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The warm ants group

Thursday, June 10, 2010, by Adam Clark, Erik Oberg, and Margaurete Romero
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In their third week, the Warm Ants Triumvirate has dived into both the long term "Warm Ants" project and individual projects with a burning desire to elucidate the effects of climate change on ants. Each member is responsible for helping with the long term "Warm Ants" experiment which involves a monthly 24 hour baiting study and monthly pitfall trapping. In addition, each is responsible for his or her individual project involving ant nests, mutualism, and thermal tolerance.

Daily tasks have varied from spending time in the lab identifying ants, sorting pitfall collections from previous months, and collecting ants in the field.

[Margaurete collecting butterflies.]

Margaurete's work on mutualism between ants and other insects is just getting started. From collecting butterflies in the field to clipping cottonwoods for scale insects, each project has its own challenges and rewards. As for her individual project, Margaurete says, "I hope to see how the temperature change will affect the stress on plants and in turn the relationship of the scale insects and the ants. This project is still new, so I'm working on creating a good design. Overall, I'm excited to see where the project will lead this summer!"

[Adam studies an ant community.]
Adam is studying the communities of ant species that live in the test plots in the Harvard Forest. Over the past two weeks, he has collected nests from around the forest, which will later be used to construct artificial ant communities in a "common garden" experiment. In his free time, Adam likes to drive around with Izzy, a graduate student working at the Forest from the University of Massachusetts, to sites around New England and help set up test plots for studies on ant biogeography. "By the end of the summer," says Adam, "I'm hoping to find how community structure influences the way that new species can invade regions."

[Erik in the warm ants plot.]Erik has discovered the maximum temperature tolerance for five of the most common ant species in the Harvard Forest. He hopes to test many more species throughout the summer. "I believe my work will demonstrate the differing heat tolerances for ant species and sizes of ants. This will help us understand how certain ant species might respond if temperatures increase."

[Collecting ants in the field.]

Fun fact: The Warm Ants Triumvirate favors the Lady Gaga radio and Eurotrash radio stations on Pandora during epic microscope sessions in the Torrey Lab.