Dispersal is the movement of organisms among habitat patches. Factors influencing dispersal in different systems are well known and include competition, predation risk, and patch quality. However, little is known about the phenology (i.e. timing) of dispersal of animals in the wild. In this study, I will ask how dispersal rates change across seasons, and whether dispersal is correlated with factors such as population density, water temperature, and individual phenotype. I will address these questions using backswimmers(Notonecta undulata), semi-aquatic, air-breathing insects which function as predators in fishless ponds. Notonecta are ideal model organisms to study dispersal because they complete their life cycle in water but are flight-capable in the adult stage and may disperse to other habitat patches. Understanding when and why animals move will help us to predict the effect that ecological stressors (e.g. warming temperatures) will have on species.
Principal Investigator: Shannon McCauley