Research Project Descriptions for Summer 2021
Projects will be located at different field locations. All students will be based at Eastern Kentucky University in Richmond, KY, but will travel to field sites often for extended stays. Several 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. Several 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 the 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, including by using tree-ring data, at Lilley Cornett Woods and relate the current structure to 50 years of low-impact canopy disturbance. (2) Study the nesting success and home range use of songbirds in young forest habitats. (3) Study the terrestrial arthropod community of young forest habitats. (4) Measure the effects of forest disturbance on pollinator communities, focusing on native bees. (5) Study the population ecology and biogeography of small mammal use of historic stone fence habitats. (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.
Stream and Wetland ecology system (5-6 students): The streams of Appalachia have high biodiversity, affect downstream dynamics, and are vulnerable to disturbance. 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. (7) Study amphibian communities in stream, wetland and experimental mesocosm habitats. (8) Research the breeding biology of Buck Darters, an endangered fish endemic to Kentucky. (9) Analyze the aquatic insect assemblages of beaver ponds at a stream restoration site. (10) Use field work and geological instrumentation to study the geohydrology and erosion patterns of stream, wetlands, and backcountry trails. (11) Investigate how mine-related stream disturbance affects antibiotic resistance of E. coli.