Biology Research


Harald Parzer, Ph.D.

The Parzer lab is interested in investigating how gut microbes are affecting fitness in dung beetles. To test this, we are switching dung beetles, which were previously fed with cow dung, to horse dung, a novel food source. Previous data indicate that this switch usually leads to a reduction in offspring numbers, i.e. fitness. However, once the beetles adjusted to the novel food source, they will increase their offspring numbers.  We will test whether the beetles which were fed on cow dung have specific gut microbes, which prevents them from utilizing horse dung properly when first exposed.


Brian Olechnowski, Ph.D.

Urban growth presents a number of challenges to the preservation of biodiversity. City green spaces and city parks attempt to provide natural habitat and refugia to a number of important species living within the greater urban environment. However, the overall biodiversity in these fragmented natural areas and parks continues to decline as both the urban matrix and the human population continues to expand. Active habitat restoration and adaptive management in city parks have been shown to effectively increase diversity of both plants and animals. This study examines the effects of historical restoration practices on avian diversity in riparian areas within four New York City parks located in the Bronx, NY from 2001-2006. We then consider the current status of these parks as restoration efforts have subsided in each of these urban greenspaces as early as 2004. The historical data reveals that overall measures of avian richness and abundance may not be affected specifically by restoration practices, However, restoration efforts are likely related to the temporary increased presence of certain rare species to the NYC area such as Warbling Vireo (Vireo gilvus), Eastern wood peewee (Contopus virens), and Cape May warbler ( Setophaga tigrina). Long-term lack of restoration at these parks may be influencing both a decrease in species richness and the presence of rare species. These results will continue to become more clear as we have now completed one year of new data at each of the four parks. Specific restoration practices must be examined if we hope to maintain specialist or uncommon species in the NYC area. Further study on the relationship between avian community composition and restoration stages are also needed at these parks; along with new and innovative plans for restoration and adaptive management. It is our goal to continue monitoring avian diversity at these NYC parks in the years ahead.



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