Ciara Nutter ’18

Major

Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

Project Title

Plant-Herbivore Interactions at the Scale of the African Continent

Presentation Link

View Ciara's Presentation

I researched the mechanisms that influence herbivore coexistence and plant-herbivore interactions. Understanding these mechanisms could allow for a better grasp of threatenedecosystem conservation. My project investigated the factors that influence dietary-niche overlaps and the structure of the plant-herbivore interaction network at the continental scale. Both are strong indicators of system stability, which is especially important at a time when global defaunation is a critical issue. I was heavily engaged in identifying, collecting and processing fecal samples from large herbivores in each country we visited. I was instrumental in extracting the DNA used to determine the plant species contained within each sample. My summer internship inspired me to explore a future in research and gave me insight into the life of a graduate student in ecology and evolutionary biology. I also was reminded of the importance of intertwining ecological research with community development, as much of our success at each field site hinged on collaboration with local communities.

* This internship is connected to the PEI Development Grand Challenges project, “Ecosystem Spatial Pattern and Development Opportunities in African Rangelands.”



Internship Year

2017

Project Category

Biodiversity and Conservation

Organization(s)

Princeton University; Gorongosa National Park, Mozambique; Nyika National Park, Malawi; Kafue National Park, Zambia

Mentor(s)

Robert Pringle, Assistant Professor, and Johan Pansu, Postdoctoral Research Associate, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology