Insect Ecology Lab @ UNE

Dr Jean Drayton

 

Jean has been a postdoc in the lab since 2014. Her project is titled: Ecosystem Services in a changing climate; dung beetles and climate change.

 

There are two main aims of this project: 1) to investigate the effect that dung beetles have on greenhouse gas emissions from cattle farming and 2) to examine the effect that climate change will have on the dung burial service that dung beetles provide.

 

To investigate the first aim, we are currently comparing the greenhouse gases that are emitted from manure that is either colonised by dung beetles or that contains no beetles. To do this, we are using a closed, non-steady state chamber system to measure fluxes of CO2, CH4 and N2O from cattle dung pats. We have also measured NH3 fluxes to test the commonplace claim that dung beetles reduce nitrogen volatilization. The preliminary results suggest that dung beetles drastically reduce CH4 emissions but actually increase NH3 loss (and this may be related to whether the beetles are feeding on the surface or burying manure for brood production). Furthermore, beetles initially increase CO2 emissions but, over time, the trend is reversed with control pats (i.e. no beetles) releasing more CO2.

 

To investigate the second aim of this project, dung beetles will be exposed to temperature regimes that are expected under climate change and dung burial rates will be measured. Custom built climate controlled chambers will soon be built for these experiments. Not only will we assess dung burial by individual species under climate change scenarios, we will also look at the rate of burial by assemblages of beetles that vary in species richness to test if increasing species diversity makes beetle assemblages more robust to the effects of climate change.

 

Jean recently won the 2015 Science and Innovation Awards for Young People in Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry are coordinated by the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences, on behalf of the Department of Agriculture. The recipients of the 2015 Science and Innovation Awards for Young People in Agriculture were announced at the ABARES Outlook 2015 conference dinner. The Science Awards recognise big ideas from young rural innovators that contribute to the success of Australia’s agriculture sector. Jean was awarded the Dairy Australia award.

 

Insect Ecology Lab

Natural History Museum (W77)

University of New England

Armidale NSW 2031

Australia

nigel.andrew@une.edu.au

61 (0)2 6773 2937