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Garden Club Scholarship

Alysa Remsburg
Department of Zoology
University of Wisconsin-Madison
430 Lincoln Drive
Madison, WI 53706
email: remsburg@wisc.edu

Alysa Remsburg I am a PhD dissertator at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  I grew up near the forests and lakes of western Michigan, completed my Bachelor's degree at Wittenberg University in Ohio, and my Master's degree at UW- Madison.  While my M.S. research on leaf litter decomposition allowed me to explore ecosystem ecology in Yellowstone National Park, it was my side project on leaf litter mites that reminded me of a passion for animal responses to habitat alterations.  Concern for ecological changes occurring closer to my home led me to my current dragonfly research, based at the Long-Term Ecological Research station in northern Wisconsin.

As vegetation clearing accompanies shoreline development, more information is needed about the consequences for wildlife.  Promoting wildlife habitat is stated as one reason for enactment of shoreline vegetation buffer requirements, although few published studies support this goal. Dragonflies and damselflies (order Odonata) may be among the first organisms affected by habitat changes because they are excellent dispersers, and generalist predators during both the aquatic larval stage and aerial adult stage.  Their complex life history and appeal to both students and land owners inspire me to pursue a teaching and research career involving odonates.  Dependence of these predators on vegetation is just one of the critical links that fascinates me about ecology.

 

Alysa in the fieldRiparian zones are hotspots for both biodiversity and housing development.  I study how shoreline and aquatic vegetation influences dragonfly and damselfly (order Odonata) community composition.  My current field experiment tests whether cattails and other wetland plants affect odonate territoriality, diversity, and oviposition.  Field treatments consisting of potted plants will be rotated among four lawn sites on at least 20 independent observation days so that cattail effects on odonate behavior can be isolated from other environmental features. Preliminary observations suggest that damselflies congregate at sites with cattails, and female dragonflies oviposit more frequently when the lawn sites contain cattails.  This experiment can help explain why previous survey results showed more odonate larvae near lawn sites with tall shoreline plants than next to lawns manicured to the water's edge.  Minor landscaping changes can thus potentially influence densities of these ecotone species.

 

 

dragonfly
Crimson-winged whiteface dragonfly