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Predatory Spiders in the Arctic Food Web 2013

Join us for a live event for on 16 July with research teams from Toolik Field Station in Alaska. Join the event to learn about the Arctic ecosystem. It's free and easy to join! Register here.

Meet the Team

Teacher - Nell Kemp

Nell Kemp's picture
Kenwood Academy
Chicago , Illinois
United States

Nell Kemp has been a science teacher since 2001, when she joined the staff of Kenwood Academy in Chicago's historic Hyde Park neighborhood. Ms. Kemp has a bachelor's degree in behavioral neuroscience from Lehigh University and a master's degree in education from DePaul University. She began teaching biology and genetics at Kenwood's high school, but moved over to Kenwood's 7th/8th grade Gifted & Talented program 4 years ago where she currently teaches environmental science and has never been happier. The enthusiasm and creativity of the middle grades is one of the most rewarding aspects of her job, but also the most challenging. Students of this age group tend to have trouble thinking independently so Ms. Kemp pushes students to participate in project-based learning activities and inquiry investigations.

She anticipates that her experience with PolarTREC will show her students that "real" scientists complete their work in much the same way as they do, collecting evidence to support their initial research questions and hypotheses. In addition to exposing her students to accredited scientific research and researchers, Ms. Kemp also hopes that her students will see that there is more to the Polar Regions than reindeer and polar bears…and Santa Claus.

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.

Journals

August 20, 2013 Home…finally.

Kayak
A flurry of goodbyes It seems so long ago that I said goodbye to Toolik (well, it was a month ago, so I guess it was a while ago…sorry), yet I can still recall with amazing clarity almost every day I was there. Not only did I make some lasting friendships, but I also learned so much that I want...

July 26, 2013 The End of an Experiment

That's All, Folks...
3 Years in the Making When I accepted the post as PolarTREC teacher to scientist extraordinaire Amanda Koltz, I didn’t realize that this would be her last field season before publishing her dissertation. Amanda began her field research on the Arctic Wolf Spider about 3 years ago, and has returned...

July 23, 2013 Who Doesn’t Love a Good Parasite?

Cuckoo!
Parasites – the ultimate lifestyle choice As mentioned in a previous journal, every organism has a place in the complex food webs of life – be it an autotroph, heterotroph (that’s us, unless some human has mutated and can now photosynthesize), or decomposer. Ecosystems have other relationships...

July 19, 2013 How Cute are Collembolans?

Collembola
Just What do Spiders Eat? In a previous journal, I mentioned that the wolf spider is a generalist predator that feeds on detritivores in the soil. There are many different organisms that fall under the category of “detritivore,” but by far the cutest (that’s right, I said cutest) are the...

July 17, 2013 Meet the Berlese Funnel…and take a trip to the Arctic Ocean

Kiki
Berlesing means buckets…lots and lots of buckets. In my last post, I explained how soil samples were taken from the tundra. The samples were cut out of each of our plots (with a bread knife) then sectioned into surface and below ground pieces, packed in a Ziploc and carted back to our lab in our...

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Project Information

The influence of wolf spiders on the structure and function of food webs in the Arctic.
Toolik Field Station, Alaska
27 June 2013
3 August 2013

Where are They?

Tundra boardwalk at Toolik Field Station, Alaska
Tundra boardwalk at Toolik Field Station, Alaska
The research team will fly to Fairbanks, Alaska and from there drive north to Toolik Field Station, in the 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?

Female Wolf Spider, Alaska
Female Wolf Spider, Alaska
The Arctic is warming faster than any other biome on the planet, which makes it critically important to understand the influence of warming on ecosystem processes in this region. While arctic species are all well adapted to living in extreme environments, it is unclear how different species will respond to the environmental shifts that accompany climate change (e.g. longer growing seasons and warmer temperatures). Stronger responses by some species within a community could lead to changes in the structure of the food web and its role in arctic ecosystems. 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.

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 function of food webs. In particular, arctic warming could increase decomposition of the large amounts of carbon stored in permafrost soils. Increased decomposition would result in higher levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide and methane, which are heat-trapping greenhouse gases. Potential shifts in spider feeding ecology as a result of climate change could therefore have important and far-reaching consequences for arctic plant community dynamics and ecosystem processes. This research will examine the extent to which arctic wolf spiders influence the structure and function of food webs and measure whether their impact on the community is changing with warming.

Resources

Title Date About Type
Teacher heads to Arctic 19 June 2013 This article describes the upcoming travels of PolarTREC science teacher Nell Kemp from Kenwood... Article

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