REU Overview

Ecology is the study of interactions: interactions among individuals within a population, among species within a community, among communities, and between the biotic and abiotic environments. Urban Ecology focuses on the interactions between humans and nature, where the main focus has been to study the effects of human impact on natural ecological systems in urban environments. Urban Ecology has become a highly energized research area within the field of ecology; two of NSF’s 24 LTERs explicitly study Urban Ecology (Arizona, Baltimore). The field provides potential for engagement in high synergy concerning academic disciplines (between the natural sciences and in connection with the social sciences) as well as potential to explore and provide solutions for real-life problems.

Our site, ERF, is uniquely situated on the interface between residential neighborhoods and farmland. It is on the suburban to rural half of the urban-to-rural gradient, and is ideal for exploring both urban and agricultural effects on ecological interactions. We focus on the phenomenon of invasive species in our suburban environment. Invasive Species are species that have been introduced to areas outside their native range, that establish viable populations in their new habitat, and that then expand their ranges, usually out-competing native species in the process. Invasive species frequently dominate urban and suburban landscapes and have received considerable study within the context of urban ecology.

A partial list of invasive species found or studied at ERF and the surrounding area include:

Amur Honeysuckle, Lonicera maackii

Bullfrog, Rana catesbeiana

House Sparrow, Passer domesticus

Rusty Crayfish, Orconectes rusticus

Silvery Sidewalk Moss, Bryum argenteum

Tall Fescue, Festuca arundinacea

Western Mosquitofish, Gambusia affinis

Winter Creeper, Euonymus fortunei

Zebra Finch, Taeniopygia guttata


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