Master's Thesis, University of Maine
I wrote my master’s thesis on the management practices of blueberry growers in Maine and compared four different categories: Organic, No-Spray, Conventional, and Integrated Pest Management, or IPM. I sent a survey to about 340 growers, and had a response rate of about 30%. This study required me to combine knowledge of insect biology and behavior, human behavior, natural resource management, and pesticides. I also looked at growers’ adoption of practices that promote native pollinators and parasitoids (insects that prey upon other insects). Honeybees are non-native. Their importation is costly and can contribute to the spread of disease, but there are a few strategies growers can use to preserve the beneficial insects on their land. Thesis published here. Right: a grant-funded film a made while writing my thesis.
Blueberry Genetics, Maine
I was a Research Assistant for Biologist, Dan Bell, pollinating blueberries in Machias, Maine for a project funded by the USDA. Why do some blueberry plants yield more fruit than others, even if they produce the same number of flowers? Do some individuals self-pollinate better than others? These are a couple of the questions Dr. Bell was trying to answer. We pollinated the flowers with a paint brush (tedious? yes!) and collected pollen by hitting flowers with a tuning fork. Blueberry flowers do not give up their pollen easily. They have evolved to release it only when certain frequencies of vibrations occur. Our tuning forks mimicked bees, whose wings vibrate at the right frequency to cause flowers to release their pollen. I made the video to the left.
Mouse Behavior, Kenya
Bard professor Felicia Keesing received a grant from the NSF to take students to the Mpala Research Center in Kenya to conduct their own research projects. Keesing and colleagues had set up a series of plots to test human impact on the savanna, and to examine the indirect effects of poaching: an exclusion plot which excluded all large mammals and allowed only very small animals entry; a control plot which allowed entry to all animals; and a cattle plot, which excluded large animals but allowed ranchers to graze their cattle. I looked at differences in mouse behavior between exclusion plots and control plots. It had previously been discovered by Keesing et. al. that mouse populations (Saccostomus mearnsi) double where large mammals are absent. Could the absence of large mammals cause changes in small mammal behavior? I found no difference. Research continues on the effects of poaching on the savanna.