CONWAY, Ark. (October 3, 2018) – A student-led research team
from the Hendrix College Department of Biology has concluded that the behavior
of bison may make a valuable contribution to conserving the habitat of
arthropods. Their research was recently published in a journal produced by the
Ecological Society of America.
Zachary Nickell ’17, Sofia Varriano ’19, Eric Plemmons ’19, and
Dr. Matthew D. Moran, professor of biology and chair of the natural sciences area
at Hendrix, researched and wrote an article published September 19 in Ecosphere, Volume 9, Issue 9.
The paper, titled “Ecosystem engineering by bison (Bison bison) wallowing increases
arthropod community heterogeneity in space and time,”* resulted from bison
research the team conducted in Oklahoma. (Read
the full text of the article)
This work is part of Moran’s ongoing studies on the ecology of
grasslands. “We have been working at the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve in Oklahoma
studying how bison affect prairie ecology, specifically how their behaviors
affect arthropods,” he said. “We found that their wallowing behavior changes
insect communities and in the long term, may increase the biodiversity of this
Nickell, the lead author on the paper, began participating in
the research the summer after his sophomore year at Hendrix and continued the
work through his senior year. He is now pursuing his Ph.D. in biology at
Florida International University.
“I owe a lot to my research, and I couldn’t be more thankful to
Dr. Moran, my labmates, and Hendrix’s Odyssey Program,” he said. “It was the
first experience I had doing real scientific work, and it solidified that I wanted
to spend the rest of my life studying the natural world. Collecting insects out
in the prairie and then sorting them in lab was hard work, but I loved every
minute of it and it gave me valuable experience in lab work and field work. It
not only prepared me for further research, but also was one of the key factors
to being accepted at my current institution.”
This project received Hendrix Odyssey Program support in two
ways: through grants to each student, and through the Bill and Connie Bowen
Odyssey Professorship awarded to Moran. The Odyssey Program ensures that
students look beyond the classroom to experience hands-on educational
opportunities in the liberal arts and sciences.
Pictured: Zach Nickell ’17 uses a
D-vac machine to sample arthropods in an Oklahoma prairie.
About Hendrix College
A private liberal arts college in Conway, Arkansas, Hendrix
College consistently earns recognition as one of the country’s leading liberal
arts institutions, and is featured in Colleges That Change Lives: 40
Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About Colleges. Its academic
quality and rigor, innovation, and value have established Hendrix as a fixture
in numerous college guides, lists, and rankings. Founded in 1876, Hendrix has
been affiliated with the United Methodist Church since 1884. To learn more,
Nickell, Z., Varriano, S., Plemmons, E., & Moran, M. D. (2018). Ecosystem
engineering by bison (Bison bison)
wallowing increases arthropod community heterogeneity in space and time. Ecosphere, 9(9):e02436.