Many student and faculty research projects are conducted at Pine Lake. For more information on research projects and facilities at Pine Lake, visit the Robert R. Smith Environmental Field Station page.
Pine Lake Environmental Campus Research:
Dr. Peter Fauth
Summer research involving nest monitoring and bird banding to study the reproductive and survival strategies of woodland songbirds at Pine Lake's Upper Tract and the implications of these 'life histories' on regional population declines of some species.
The student-faculty research team is investigating why 3 woodland thrushes have different solutions to the problems of survival and reproduction. Of the 3 species being studied, Veerys have the shortest breeding season and thus appear to allocate more 'effort' to annual survival so that they eventually breed in a year when environmental conditions are particularly favorable to offspring. In contrast, Hermit Thrushes may 'discount' survival in favor of extending the length of time they spend breeding in a single season. Wood Thrushes appear to play an intermediate strategy. Understanding the life-history strategies of the thrushes may help ornithologists understand why Hermit Thrushes have shown positive population trends in the northeastern U.S., while Veerys and Wood Thrushes have shown negative population trends. The protected status of Pine Lake's upper hillside forest as a biological preserve provides an ideal setting for such long-term ecological research.
Microbial Communities at Pine Lake
Dr. Mary Allen
Dr. Mary Allen and her students are working to understand and characterize microbial communities at Pine Lake. The most abundant organisms on Earth are microorganisms and yet by some estimates we have identified only 10% of those that exist. All environments contain microorganisms contributing both positively and negatively to the lives of humans. Identifying new species of microorganisms and understanding how microorganisms interact with their physical environment, and other living organisms, can help humans to exploit the good properties and battle the dangerous aspects of microorganisms.
Dr. Allen's research focus is the microbial communities inside the leaves of the purple pitcher plant, Sarracenia purpurea L. This plant, with its large pitcher shaped leaves, can be found at Mud Lake, a sphagnum bog on the Pine Lake Environmental Campus. Rainwater accumulates in the leaves of the pitcher plant and invertebrates, including ants, slugs, flies, bees and spiders, fall into the leaves where they become trapped and drown. These dead animals provide a food source for a small community of living organisms that includes bacteria, algae, protozoa and the larval stages of several flies and of a mosquito. Dr. Allen and her students are carrying out a variety of investigations into these communities. These include ecological studies on the responses of bacteria to predation by insect larvae and the use of molecular biological techniques to identify and look for novel species of bacteria.
Stream Ecology Research
Dr. Mark Kuhlmann
Research in local streams focuses on the invasion of a non-native crayfish, Orconectes rusticus. Dr. Kuhlmann and students monitor the spread of the invasive species and investigate its impacts on native crayfish and other parts of the stream community.
Species introduced to new locations by human activities are now recognized to be a large and growing ecological problem. In many cases, introduced species have displaced native species or disrupted the normal function of ecosystems. Rusty crayfish are native to the Ohio River but have been recently introduced to many rivers and lakes throughout the upper Midwest and Northeastern U.S. and southern Canada. Most research on introduced populations of rusty crayfish has been done in lakes in Wisconsin, where the species is known to displace and hybridize with native crayfish species, destroy beds of aquatic vegetation, and indirectly alter the composition of lake communities. Much less is known about the effects of introduced rusty crayfish in streams. Dr. Kuhlmmann's research in New York is presently focusing on 1) documenting the distribution of introduced and native crayfish in the upper Susquehanna River and its tributaries, 2) exploring the mechanisms that allow the rusty crayfish to invade stream habitats, and 3) examining the effects of rusty crayfish on local stream communities. Comparing the mechanisms and effects of O. rusticus' invasion of streams to previous findings in lakes will provide a broader understanding of the causes and consequences of species introduction.
Dr. Allen Crooker
Dr. Crooker collects and identifies species of arachnids (spiders, mites, ticks, harvestmen, and pseudoscorpions) and myriopods (centipedes, millipedes, symphylans, and pauropods) from various sites at Pine Lake. This survey is part of an ongoing project to identify and record the diversity of invertebrate groups at Pine Lake.