As my most faithful followers already know, I am in Manhattan, Kansas researching the ant communities on Konza Prairie. But unlike I indicated here, I will not be able to study seed dispersal by ants, as most of the seeds have already been dispersed, and the level of myrmecochory is likely very low. So instead I have a new focus: the effect of elevation, bison grazing, fire, and time of year on ant populations on the prairie. I will be able to address these together by setting up pitfall traps along a transect at three elevations (classified broadly as high, middle, and low) on hills in varying watershed types (e.g. bison grazed/20 years since last burn, bison grazed/1 year since last burn, etc.). For those of you who don’t already know, a pitfall trap is a trap that is a pitfall.
This project is nice because it involves answering some basic ecological questions in addition to allowing taxonomic identification of the ant populations present in the ecosystem. Technically, I could just separate out each species and label them as “morphospecies 1”, “morphospecies 2”, and so on, but my training in ant systematics will allow me to actually determine what species are on the prairie! I am also very excited because I will be constructing a couple of collections with some specimens of each of the species I have found, and I will be giving one to the museum at the University and another to be kept for further myrmecological research at Konza.
May the ants flow forth!