My Week with Entomologists – Day 1

This is my week to learn everything I can from James Trager and Mike Arduser – entomologists and ecologists from Missouri.  They (and their wives!) have very graciously agreed to spend the week in our Platte River Prairies to help inventory our insects, try to teach me a few things, and brainstorm ways I can evaluate our prairie restoration and management work from the perspective of insects.  It’s going to be a great and busy week. 

With Krista Lang looking on, James Trager points out interesting characteristics of a katydid. Pawnee County, Nebraska.

We started the week yesterday in Pawnee County, Nebraska (southeast corner of the state).  Pawnee County was on the way to our Platte River Prairies, so I met James and Mike down there and we spent the morning looking around.  Both James and Mike have helped identify insects from those prairies for various research projects I’ve been involved with, so it was good for them to be able to see some of the prairies those insect samples had come from.  It was a little wet for collecting many insects yesterday, but we got to visit some interesting prairies and had some good discussions.  We were joined by Kent Pfeiffer and Krista Lang of Northern Prairies Land Trust, and Bethany Teeters, a PhD student at the University of Nebraska. 

Mike and James (center) discuss prairie ecology with Nebraska biologists.

Even in the first hour or two in the prairies, it was clear that I’m going to learn a tremendous amount this week.  James and Mike were definitely seeing the prairies through different lenses than I was, and noticing insects and habitat qualities I wouldn’t have thought about.  Back in graduate school, I studied the impacts of habitat fragmentation on grassland birds, and I remember beginning to look at prairies differently as I learned more about how birds evaluate them.  I can see that I’ll be doing some similar perspective shifting again this week. 

While sporadic light rain kept us from seeing too many insects, there were a few around, including this grasshopper nymph on rough blazing star.

For those of you coming to our field day this Friday, you’ll have a chance to meet and interact with Mike and James – and other experts.  For the rest of you, I’ll try to capture some of the big lessons from the week in future blog posts.

Stay tuned…

Thank you to Kent, Krista, and Bethany for taking the time to help show Mike and James (and me!) around the prairies yesterday.  Also, thank you to Prairie Biotic Research Inc. for the grant that is helping to fund the travel costs for Mike and James to come work with me this week.