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Spring Break: Collections-Based Approach to Survey the Insects Associated With American Chestnut

DESCRIPTION: American chestnut was once a widespread tree in eastern U.S. forests but is now functionally extinct due to chestnut blight, a disease caused by a fungus introduced to the U.S. in ~1900. The insect fauna associated with American chestnut before and after the effects of chestnut blight is largely unknown. A literature review and geographically restricted field surveys were carried out in the 1970s to inventory moths feeding on American chestnut before and after chestnut blight. As a result seven moth species were considered possibly extinct due to American chestnut decline. Two of those species were subsequently collected. Comprehensive literature and field-based surveys have not been carried out for other insects associated with American chestnut. The Hopkins Notes and Records System, currently housed at the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History (NMNH), contains ~17,200 records of insects occurring on plants in U.S., including American chestnut. The records span from the late 1800s to the early 1970s and thus provide an opportunity to document the insects associated with American chestnut before and after chestnut blight. We seek the assistance of an Intern to evaluate the Hopkins Notes and Records System for records of insects associated with American chestnut, as well as search the literature for records of insects associated with native and exotic chestnut in the U.S.

QUALIFICATIONS: Interest in the biological sciences, particularly a student pursuing a major or minor in biology or a related field. Basic computer and data entry skills (e.g., Microsoft Office suite). Ability to search for published works using databases and library resources relevant to the biological sciences.

LEARNING OBJECTIVES: The intern will learn how to search the primary literature for publications reporting insects associated with particular host plants. The intern will also learn how to search field notes archived at the NMNH for data, as well as interpret and enter those data into a matrix for subsequent analysis.

TIMETABLE: Spring Break


Project Contact Name: Robert Kula

Phone: 202-633-4558

 E-mail: Robert.Kula@ars.usda.gov