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Name: John B. Reese
Honors in: Biology
Hometown: Bethlehem, PA
Title of project: Interactions of butterfly bush (Buddleja davidii) and its insect herbivores in metal-contaminated successional areas at Lehigh Gap Nature Center
Abstract or brief description: The Butterfly Bush, Buddleja davidii, is a perennial shrub native to China that in many areas of the world is both a beloved ornamental plant and a nuisance or invasive species. It can escape from private gardens and colonize roadsides, wastelands, and riparian areas, and may outcompete native plants for resources, reducing biodiversity. At the Lehigh Gap Nature Center near Palmerton, Pa., the slopes of the mountain are recovering from being completely devegetated by heavy metals deposited from nearby zinc smelters. The area has been invaded by butterfly bush, and great effort is exerted to control it. In order to further investigate the ecology of butterfly bush, samples were collected from these reclaimed areas, as well as from mountaintop and riparian areas. Eupatorium and Solidago individuals were also collected. Insect inventories were taken, as well as leaf area measurements to determine herbivory levels. Also, observations were made to quantify use by nectarivores. Results show that herbivores graze upon butterfly bush significantly less than native species in riparian and successional areas. Quantitative observations show that butterflies appear to prefer the nectar of butterfly bush, while bees and other nectarivores prefer native species. These results, as well as previous data, show that butterfly bush is a major threat to the reclamation efforts and current control efforts are appropriate. Also, removal of butterfly bush from the riparian areas would be beneficial, but native plants that can provide nectar to butterflies should be established first.
How did you get interested in your topic? Habitat destruction and invasive species are two of the biggest threat to global biodiversity. As Moravian biology students do quite a bit of research at the Lehigh Gap Nature Center, and both invasive species and a degraded (although improving) habitat are present there, I wanted to do a project concerning both. I thought it would be a useful project, as there is little established protocol for how to manage such sites, so the establishment of any precedent may be helpful in other applications.
Do you intend to research your topic further? If so, how? I would like to look into how sites affected by industrial pollution and/or invasive species may be managed in an efficient and cost effective manner. I would also like to explore other ecological and environmental science problems as well. Hopefully I will be able to do this by going to graduate school.
How did you benefit academically by conducting research/participating in honors? I learned important aspects of conducting research that I had not known before, and also how to look at a complex problem in many different ways to get a (hopefully) objective view of all of its aspects.
How has the department (or faculty advisor) prepared you for the future? See above.
What advice do you have for other students interested in honors? Do not underestimate the amount of time and effort it will take to complete an Honors thesis. Scheduling too many upper-level classes and working a lot of hours at a job outside of school in addition to taking Honors may leave you burned out and/or frustrated. Similarly, aim to have goals met well before deadlines so that you will minimize stress as they approach. It’s a lot of work, but it is also rewarding and worth the effort.