The theory of island biogeography predicts the diversity of communities living in isolated environments will depend on both the size of the island (or habitat patch) and the distance to a source population. We are testing this theory using the community of herbivores that specialize on common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca), for which milkweed patches act as habitat islands. To do this, we are selecting milkweed patches of varying size and distance to neighboring patches to determine how patch size and patch isolation affect insect diversity. In addition, because the ability of insects to disperse between patches will affect colonization rates and community dynamics, we are assessing the ability of these insect species to travel across different types of matrix (the area between milkweed patches). We will also be collecting insects from some patches in order to stock our experiment (at the racetrack).
Principal Investigator: Ben Gilbert