Aquatic Insect Community Ecology


Dr. Chris Paradise is interested in the factors that influence structure and function of aquatic insect communities, particularly in streams and water-filled treeholes. Factors such as disturbance, heterogeneity of resources, and habitat characteristics are known to affect aquatic insects. Dr. Paradise is interested in how these factors may interact with each other, especially in habitats less thoroughly studied. For instance, there has only recently been interest in factors that structure treehole communities. One long-term project involving simulated treehole habitats is already underway, and investigates the interactive effects of habitat size, water volume, and food resources on community assembly, structure, and function. The functional aspect of interest is the effect of leaf shredding beetles on leaf litter decay and production of smaller particles consumed by other members of the community. Another project is the effect of human encroachment and development on headwater streams in the North Carolina Piedmont region. These streams may suffer greatly increased sediment loads due to loss of riparian vegetation and land development. Students working with Dr. Paradise would work closely with him to survey various streams with different surrounding land uses, collect aquatic insect samples, and identify insects back at the laboratory. Both of these projects entail a great deal of fieldwork, and Dr. Paradise prefers to be in the field with the students, where he can encourage the development of observational skills and field sampling techniques. In addition, working with insects in the laboratory often requires teamwork to process large numbers of samples, confer on identification, and analyze large volumes of data.

 
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