. In a post for their Macroscope column, she discusses what she sees as the pros and cons of the plan. She also briefly reviews how pesticides are approved and banned under US law. Kaitlin worked as a staff scientist for the US Environmental Protection Agency Office of Pesticide Programs, in the Biological Analysis Division and with their Pollinator Protection Team, before joining the Gratton lab.
Science journalist Lydia Chain of New York University’s ScienceLine recently interviewed Gratton Lab member Kaitlin and UW-Madison Department of Entomology emeritus entomologist Phillip Pellitteri for an article exploring the invasion of Harmonia axyridis. H. axyridis is an exotic ladybird beetle that both provides important biological control services (such as suppressing soybean aphids in Wisconsin, which Kaitlin, Federica, Claudio and colleagues study in their ongoing AFRI project) but can also be a homeowner nuisance and potential pest of vineyards.
So, Harmonia – friend or foe? Read the article for an introduction and decide for yourself:
Feature Image Credit: Flickr user bathyporela, under Creative Commons license