New coverage of our Desert Ecology & Biogeography course on the ECSU website!
I just received a grant to conduct RAD (Restriction site Associated DNA) sequencing of Grand Canyon black tarantulas, Aphonopelma marxi, with Dr. Bent Hendrixson! Tissue prep and sequencing will begin this summer using samples collected throughout the Colorado Plateau. For now, enjoy this landscape interpolation of mitochondrial data from A. marxi. Many thanks to Dr. Hendrixson for the inset photo and for collaborating on this project!
Jon Henault, Alyssa Sampognaro, and Sabrina Couceiro did an excellent job representing our lab at the 2015 CREATE Symposium at ECSU! We thank and congratulate our collaborators Paula Cushing, Brent Hendrixson, and Zach Valois, and look forward to continue progressing with each of their projects this summer. Titles of their presentations are provided below with names of undergraduate presenters and co-author in bold.
Henault, J.A., P.E. Cushing, Z.J. Valois & M.R. Graham. Testing the validity of subspecies designations for a large but little known scorpion from the Mojave and Sonoran deserts. Oral Presentation.
Sampognaro, A., P.E. Cushing, B.E. Hendrixson & M.R. Graham. Elucidating cryptic species in the southern unstriped scorpion, Vaejovis carolinianus (Scorpiones: Vaejovidae). Poster Presentation.
Couceiro, S.N. & M.R. Graham. Phylogeography of the California Dune Scorpion, Smeringurus mesaensis (Scorpiones: Vaejovidae). Poster Presentation.
The 2015 Desert Ecology & Biogeography course just returned from an extraordinary tour of deserts in the American Southwest! Over the last week (spring break), co-instructor Brett Mattingly and I took 14 Eastern students on a journey to the Great Basin, Mojave, and Sonoran deserts. Highlights included camping at the base of the Sierra Nevada, exploring the lowest elevation in North America, running (or crashing) down Kelso Dunes, and encounters with three different rattlesnake species! We owe many thanks to George Graham, Jef Jaeger, Tasha La Doux, and our students for making this a safe, productive, and memorable first trip.
Graham, M. R., Hendrixson, B. E., Hamilton, C. A., Bond, J. E. (2015), Miocene extensional tectonics explain ancient patterns of diversification among turret-building tarantulas (Aphonopelma mojave group) in the Mojave and Sonoran deserts. Journal of Biogeography. doi: 10.1111/jbi.12494
Top: Adult Aphonopelma mojave displaying its chelicerae and fangs.
Bottom: Landscape interpolation of pairwise genetic distances among populations of A. mojave group tarantulas.
*Neither image was included in the manuscript.
Dr. Brett Mattingly and I are finally kicking off our first semester teaching a new course on desert ecology and biogeography, topics that have long excited us both. In addition to standard lectures on ecological interactions and biogeographic process in the North American deserts, thirteen students will accompany us to the Mojave, Sonoran, and Great Basin deserts for a week of exploration during spring break. Many of these students (true New Englanders) have never visited a desert and picture them as barren expanses of sand and cacti. We can’t wait to blow their minds! Deserts are just so much more than that. Stay tuned as we document our travels and the unique organisms that call these extreme environments their home. A map outlining our tentative itinerary is provided below.
Dr. Paula Cushing of the Denver Museum of Nature and Science and I just completed a successful collecting trip in the southeastern United States. We met in Atlanta, rented a stylish new Fiat, and traveled throughout Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia, staying at state park and national forest campgrounds… all of which included showers! Field work in the south is sure a whole lot easier, and more relaxing, than in the western deserts. Let’s see, we encountered salamanders, a copperhead, two canebrake (timber) rattlesnakes, a black bear (from a distance), hot n’ salty boiled peanuts, delicious pizza in the deep south, a bona fide river baptism, and most importantly, lots of southern unstriped scorpions (Vaejovis carolinianus). By the end of the trip we were so good at finding scorpions that we were letting them go. Many thanks to the CSU-AAUP Faculty Research Grants Program for funding this productive research trip.