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The Northeast Natural History Conference 2019 was a great success. Thank you to all who helped organize and participated!

We are already getting ready for next year's conference, which will be held April 17–19, 2020 in Stamford, CT. So save the dates and contact us if you wish to be added to our email list for updates or would like to be involved in conference planning. Organizing sessions, work shops, and field trips as well as joining our program committee are all great ways to get involved. We are also looking for judges for next year's student poster awards.

And speaking of those awards, here are this year's outstanding posters:

First Place

Saturday Sunday

Max McCarthy

Co-authors: Nicholas Dorian and Elizabeth Crone

Phenological Shifts in Bees with Varying Life-history Traits in the Genus Colletes

Abstract - The effects of anthropogenic environmental change have been documented in many organisms, including changes in the timing of species’ life histories (phenologies). Although phenological advances have been documented in several bee species, the current literature is biased towards spring-active generalist species. However, bees exhibit a wide variety of life-history traits, including specialization on a narrow range of plant taxa and summer and autumn flight seasons. Using museum specimen label data, we analyzed trends in collection day-of-year over time as an indicator of phenological change for 6 bee species in the genus Colletes. These species vary in life-history traits: 2 are spring generalists, 1 is a spring specialist, and 3 are fall specialists. In total, we analyzed 2123 unique records spanning the years 1885–2018. Significant and opposite patterns were detected in 2 species with differing life histories (an early-season generalist and a late-season specialist), suggesting that the phenologies of these bees are shifting and that these changes may be influenced by seasonality and/or host-plant specificity. It is important to understand phenological trends in insect pollinators in order to assess whether temporal mismatching could occur between pollinators and their host plants.

Sierra James

Cardiac Response of Carcinus maenas and Cancer irroratus under Acute Hypoxia Exposure

Abstract - Natural and anthropogenic sources of limiting nutrients paired with increasing duration and temperature of the summer season in Maine have contributed to a rise in documented hypoxia. Decapod crustaceans are negatively affected by coastal hypoxia from reduced physiological adaptations which may be species specific in crabs. In a laboratory setting, I surgically implanced wires beneath the carapce of Cancer irroratus (Atlantic Rock Crab) and Carcinus maenas (European Green Crab) speciments. I connected crabs to electrodes that measured heart rate, and exposed them to a control normoxic, hypoxic and recovering normoxic treatment. Heart rates of individual crab species significantly differed when exposed to hypoxic oxygen concentrations. Under hypoxia treatments, Rock Crabs were more negatively affected compared to Green Crabs,suggesting that Green Crabs may have better physiological adaptations to deal with lowered oxygen concentrations than Rock Crabs. One such adaptation is the cardioarterial hemolymph regulation within the decapod crustacean body that may increase flow to the appendages, increasing the crab’s ability to move away from hypoxic regions. Changes in coastal Maine benthic ecosystems may occur when mobile organisms flee hypoxic conditions, increasing the potential for a change in food webs.

Second Place

Saturday Sunday

Rheana Meier

Co-author: Suann Yang

Comparing Resource Allocation of Fruiting Native and Invasive Species

Abstract - The ability of invasive plant species to rapidly overtake native flora has become a growing problem in the Northeast US and elsewhere. A variety of mechanisms may contribute to this ability, such as different strategies of resource allocation to fruit and flowers in native compared to invasive species. Life-history theory suggests that fruit and flower size should be inversely related, since the plant has a finite number of resources. We hypothesize that there is a ratio of fruit to flower size that allow invasive species to quickly outcompete native species—a larger flower would allow for better pollination, but a larger fruit would allow for better dispersal. To test this hypothesis, we measured both fruit length and width, as well as flower area of multiple native and invasive species found in the Spencer J. Roemer Arboretum on the SUNY Geneseo campus. Our preliminary results show that fruit size is comparable across both native and invasive species. However, invasive species appear to have much larger flowers. These findings suggest that invasive species would have an advantage when it comes to reproduction. Pollinators may be more inclined to visit the large, colorful flowers of invasive species rather than the small ones found on native species. Additionally, these results may also indicate that fruit and flower size are not completely inversely related—perhaps consideration also needs to be given to how much these plants allocate resources to other areas, such as root production.

Kylee DiMaggio

Co-authors: Noah Perlut and Allan Strong

Mixed Consequences of Divorce on Reproductive Success of Songbirds Nesting in Agricultural Hayfields

Abstract - Agricultural management, particularly haying, causes synchronous nest failure of ground-nesting songbirds; however, these birds may subsequently re-nest and may choose a new social mate (divorce). This study (1) quantified within- and between-year divorce rates of grassland songbirds, and (2) determined if divorce rates differed after haying or predation-caused nest failure, and if so, whether divorce influenced reproductive success. From 2002–2017, we monitored 121 Dolichonyx oryzivorus (Bobolink) pairs and 436 Passerculus sandwichensis (Savannah Sparrow) pairs in an agricultural region of Vermont. Within- and between-year divorce rates were 0% and 84.9% for Bobolinks and 17% and 69.1% for Savannah Sparrows, respectively. Between years, Bobolinks, but not Savannah Sparrows, were more likely to divorce after nest failure but haying did not influence divorce rates. Within-year, Savannah Sparrows were more likely to divorce after nest failure, but as with Bobolinks, divorce rates in Savannah Sparrows were not different between nests that failed due to haying or predation. Across all Savannah Sparrow renests, divorce had no influence on the number of young fledged per female. However, between years, female Bobolinks that divorced fledged fewer young post-divorce while female Bobolinks that re-paired fledged more young in their second attempt. This study showed that pairing decisions were not differentially affected by cause of nest failure. Further, we identified no reproductive benefit to divorce.

Third Place

Saturday Sunday

Jacqueline Zhou

Co-author: Jennifer Apple

Display Behaviors in Encounters Between Males of the Ant-Mimicking Spider Myrmarachne formicaria

Abstract - Myrmarachne formicaria are ant-mimicking jumping spiders that are native to Europe and Asia and have recently been introduced to North America. Typically, these spiders exhibit behavior that mimics ants, such as tapping their front legs during pauses while walking, which imitate ant antennae. However, when 2 males encounter one another, they break out of this behavior and initiate what we have dubbed dueling displays. This dueling consists of 2 males moving side-to-side, facing each other, and raising their abdomens. Sometimes they are observed to unfold their chelicerae, bring their front pair of legs up into the air, and more aggressively confront their male opponent. Often these duels end with one male seemingly the winner as the other male decamps. In other members of the jumping spider family Salticidae that engage in forms of male–male display, it has been observed that the winner of a confrontation remains in the territory in which the interaction took place, while the losing individual retreats and finds shelter elsewhere. This result gives the victorious male access to the females in the territory. The goal of this study was to investigate this dueling behavior to ascertain (1) if size has a significant role in determining the winner of a duel, and (2) if there are behavioral indicators as to which spider will win a duel. We collected spiders for this study in Livingston County, NY, and took close-up images of them using a chill-table to keep the spiders motionless. We then analyzed these images using ImageJ to measure overall body and chelicerae length. We subsequently sorted the spiders into small vs. large size classes to be arranged into duel pairings that included 2 spiders that were either closely matched in size or from different size classes. We recorded the apparent winners from each of these duels. Larger spiders seem to prevail in the majority of the duels. Ultimately, assessing the roles of size and aspects of display behavior in determining the outcome of confrontations between males will aid in characterizing the mating behavior of these spiders, for which little natural history is known.

Lily Delmarsh

Co-authors: Tim Mahuc and Mark LaMay

Size Class and Population Densities of Mysids (Mysis diluviana) in Lake Champlain

Abstract - Mysis diluviana is a glacial marine relict species of omnivorous crustacean present in Lake Champlain. Mysis diluviana migrate vertically throughout the water column feeding on copepods, cladocerans, and phytoplankton. The Lake Champlain Long Term Monitoring Program monitored Mysis densities from 1992 through 2018, over which period of time the Mysis population has declined dramatically. However, data from 2018 show the highest densities of Mysis since 2008. In addition to analyzing overall Mysis densities, we examined body length of all male, female, and juveniles and categorized them into size classes. Analysis of these densities and size classes suggest that the size of males and juveniles has remained consistent throughout the study, while overall densities increased in 2018. The size of females however has increased slightly as well as their overall density. There are many potential contributing factors influencing the decline and subsequent increase in the Mysis population, including the introduction of the invasive Dreissena polymorpha (Zebra Mussel)  in 1996 and Alosa pseudoharengus (Alewife),which invaded Lake Champlain between the years of 2006 and 2007. A second potential contributing factor for the overall trends in densities and sizes are fluctuations in the zooplankton community, which comprise the main food source of Mysis in Lake Champlain.

 

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