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 student (sometimes up to 5!) paid to spend the summer performing entomology research.

Distribution of Fitchiella robertsoni, the ball-nosed hopper, a rare piglet bug in Iowa prairies. In 2014, we are performing a survey of the Spirit Knoll State Preserve in the Loess Hills of western Iowa for this hopper to help the Iowa DNR design a management plan for the preserve that considers the fire-sensitive nature of this species and other prairie specialist insects.

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. From 2005 to 2012 we monitored 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 agricultural 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