Active Research Projects

I have an active ongoing research program on insect biodiversity of Northeastern Iowa and insects of tallgrass prairies that typically involves at least 4-5 students per year, with at least one summer research intern paid to spend the summer performing entomology research.

Plant and Insect Communities in the US-52 Roadside Prairie Plantings. This project is funded by research grants from the Iowa Department of Transportation Living Roadway Trust Fund (LRTF). We are studying the impact of a roadside prairie planting project in Northeastern Iowa along US-52 from Decorah north to the Minnesota state line. This project started in the summer of 2008, is using butterflies and ground beetles as indicators of impacts of native plant species establishment.

Impact of Stream and Riparian Habitat Improvement on Aquatic and Terrestrial Insect Communities. In 2004, Dr. Michael Osterholm began a major stream restoration project in Waterloo Creek northwest of Dorchester, Iowa in Allamakee County. This project also involved establishment of native prairie in the riparian areas, and restoration of oak savanna in upland forests. Since 2005 we have been monitoring benthic macroinvertebrate communities in Waterloo Creek, Duck Creek, and Brook Creek on site, and comparing those communities to South Pine Creek, a high quality stream containing the only known remnant native population of brook trout in NE Iowa. We have also been monitoring ground beetle and butterfly communities in the prairie reconstruction and oak savanna restoration. Student research on this project has been funded by the M.J. McElroy Foundation, Dr. Michael Osterholm, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Luther Gateway Prairie Reconstruction. In 2005, Luther planted a former field in the flood plain of the Upper Iowa River to tallgrass prairie with financial support from the Iowa DOT Living Roadway Trust Fund (the major donor), the Iowa DNR, Pheasants Forever, Luther College, and several private donors. Since that time, we have been studying ground beetles and butterflies as the prairie becomes established, and are monitoring the effects of flooding and fire in this prairie on these insect and the newly planted native plant communities. Student research on this project has been funded by Luther College and the U.S. EPA.

Students have also had summer research experiences in entomology at:

  • Iowa State University, Department of Entomology
  • University of Hawaii
  • University of Minnesota, Department of Entomology
  • US Forest Service in Black Hills N.F.
  • Cedar Creek Natural History Area, Bethel, MN
  • University of Puerto Rico
  • Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia (in Mongolia)
  • Smithsonian Museum of Natural History
  • Montana State University, Montana Department of Agriculture


teaching students aquatic sampling
Dr. Kirk Larsen doing a prairie burn.
Fran and Tyler at ESA-NCB meetings in 2011