Decorah moths spark Luther student’s research

November 16, 2018

Lena Schmitt, Luther College senior, partnered with Kirk Larsen, Luther professor of biology, to survey moth communities in the planted tallgrass prairie and oak-hickory forest habitats of Decorah, Iowa. This past summer they repeatedly visited six different sites in the community and collected moths to assemble baseline information of the species of moths in Decorah and how their diversity compares between a habitat type.

Schmitt, daughter Jonelle Davidson and David Dapra of Apple Valley, Minnesota, and Thomas Schmitt and Jean Marie Sales of Eagan, Minnesota, is a 2015 graduate of Eastview High School. She is majoring in biology at Luther.

Schmitt expressed that the most important component of her research is the diversity of the moths themselves because they are a good indicator of environment health. For example, if there was an invasive species within their ecosystem, such as the European buckthorn or garlic mustard, moth diversity and abundance can be significantly reduced. This researching of moths has shown her that she loves working hands on within her intended field of study.

Schmitt will be presenting the results of her work at the 2019 Day of Insects conference in Ames, Iowa, and at the national meeting of the Entomological Society of America in St. Louis, Missouri next year.

Schmitt and Larsen's collaboration was one of 30 summer student-faculty research projects funded through Luther's College Scholars Program and Dean's Office. The Student-Faculty Summer Research projects provide students an opportunity to research topics of interest alongside Luther faculty. This program is one of a wide selection of experiential learning opportunities that are part of Luther's academic core and intend to deepen the learning process.

A national liberal arts college with an enrollment of 2,005, Luther offers an academic curriculum that leads to the Bachelor of Arts degree in more than 60 majors and pre-professional programs. For more information about Luther visit the college's website: