Rohan Kumar ’26
Investigating the Structure and Composition of Dung Beetle Food Webs in an African Savanna
I helped investigate the structure, stability and complexity of species interaction networks between large mammalian herbivores and dung beetles in African savannas. Dung beetles are vital for ecosystem functioning, but their diversity, distribution and associations with mammals in these ecosystems are not fully understood. Moreover, dung beetles are at risk of extinction due to their vulnerability to environmental and anthropogenic disturbances, and this risk is exacerbated by the alarming reductions in large herbivore population reduction and growing human-environment interference. Understanding the beetles and their food webs is essential for their conservation. To learn more about beetle diversity in the presence of various savanna herbivores, I helped collect and process herbivore dung samples and surveyed dung beetles at various locations. I also assisted with laboratory trials to assess beetle food preferences. To improve species identification ability and create a large public database, I helped set up DNA barcoding plates and photographed dung beetle specimens for morphological trait measurements. I also aided in dissecting beetles so that their gut contents could be metabarcoded. The whole experience was incredibly rewarding as I gained an invaluable glimpse into the world of evolutionary and ecological biology research.
Biodiversity and Conservation
Pringle Lab, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Princeton University - Mpala Research Centre, Laikipia, Kenya
Robert Pringle, Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology; Finote Gijsman, Ph.D. candidate, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology