Biodiversity and Development with Bugs!

While my research occurs in a lab, it was very interesting to learn of our other peers’ research that happens in the field. I was particularly fascinated by Xitlali’s project and its intersection in the broader efforts of environmental nonprofits. 

Xitlali’s project looks at the effects of urban development on the environment, by studying biodiversity in different areas of watersheds by their level of developed land. New Hope Creek’s watershed, located within Duke Forest, is barely developed, whereas Ellerbe Creek’s watershed is located in a highly developed area. The level of biodiversity between these two differing locations is thought to be affected by urban development, and its role in facilitating the drainage of storm surge. Rainwater is able to slowly drain into New Hope Creek following a storm surge because it is rich in soil, while Ellerbe Creek receives rainwater at high rates because of pipes and drainage infrastructure. The timing of these processes is thought to affect the biodiversity of the two creeks. The hypothesis is that New Hope Creek will likely have more biodiversity due to its soil-rich watershed, in comparison to Ellerbe Creek. This will be measured by looking at different species of aquatic insects in the watersheds. Insects are also thought to be better able to stay on rocks on New Hope Creek. However, there are thought to be more “resilient” species in Ellerbe Creek, to withstand harsher water upheaval. 

It was great to witness the huge range of interests within BSURF, and Xitlali’s, in many ways, felt like a huge contrast to mine (minus the bugs). I could not imagine having to go out to rivers to do my work! Moreover, while many of our projects have clinical applications or contribute to tool-building, Xitlali’s has great implications for studying the effects of neighborhood and class divides, a topic I would normally study outside of my realm of biology courses. While I must admit ecology has never been a major interest of mine within biology, I found this chalk talk super interesting, and I can’t wait to see where this project goes!

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