Undergraduate Researchers in Myrmecology
Barcoding and the Future of Life on Earth:
A Case Study of Pheidole Ants
S. LaPolla and Colleen S. Sinclair
Knowledge of species distributions is essential to good conservation
planning (Samways 2005). However, despite the fact that most vertebrate
taxa are inadequate indicators of the fine-scale patterns of species
diversity and change conservationists desire (Smith et. al 2006),
most biodiversity studies remain vertebrate centered.
Ants have numerous attributes that
make them valuable for conservation planning. Among those are:
1) they are ecological dominant in most terrestrial ecosystems
(especially in the tropics); 2) they are easily sampled; and 3)
they are sensitive to environmental change.
One of the biggest challenges that
exist in incorporating any invertebrate group into conservation
plans is the difficulty that often arises in species identification,
which hinders reliable comparison of different sites. One idea
that has grown in popularity to overcome both the taxonomic impediment
and the large scale processing of biodiversity samples has been
the advent of DNA barcoding. DNA barcoding proposes using a single
gene (cytochrome oxidase I) to identify species, which promises
to greatly assist in more rapid species identification.
Students will have the opportunity to work on either morphological
analyses (microscopy, species identification, species description,
key development) or on molecular analyses (PCR, electrophoresis,
DNA sequence analysis).
acquired: Students in Dr. LaPolla’s lab will learn
the tools of morphological analyses from microscopy to species
descriptions and the development of dichotomous keys. Students
will also learn how to sort through leaf litter samples from tropical
locations. Students in Dr. Sinclair’s lab will learn the
basics of DNA barcoding research from PCR to DNA sequence analysis.
Outcomes: It is fully expected that this project will
result in at least one peer-reviewed publication, with the possibility
of several other papers resulting depending on the outcome of
this study. Students will be fully involved in the research process
from laboratory time to preparing the results for presentations
at national or international meetings and for peer-reviewed publication.
Course in invertebrate biology (e.g., invertebrate zoology, entomology)
and genetics; a class standing of Sophomore, Junior or Senior
in the fall of 2007; a GPA of 3.0 or higher.
Applications received by March 1, 2007 will receive full consideration.
The program will run from June 4 through August 10, 2007.
See the following
website for application and further information: http://wwwnew.towson.edu/biology/REU%20program%202007.htm