Insect-Plant-Soil Relations on Serpentine and Granite on Deer Isles, Hancock County, Maine

 

Used to describe sites associated with ultramafic rock and derived soils naturally high in heavy metals, the term “serpentine” is one that raises excitement in the world of evolutionary and ecological studies. Characterized by elevated levels of the heavy metals, nickel, cobalt, and chromium, as well as low levels of phosphorous, potassium, and other nutrients essential for plant growth, serpentine sites maintain harsh environments toxic to plant growth. Yet even in these severe heavy-metal terrestrial “islands”, plants do grow. While extensive research has been conducted on the physiological-ecology and diversity of flora on these serpentine sites, little research has examined the fauna, particularly herbivorous insects, and their capability to mobilize these heavy metals into the food web, with potential for bioaccumulation of these metals in higher trophic levels. Studies of such metal transfer and insect-metal relationships are particularly lacking in the eastern United States. By studying the diversity and metal-accumulating capacity of the insects that inhabit the local serpentine outcrop on Deer Isle, Maine, we hope to learn about which insects have developed a tolerance to the heavy metals, how these metals may be transported throughout the trophic levels, and the implications that metal-transport and bioaccumulation may have on a larger scale. Such research will contribute to our understanding of east coast serpentine, and potentially inspire more studies of its kind to fill the informational gaps existing on the east coast.

Email: jgall@coa.edu

Mail: 105 Eden Street, Bar Harbor, ME 04609

In the News:

Garden Club of America Scholarship

Awards and Recognitions:

Garden Club of New Jersey, Summer Scholarship for Field Botany (2011): Support for research on insect-plant relations of serpentine/granite outcrops of Deer Isles, Maine. $1500

Garden Club of America, Summer Scholarship for Field Botany (2011): Support for research on insect-plant relations of serpentine/granite outcrops of Deer Isles, Maine. $2000

Global and Civic Engagement Fund, College of the Atlantic (2011): Support for field research/conference participation. $xxx.

Kathryn Davis International Advanced Studies Award, College of the Atlantic (2009): Support to attend the Seventh International Conference on Serpentine Ecology. $1,000.

Maurine and Robert Rothschild Student-Faculty Collaborative Research Fund Grant (2011): Support for research on insect-plant relations of serpentine/granite outcrops of Deer Isles, Maine. $1200

 

Conference Presentations (Presenter in Bold):

J. E. Gall, Kirven-Dows, L. A., C. Graham and N. Rajakaruna. 2011. Diversity and metal content of insects on adjacent serpentine and granite outcrops on the Deer Isles, ME, USA. Poster to be presented at the 7th International Conference on Serpentine Ecology, Coimbra, Portugal, June 12-16.

J. E. Gall, Kirven-Dows, L. A., C. Graham and N. Rajakaruna. 2011. Diversity and metal content of insects on adjacent serpentine and granite outcrops on the Deer Isles, ME, USA. Poster presented at the Northeast Natural History Conference, Albany, NY, April 6-9, 2011.

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