The lab has been funded as part of a large grant (led by Rosie Gillespie) to examine the origins of Hawaiian biodiversity. Here's a link to the announcement on the ESPM web page.
Not many people get paid to be twelve years old, at least not as adults, so I feel I’m one of the lucky ones. I’ve been working on a project that lets me go to so some beautiful rivers and streams, flip over rocks, and look for aquatic insects. It kindles the fun and curiosity that I remember while doing that kind of thing when I was a kid. Now, of course, I have a research question in mind while I’m out there. Our lab has been conducting surveys of aquatic insects in a few representative Northern California watersheds to establish the composition of aquatic insect communities, create a DNA barcoding (see this blog, too) database of Norcal aquatics for more efficient biomonitoring in the future, link taxa to characteristics of the habitat, and, using landscape genetics, make predictions about how global change biology may affect our local rivers and streams.
Aquatic insects have been used in biomonitoring for about a century as a way to assess the health of riparian areas. Biomonitoring adds informative data to chemical testing of water. Chemical testing provides valuable information about a particular component, such as dissolved oxygen or the concentration of a pollutant, at one moment in time. Biomonitoring is a way to assess whether all of the components of a system are such that they support the surveyed organisms over their entire lifespan. Both chemical and biological surveys can be combined to give a fuller picture of ecosystem health. Biomonitoring of aquatic insects is now being used not only to assess current and past ecosystem health, but also to predict future changes, for example in response to climate change.
In recent years, concerns about the effects of human-driven climate change on riparian ecosystem have increased. Climate change is projected to alter precipitation patterns, the timing of seasonal transitions, and extremes of both heat and cold, among other effects. These changes will affect different members of biotic communities differently according to their ability to adapt to changing conditions or disperse to more favorable habitat. We can use species distribution modeling to identify key characteristics of favorable habitat, and use patterns we find today using landscape genetics to identify potential obstacles that could prevent taxa from shifting ranges.
We are fortunate to be doing this as part of a larger consortium on campus, the Berkeley Initiative in Global Change Biology, or BIGCB. With funding from the Vice Chancellor’s Office, the Moore Foundation and the Keck Foundation, the BIGCB is focused on global change forecasting for California ecosystems, using analyses of fossil, historic and current data to better understand California ecosystems responses to environmental change and make predictions of future ecosystem changes.
Collecting in the South Fork of the Eel River
Mike, Brian and I traveled to Angelo Coast Reserve on the 19th to do some collecting. Our goals were to collect some aquatic insects in the Eel River and look for Scaptomyza species in the surrounding riparian zones. We didn't see any Scaptomyza but we got a great sample of aquatics, including lots of Dicosmoecus, Neophylax and Calineuria.
Brian collecting in Dutch Bill Creek
This week we made two short field trips to collect aquatic insects. On Tuesday we worked northwest of Sebastapol. Brian and I visited several sites we had collected last fall. Our first stop was Pyrrington Creek on Graton Road, followed by Dutch Bill Creek along the Occidental Highway. We stopped for lunch at Stumptown Brewpub in Guerneville. After lunch we drove north of the Russian River to Austin Creek near the town of Cazadero. Our last stop of the day was Salmon Creek, northwest of the town of Bodega.
Thursday we did a half day trip to two streams in Marin County, Lagunitas Creek and Pine Gulch Creek in Bolinas. Thanks to Sarah Hake for allowing us access to Pine Gulch Creek! We collected Neophylax here, as well as three species of Scaptomyza!!