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Predatory Spiders in the Arctic Food Web

Archived PolarConnect Events

PolarConnect events are great way to connect with the team.Nick and Amanda held two successful events - one or teachers, and one for students and the public. The events are available in the PolarConnect Archives.

Meet the Team

Teacher - Nick LaFave

Nick LaFave's picture
Clover High School
Clover , South Carolina
United States

Nick LaFave is a National Board Certified Teacher who has been teaching science since 1997. He currently teaches Environmental Science in Clover, South Carolina. Mr. LaFave grew up close to the New York/Canada border between the St. Lawrence River valley and the Adirondack Park. Walking out the door of his childhood home to explore the nearby woods, or fish the river sparked a lifelong passion for learning about nature. Mr. LaFave uses a hands-on approach to teaching Environmental Science. He and his students manage a nearly 100 acre "outdoor classroom" where some of the unique learning opportunities include monitoring fish populations and water quality, studying turtle populations, and raising tilapia to control nuisance plant species. He also encourages his students to be active participants in community service. Outside the classroom, Mr. LaFave spends his time playing hockey, golfing, attempting to play guitar and mandolin, hiking, and camping with his wife (also a teacher) and daughter.

Researcher - Amanda Koltz

Amanda Koltz's picture
Duke University

Amanda Koltz is a PhD candidate in ecology at Duke University under Dr. Justin Wright. Her research focuses on the relationship between community and ecosystem ecology (e.g. how species interactions can affect key ecosystem processes like decomposition and nutrient cycling). For her dissertation research, she is exploring how climate-induced changes in predatory spiders are influencing the structure and function of food webs in the Arctic. You can learn more about Amanda's research here.


July 21, 2012 Brief Intermission

Harding Icefield
I have not been trampled by a moose or eaten by a bear, I've been traveling throughout the state with limited access to the internet. I left Toolik on July 20, and got wrapped up in the events that surround saying goodbye to an incredible place and my friends. Since then I've traveled to Denali...

July 20, 2012 Back to Running Water and Trees

Caribou Antlers
Return to Civilization Today's walk from my tent to the dining hall was different than it had been the previous 45 mornings. I took one last look at my surroundings and marveled at how after such a long period I still had the same level of appreciation and wonder that I did when we arrived back...

July 19, 2012 Goodbye Toolik

Team Spider in Bug Shirts
Today is my last full day in the Arctic. Tomorrow will mark the 46th day I've been north of the Arctic Circle. It's really hard to believe that we've been here for more than 6 weeks already! The constant daylight, combined with an endless amount of things to do (work and play) makes the days run...

July 18, 2012 Two Flat Tires and No Windshield: An Epic Road Trip

Argentinian Road Trip
"Two anesthesiologists, a surgeon, and a veterinarian from Argentina pull up to a remote field station in Alaska with two flat tires and no windshield. True life, no joke." - Susanna Michael, Smith College

July 17, 2012 Polar People: Michael Sheriff, Biologist and T-Ball Champion

The cold rain has us in the lab today. It feels like the Carolinas in winter. Kiki and Amanda are busy at the microscopes while I get caught up on some writing and video production work. Here is the newest Polar People video featuring Michael Sheriff. Michael is a Post-Doctoral Fellow at the...

Project Information

How do climate-induced changes in generalist predators influence the structure and function of food webs in the Arctic?
Toolik Field Station, Alaska
4 June 2012
1 August 2012

Where are They?

Stream near Toolik Lake, Alaska
Stream near Toolik Lake, Alaska
The research team will be living and working out of Toolik Field Station, located in the northern foothills of the Brooks Range in northern Alaska. Toolik Field Station is operated by the Institute of Arctic Biology at the University of Alaska Fairbanks and has hosted hundreds of researchers and students every year since 1975.

What are they Doing?

Wolf Spider
Wolf Spider
While arctic species are all well adapted to living in extreme environments, it is unclear whether different species will respond similarly or differently to the environmental shifts that accompany climate change (e.g. longer growing seasons and warmer temperatures). Stronger responses by some species within a community, or strong responses by certain species groups, could lead to changes in the structure of the food web and its role in arctic ecosystems.

For example, In the Alaskan Arctic, wolf spiders are the largest and most abundant invertebrate predators. A shift in their ecological role could therefore have an important impact on the entire food web. Evidence from Arctic Greenland shows that wolf spider body sizes are becoming larger in response to longer growing seasons. These increases in body size will likely lead to larger spider populations, which could imply an increase in predation on the rest of the community.

This project explores the role of wolf spiders within arctic communities and specifically, whether climate change is stimulating changes in these predators that could influence the structure and functions of arctic food webs. The research team will be using a variety of methods to examine the impact of wolf spiders, including sampling spiders from various locations around Toolik Lake and carrying out a manipulative experiment that looks at the entire food web.


Title Date About Type
3,290 Miles From LI: Arctic changes, local impacts 4 August 2011 Newsday reporter Jennifer Smith blogs dispatches from Toolik Lake, Alaska about science underway at... Web Link
PolarConnect: Public Event with Nick LaFave and the Predatory Spiders Expedition In this one hour webinar, PolarTREC teacher Nick LaFave conducts live event for students and the... Video
Arctic Ground Squirrels with Michael Sheriff In the field with Michael Sheriff of the Institute of Arctic Biology, University of Alaska... Video
PolarConnect: Professional Development with Nick LaFave and the Predatory Spider Expedition In this one hour webinar, PolarTREC teacher Nick LaFave conducts professional development for... Video
Flying over the Tundra Giving a sense of how vast and open this treeless landscape is from a helicopter. Video by Nick... Video
Nick LaFave Meet PolarTREC teacher Nick LaFave Polar Profile
Nick LaFave and the Predatory Spiders Expedition: Public Event 17 July 2012 In this one hour webinar, PolarTREC teacher Nick LaFave conducts live event for students and the... Event
Nick LaFave and the Predatory Spiders Expedition: Professional Development 9 July 2012 In this one hour webinar, PolarTREC teacher Nick LaFave conducts professional development for... Event
Amanda Koltz 4 July 2012 Meet PhD student Amanda Koltz and learn about what motivated her to study science and research... Polar Profile
Fish Pre-Op Fish Pre-Op: Anesthetizing Fish with the FishScape Project. Video by Nick LaFave. To learn more... Video

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