Climate Change and Caterpillars Fellowship
3173

Wildlife & Ecosystems

Climate Change and Caterpillars Fellowship

How much can the lowly caterpillar tell us about the world we live in? More than you might imagine.


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The facts

Why the research is important

Why the research is important

Some caterpillars can eat up to 27,000 times their body weight in just few weeks. If they become too plentiful, they can wipe out their host plants.

The warmer temperatures and stronger storms expected from climate change could make it impossible for parasitoids to keep caterpillars in check.

To effectively protect and manage diminishing natural ecosystems, we need as much information as possible about the interactions of organisms within ecosystems, especially organisms as diverse and important as caterpillars and parasitoids.

A student getting up close to find caterpillars

A student getting up close to find caterpillars

Earthwatch researchers and volunteers have scoured deserts and forests in the U.S., Ecuador, and Costa Rica for thousands of specimens and have logged a wealth of data on how different species relate to one another. This information benefits both local communities and other scientists, but preserving biodiversity is perhaps the most important result. Nature provides crucial services for humans—food, water, income, temperature regulation—that climate change will certainly reshape.

Help these scientists find out what the future holds by testing what happens when the balance between species is thrown off. In one experiment, scientists and volunteers removed caterpillars completely from a few forest patches. Fifteen months later, those areas had 40% fewer plant species than the surrounding forest. Plants that would have otherwise been controlled by their predators—caterpillars—drove others out of existence.

About the research area

Ecuador; U.S. (Arizona, Florida, Nevada), Ecuador, North America & Arctic

Daily life in the field

Itinerary

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The Scientists

MEET THE LEAD SCIENTIST

Lee
Dyer
Professor of Biology, University of Nevada, Reno

ABOUT Lee Dyer

For over two decades, Lee Dyer has scoured the world’s forests for some of their most diverse inhabitants.

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Accommodations and Food

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