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Research Project Descriptions for Summer 2020


Click on mentor names to read more about their research programs.

Most projects will be based out of the Lilley Cornett Woods Appalachian Research Station, a remote field station and old-growth forest. The forest is a long-term ecological research site with >40 years of sampling. Some projects will require extensive travel throughout the region to additional sites, including in Daniel Boone National Forest. Individual project descriptions are numbered in sequence, and clustered by study system. In your application you will have to select three specific projects in which you prefer to conduct research. Your project choices can come from more than one study system.

Forest ecology system (5-6 students): The forests of central Appalachia have experienced anthropogenic and natural disturbances including mining, logging, landslides, disease, and invasive species. Students will conduct research on one of several projects that have direct applications to managing forest habitat. (1) Measure the structure of an old-growth forest at Lilley Cornett Woods and relate the current structure to 50 years of low-impact canopy disturbance. (2) Study the epiphytic plant community of an old-growth forest using surveys and collections. (3) Study the nesting success and home range use of songbirds in an old-growth Hemlock-dominated forest that is declining due to an invasive insect pest. (4) Measure the effects of forest disturbance on pollinator communities, focusing on native bees.  (5) Study the population biology of black bears and other mammals with extensive field activities alongside agency biologists and opportunities to learn live capture techniques. (6) Investigate a population of copperheads, a venomous snake that occurs in the vicinity of a popular recreation site on the Daniel Boone National Forest. (7) Examine how human perceptions of ecological disturbances shape conservation and wildlife management strategies.  Mentors: Drs. Michael Bradley, David Brown, Luke Dodd, Jen Koslow, Melanie Link-PerezValerie PetersStephen RichterTony Stallinsand Kelly Watson.

Stream and wetland ecology system (5-6 students): Kentucky has more miles of running water than any state except Alaska. The headwater and low-order streams of Appalachia have high biodiversity, affect downstream dynamics, and are vulnerable to disturbance. Organic matter from leaf litter is the primary source of nutrients in these streams and forms the base of a food web of detritivores and consumers. Kentucky also has a rich diversity of wetlands, including Appalachian ridgetop wetlands that provide unique and critical habitat to amphibians, bats, and other organisms. Students will conduct research in one of several projects in this system, which collectively address the role of disturbances, such as from mining, and subsequent restoration, on different trophic levels of stream organisms. (8) Analyze the bat and insect assemblages of forested wetlands. (9) Study amphibian communities in stream and wetland habitats and how they respond to invasive plants. (10) Use field work and geological instrumentation to study the geohydrology of ridgetop wetlands. (11) Study the biogeography and ecological resilience of wetlands and streams using GIS, remote sensing, and field work. Mentors: Drs. Luke DoddJonathan MalzoneCy MottStephen Richter, Tony Stallins, and Kelly Watson.

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