Saturday, October 3, 2015

Welcome to the jungle

After hearing a number of things about the famous La Selva Biological Station, I was excited to arrive and see all it had to offer. Even though I was excited about the new environment we were entering, at the same time I was a little nervous due to the packed schedule for the three weeks ahead of us. La Selva was the site of our first faculty led projects, independent project, and midterms. Since I had never conducted an independent project of my own I was a little worried about what lay ahead of me. After just a few days of being in La Selva, there were numerous things that happened - from seeing howler monkeys on the bridge, to a sloth in a tree, an ant eater walking roaming, tons of frogs hopping around, snakes perched on leaves, and more - that really held La Selva to its reputation. The bridge alone was an awesome sight that gives you the feeling of walking into the wilderness when you are on it. All I could think in my first few days at La Selva was that this is really what comes to mind when I think about the tropical rainforest.
After much brainstorming and finally coming up with a research idea, I was eager to get to work with my group and collect some data. We decided to work with Opiliones, commonly known as daddy long legs, to see how groups of them responded when different individuals were used to simulate a predation event. Three individuals were prodded to simulate predation – one missing a sensory leg, one missing a locomotor leg, and one having all eight legs.  After five longs days of collecting data and looking at over 2000 Opiliones, we found some interesting results for our project presentation. We found that group size and density of daddy long legs does have an effect on how the individual being prodded, neighbors nearest, and group as a whole react to a possible predation event. This was very interesting for us because we had read some previous research about how larger groups of Opiliones resort to a bobbing/vibrating technique in order to trick a predator whereas smaller groups tend to flee, and some of our results supported the previous research findings.

Conducting this independent project was not only informative in terms of the study organism, since before the project I did not even know that daddy long legs lived in groups, but also a fun and instructive experience in terms of how to design, collect data, and analyze results for an independent research project. I am excited for the next project to come and hopefully more interesting results can be uncovered. 
Shannon Law-Clark
Providence College

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