Student Papers

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This collection of papers written by students at the Itasca Biological Station includes full text papers from 2008-present.

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Now showing 1 - 20 of 107
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    Role of Conspecific Silk in Forest Tent Caterpillar (Malacosoma disstria) Group Behavior
    (2013-03-19) Williams, Peter; Ogdahl, Eric
    Group living, prevalent in many lepidopterans, has many benefits and costs to fitness. In caterpillars, the use of silk trails often mediates group living. This study focused on forest tent caterpillars (Malacosoma disstria) to determine the effectiveness of silk produced by conspecifics in attracting other caterpillars. Ten forest tent caterpillars were placed in Petri dishes containing a leaf with silk on one side and a leaf without silk on the other side. The caterpillars did not seem to prefer either side, though the caterpillars that produced silk during the observation period seemed to lean toward the side with silk. Although our sample size was small, this would suggest that caterpillars utilize cues left by other individuals of their species.
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    Optimal Foraging in Nocturnal Granivores: An Examination of the Risks Associated with Substrate Produced Noise while Foraging
    (2013-03-19) Swim, Paul; Haag, Shayne; Lynch, Kyle
    In nature, animals will find an optimal balance between risks and benefits of foraging. This was investigated by examining the amount of seeds eaten by nocturnal granivores in two substrate types: noisy and quiet. We accomplished this by placing feeders in vegetative cover with a predetermined amount of seeds in them. We found no significant difference between the mean number of seeds eaten across the two substrate types. This led us to reject our hypothesis that foragers would favor the quiet substrate over the noisy one in an attempt to avoid predation.
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    Preconceived Residency Advantages in the Territorial Common Baskettail Dragonfly, Epitheca cynosure
    (2013-03-19) Eichten, Natalie; Pitera, Angela
    The main question addressed in this experiment is whether or not the residency effect influences the territorial behavior of the male common baskettail dragonfly. To examine this question, male common baskettail dragonflies were observed and the number of chases was recorded for each dragonfly territory. Then the resident male was captured, held for 2 min and then released. Observations were made as to whether or not the original resident male returned and if a new male took over the area. Since no males returned to their initial territories, the collected data indicated that there was no significance between the number of chases by resident males whose territory was taken over and the number of chases by resident males whose territory was not taken over.
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    Size selection in precopulatory pairs of Hyalella azteca
    (2013-03-19) Brewers, Brittany; Mills, Hailee Mills
    The amphipod, Hyalella azteca (hereafter H. azteca), is abundant in Midwestern USA, where it produces many broods in one breeding season. Two different samples of H. azteca were collected from Lake Itasca, MN and stored in the lab for at least 24 hrs. Precopulate pairs were then measured and a linear regression was performed. No significant linear correlation was found, showing that they pair with no size selection. Five precopulatory pairs were observed where one female was presented with two males of differing size. The larger male was included in the precopulatory pair only 3 out of 5 times, suggesting little to no male competition.
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    Aggressive behavior and territorial availability in Orconectes rusticus
    (2013-03-19) Clark, Brandon; McCormack, Grant
    Aggressive behavior is important in resource access and determination of fitness in many species. In the rusty crayfish, Orconectes rusticus, limited availability of shelter leads to aggressive bouts of dominance. We tested the effects of reduced territory on crayfish aggression by examining fights in two habitats of different sizes. We found that aggressive behavior was significantly higher when available territory was reduced.
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    Time Place Learning in Fathead Minnows, Pimephales promelas
    (2013-03-19) Hill, Alicia; Aiken, Stephanie
    Previous studies have shown that some animals can exhibit time-place learning. Our study focused on the ability of time-place learning in fathead minnows. To test this we placed groups of 8 minnows into 11 tank replicates. To prevent room position bias, some tanks had food placed on the right side in the morning and on the left side at night. Remaining tanks had food placed vice versa. After one week of feeding, we recorded the total average positions of minnows in comparison to the correct side where they should have been in the morning and night. Our results showed no significant differences in the total average positioning of minnows within the tanks (t=-1.247, df=10, P=0.241). In our study we found that fathead minnows did not exhibit time-place learning. Future studies could replicate our experiment and change the length of observation time or number of minnows in a tank to further test for time-place learning.
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    Orconectes virilis Body Size and Shelter Preference
    (2012-04-11) Hawkinson, Anna
    Environment preference in terms of light and dark was tested on Crayfish (Orconectes virilis) from Itasca Lake in north central Minnesota. Twelve crayfish were caught from the lake and noted to be either “large” or “small”. Crayfish were individually put into one of two identical enclosures for 5 min. Every 30 sec the location of the crayfish was noted. The enclosures were divided up into four quadrants varying in covered or open and black or white sides/bottoms. Data was analyzed with graphs and chi square tests. Overall, crayfish spent a significant amount of time in the darkest covered quadrant. A significant difference was also found between the frequency of time spent in each quadrant between small and large crayfish; small crayfish remained in the darkest covered quadrant more than large crayfish.
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    Kairomone versus visual response to a predator in Notropis heterolepis
    (2012-04-11) Conley, Hannah
    Fish use a number of methods to avoid detection by predators and survive. This study investigated two of these methods: visual detection of the predator and kairomones, a chemical given off by the predator that alerts the prey of its presence. We proposed to test the responses of Notropis heterolepis (Blacknose Shiners) to each of these stimuli given by predator Yellow Perch, Perca flavescens. We predicted that shiners would increase activity in response to the visual stimulus, and would decrease activity in response to the kairomone stimulus. We tested this question by exposing shiners to perch kairomones in one treatment, giving shiners a visual of the perch in another treatment, and monitoring their activity for both treatments. Our results showed no significant difference in the shiners’ response to visual versus kairomone stimuli.
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    Visual versus kairomone response to a predator perch (Perca) in blacknose shiners (Notropis heterolepis)
    (2012-04-11) Gladen, Kelsey
    Blacknose shiners (Notropis heterolepis) have developed many ways to detect predators and ways to react to avoid detection themselves. We wished to determine the ways in which blacknose shiners react to two such detection strategies: visual and chemical. Prey fish such as shiners can chemically detect predator fish through kairomones. These chemicals allow prey fish to detect a predator at a greater distance than vision alone would allow. We found no significant response in blacknose shiners to a visual stimulus of predator perch or from kairomones from perch. However, a trend in reduction of activity was detectable from the kairomone stimulus. This trend further supports evidence that kairomones are used as a fish’s primary detection technique of predators as opposed to visual cues.
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    Conditioned Alarm Behavior in Fathead Minnows (Pimephales promelas) and Test Their Ability of Differentiate Between Different Visual Stimulus (i.e. Red Light, Green Light and Blue Light)
    (2012-04-11) Al-Shamisi, Meera
    Fathead minnows (Pimephales promelas) were tested for their ability to associate predation risk with novel visual stimuli after visual stimulus was presented simultaneously with chemical alarm cues. Minnows gave a fright response when exposed to skin extract (chemical alarm cue) and an artificial visual light stimulus. When they were retested with light stimulus alone, the minnows that had previously been conditioned with alarm cues and light exhibited anti-predator behavior in response to the visual cue. To carry out this experiment, we hypothesized that fathead minnows would learn to associate predator risk stimulus with visual stimulus, and they would be capable to differentiate between the three different colors by showing associate response to the red color and no response to the green and blue lights. The results of this experiment have far-reaching implications because they provide important information on the role of visual stimuli in the ecological environment of fishes.
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    Gravel, Leaves, and Candy Bar Wrappers: An Analysis of the Case-Building Behavior of Caddisflies in An Artificial Environment
    (2012-04-11) Austin, Stewart
    Although it lacks the majesty of a butterfly being released form its cocoon, the caddisfly may be said to have one of the most interesting life cycles of any known insect. Ten months after being born, the caddisfly larvae will then enter its next stage of development by building itself a cocoon out of literally anything it can find, using a combination of secreted adhesive (as we might describe it) and present building materials to form a cocoon around itself, protecting itself from its surrounding environment while the pupae present within develops into an adult. Although caddisflies have specific preferences for building materials, depending from species to species, it has been proven in multiple experiments that caddisflies will use different materials when forced out of their shells. One experiment showed that, when ejected from their cases prematurely, the caddisfly larvae will immediately rebuild their cases and do so as rapidly as possible, using whatever material is present (Hansell, 179). Another experiment shows that, oddly enough, caddisflies will actually use different materials for their cases as based on the presence of known predators, choosing stronger materials if needed (Boyero, Rincon, Bosch, 364), while yet another experiment discovered that caddisflies will select materials that will assist with the collection of oxygen (i.e. by having water pass through the case), and will use materials that are best for their specific environments. Using this information as our stating point, this group decided to create an experiment to test the case-material preferences of caddisflies living within Itasca State Park by ejecting them from their cases, placing them in a enclosed environment, presenting them with various materials, both natural and unnatural, and observing which materials they chose to use. For the purposes of this experiment, our initial hypothesis was that caddisfly choose case-building materials that are most common to their environments (i.e. organic/natural materials), and we predicted that, when given a choice, the caddisflies we used would select to use leaves/dirt more often than the various bits of inorganic/unnatural material we gave them.
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    The Effect of the Plains Pocket Gopher (Geomys bursarius) on Plant Species Diversity at Frenchman’s Bluff, Minnesota
    (2012-03-05) Koerner, Anna; Bollig, Blair; Lockhart, Mackenzie; Faeh, Courtney
    In a prairie ecosystem, plains pocket gophers are a major cause of plant community disturbance. Based on the Intermediate Disturbance Hypothesis, we predicted that plant species diversity would be greater in the areas of pocket gopher mound disturbance. We also hypothesized that gopher mounds would result in a higher concentration of colonizing invasive species. We tested 1 m2 plots at Frenchmen’s Bluff, Minnesota: half containing gopher mounds and half without gopher mounds. The plots containing gopher mounds had significantly greater species richness and higher abundance of invasive species. However, the difference in diversity (quantified with the Shannon Weaver Index) between the two plots was marginally significant. These results are consistent with the Intermediate Disturbance Hypothesis, wherein the disturbance of the gopher mound provided a greater opportunity for a larger variety of species.
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    The Original Ant-Eaters: The effect of ants on the health of Sarracenia purpurea
    (2012-03-05) Grunzke, Danielle; Hawkinson, Anna; Stedman, Kathryn; Wagener, Jasmine
    Pitcher plants (Sarracenia purpurea), a species of carnivorous plant found in bogs, are often preyed upon by herbivorous insects. A study done by Moon et al. has suggested that ants indirectly deter this herbivory. The relationship between S. purpurea health and presence of ants was investigated by observing ant activity around plants, measuring the contents of pitchers, and recording average height, diameter and color of the plants. We found that plants without signs of herbivory were more likely to have ants in the surrounding area.
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    A comparative study of the invertebrate community and its longitudinal diversity
    (2012-03-05) Benson, Madeline; Kempnich, Michael; Meyers, Paul; Parikh, Sanat
    Inputs into riverine ecosystems are highly variable with respect to longitudinal location within the system. These inputs help to shape the animal community within the river or stream, and have been hypothesized to be correlated with invertebrate diversity and community composition (Rosi-Marshall and Wallace 2002). In order to test this relationship, we sampled the benthic invertebrate community from three reaches of the Mississippi River near and within Itasca State Park, Minnesota. These samples were used to quantify invertebrate diversity and functional feeding group types (FFG). Significant differences were found between the community composition of each site with the Headwaters site showing the highest levels of invertebrates which feed upon allochthonous material, and the Downstream site showing the highest amount of invertebrates which feed upon autochthonous material (p=1.84*10-12). The Headwaters site also demonstrated the highest levels of community diversity, due to the myriad of niches created by varying river conditions. The results of this study suggest that the invertebrate community composition is dependent on the primary inputs into the system, whether from allochthonous or autochthonous sources.
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    Effects of Zooplankton Density and Diversity on Water Clarity in Five Lakes within Itasca State Park, Minnesota
    (2012-03-05) Stephenson, Robert; Forsberg, Chet; Mavencamp, Brian
    The effects of zooplankton density and diversity on water clarity were studied on five different lakes within Itasca State Park (northwest Minnesota). Water turbidity is affected by suspended organic material and dissolved organic material, and zooplankton graze on this suspended organic material and thus clarity of the water increases. It has been shown that with increased density of zooplankton, especially herbivorous zooplankton, that there is a correlated increase in water clarity. In our study, zooplankton diversity also increased with greater zooplankton densities. It is not clear, however, that diversity has any effect on the clarity of the water itself since some zooplankton feed on other zooplankton and not phytoplankton. The lake with the lowest secchi reading showed the lowest diversity of zooplankton, although it did have the third highest density of zooplankton. The lake with the highest secchi reading, however, showed the highest density and highest diversity of zooplankton. All of the lakes tested followed a trend of increasing water clarity with increasing density and diversity of zooplankton, with the exception of Deming. Average absorbance of chlorophyll-a showed no statistical correlation between zooplankton density or zooplankton diversity. This suggests that there is a correlation between zooplankton density and diversity towards water clarity.
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    The Effects of Wind Exposure on Microorganism Stratification and Distribution in Lake Itasca and Deming Lake
    (2012-03-05) Nelson, Richard; Henry, Justin; Al-Shamisi, Meera; Clifford, Thompson
    The surface area of a lake has a significant influence on the amount of mixing the lake will receive from wind exposure. This influences the thermal stratification the water column in that lake which will have a direct effect on the biotic stratification. In turn, the biotic stratification of a lake will affect the overall environmental conditions of that lake, such as pH and chlorophyll content. Lakes with small surface areas sometimes become meromictic with a hypolimnion that never mixes with the rest of the lake. This results in a dead zone at the bottom of the lake in which organismal diversity is very low. In this experiment we compared the thermal and biotic stratification between meromictic Deming lake and a holomictic Lake Itasca within Itasca state park, MN. Deming Lake had a surface area that was much smaller than that of lake Itasca with much less exposure to the wind; therefore, we hypothesized that Deming lake would have a greater degree of thermal and biotic stratification than Lake Itasca which was much more exposed to the wind. We used light meters, pH samples, and conductivity measurements to compare the thermal stratification of these two lakes. We also took water samples to determine the chlorophyll content, and the biotic diversity at different depths to compare the biotic stratification of these two lakes. Our results were consistent with our hypothesis, and showed us that Deming Lake, which was less exposed to the wind, had a fixed thermal and biotic stratification, while the thermal and biotic stratification of Lake Itasca had a higher degree of mixture.
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    Diversity of Habitats within Itasca State Park
    (2011-02-09) Hekrdle, Winonna M.
    Small mammals are found throughout Minnesota in various habitats. The six different habitat sites used for data collection within Itasca State Park includes: burned deciduous, unburned deciduous, burned red pine, unburned red pine, aspen, and bog. At each habitat site 40 Sherman traps and eight Longworth traps were used. They were set up as a 4 x 10 grid with each column having ten Sherman traps and two randomly placed Longworth traps. The Longworth worth traps were set close to a Sherman trap at a particular point. Traps were checked for three mornings in a row.
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    Comparison of Small Mammal Communities within Forested and Prairie Habitats
    (2011-02-09) Sigler, Holly; Grunzke, Danielle; Rehmann, Andrew
    Habitat plays a large part in small mammal diversity in any given area. Each species may be habitat selective for many different reasons, some of which are food type or supply, water levels or availability, temperature, and shelter. Each species varies in selectivity which leads to widely varying species diversity in different habitat types. In particular we wanted to look at the variation between the species found in a forested habitat versus a prairie habitat. Previous research would indicate larger species diversity to be found in the forested habitats (Dueser and Shugart 1978). In addition we are also interested in the difference in species diversity between burned and unburned sites of otherwise similar habitat. It has been shown that burned sites will typically yield larger species diversity (Krefting and Ahlgren 1974). Over the course of two weeks we collected specimen data through live-trapping at six forest sites and six prairie sites. The forest sites consisted of varying forest type throughout Itasca State Park in Park Rapids, MN; burned deciduous, unburned deciduous, burned red pine, unburned red pine, aspen, and bog. Two prairie sites were in the Coburn state wildlife management area, two were burned sites in the Rush Lake state wildlife management area, and two sites were on private property in Waubun, MN. One Waubun site was of dry soil type and the other Waubun site was of a wet habitat type.
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    (2011-02-09) Etheridge, Robert
    The purpose of this study was to examine the diversity of small mammals found within various forest habitats within or near Itasca State Park and to compare and contrast those communities with prairie sites. I hypothesized that the greatest amount of species diversity would be experienced in the prairie habitat. Data was collected through a group effort of the students of Field Studies in Mammalogy (Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior, University of Minnesota, Twin Cities). All captured small mammals were identified, individually marked and released at the point of capture. The collected data was pooled into a single data set for analysis. Peromyscus, referring to either maniculatus or leucopus, were found at both prairie and forest sites while other species were found at one or the other (mutually exclusive). There were a total of seven species captured between the six forest sites and a total of ten species for the six prairie sites. Concurrent with my predictions, the prairie habitat exhibited the greatest level of small mammal diversity.
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    Species Richness within Small Mammal Communities of Forested Sites around Itasca State Park and Nearby Prairie Sites
    (2011-02-09) Nosal, Amanda
    For three consecutive days, twelve Sherman trap grids (864 trap nights) were used to assess species richness in small mammals in forest and prairie habitats in and around Itasca State Park in northern Minnesota. I hypothesized that the increased woody biomass in the forest habitats would correlate to higher species richness. Results, however, indicated that the opposite was true – the prairie habitats had greater small mammal species richness than the forest habitats. These results suggest that something other than total plant biomass dictates the number of species that can coexist in an area. This study serves a first step in investigating the species community makeup of varying habitats over a broad area in northern Minnesota.