The emerald ash borer has crossed state lines, and research on the ash tree-killing insect from Asia is bridging undergraduate students at collaborating universities. UF students not only are getting the opportunity to do scientific research at the undergraduate level, but they also are collaborating with students from Washington & Jefferson College in Washington, Pa.
The emerald ash borer was identified in Ohio in 2003. It was originally detected in the Toledo area and is confirmed since in 63 counties, as well as surrounding states and beyond. The insect kills ash trees within three to five years of infestation.
Ben Dolan, Ph.D., assistant professor of biology, has been studying the emerald ash borer for several years and has involved students whenever possible. Recently, he joined the Ecological Research as Education Network (EREN), which is funded by the National Science Foundation. EREN brings faculty members at small colleges and universities together.
“If we can pool resources and collect data as a team, that could be worthwhile,” said Dolan. “We’re all interested in getting the students involved and teaching. The EREN group facilitates collaboration of research projects … It’s an intriguing project because it brings people from other universities and gives us a much larger landscape to sample from.”
Beverly Beavers and Gabrielle Runco worked with Dolan during the fall 2012 semester on the emerald ash borer project. The Findlay group traveled to Pennsylvania in September to work with the research group from Washington & Jefferson, and that group later traveled to Findlay.
“We helped each other get started with sampling and made sure we were all on the same page, and it gave them all an opportunity to meet each other,” said Dolan. “The data set is really large. We’ve collected a lot, and the students are working together to develop a hypothesis.”
Runco is working with William and Jefferson students to study whether the emerald ash borer has caused ash trees to produce heavier seed crops. Beavers is working with other students to try to predict what species will fill in the gaps left after the ash trees die.
“What initially interested me about this project was the huge impact that the emerald ash borer has on forests throughout the United States,” said Runco. “Because EAB is such a large ecological issue, learning about EAB and how it could be combated to preserve the forests in North America is an important field of study.”
While the project overall has been a positive experience – and beneficial to the scientific community – working across state lines does have its challenges.
“Working with students from another location was great because we could present different ideas that one of us might not have thought of on our own. In addition, since the EAB infestation is not as progressed in Pennsylvania, Bev and I were able to get a different perspective on EAB infestation in another state,” explained Runco. “The biggest challenge with working in a group from another location was definitely communication.”
The students involved in this project will give a joint presentation at the Ohio Academy of Science meeting in April. The meeting will be held in Findlay.