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Cicadas subject of Miami study
Students visiting Miami for summer orientation and alumni who were just here for Reunion Weekend will not be surprised to learn that seven billion cicadas have emerged across southwest Ohio.
Witnessing the outbreak of Brood X, the 17-year periodical cicada, is an experience for everyone on campus, but it's providing special opportunities for scientists and science students.
Researchers at Miami will attempt to describe certain aspects of the cicada emergence, in a first of its kind experimental study on the effects of cicadas on aquatic food webs.
Funded by a $50,000 grant from the National Science Foundation, Martin Henry Stevens (botany), Maria Gonzalez (zoology), Matthew Fields (microbiology) and Mike Vanni (zoology) will quantify the importance of cicadas to aquatic ecosystems through controlled experiments, field surveys and computer modeling.
Dead cicadas can input as much nitrogen into a stream as from total leaf fall in autumn. We dont really know how much the cicadas matter, says Vanni. We just want to see how the input of cicadas changes the dynamics of these ecosystems.
Using experimental ponds at Miamis Ecology Research Center, researchers will monitor nutrients from cicadas and corresponding growth of bacteria, algae, zooplankton and crayfish.
Field surveys of 10 local ephemeral (or temporary) ponds and two local streams will also be conducted through the end of July.
The project also provides a one-time opportunity for several undergraduate students to help conduct research on an infrequent, important ecological event.
Through Miamis Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program in ecology and environmental science, students working on the cicada research project this summer receive 12 credit hours with tuition waived, lodging and a $3,000 stipend.
For more information on the ecology REU program, go to www.units.muohio.edu/ecoreu.