Zac is doing his PhD on the thermal games dung beetles play: assessing how temperature and competition influence a critical ecosystem service provider. His research looks at the effects of temperature on dung beetle physiology and ecology and how the microclimate and food quality preferences of a species are affected when exposed to different competitive regimes. He is also undertaking a systematic review of the available dung beetle literature to look at the historical trends and bias’ in dung beetle research and identify aspects of their physiology and ecology where research is lacking so that we may better formulate questions in the future.
To investigate the effect temperature has on dung beetle physiology he is conducting a laboratory experiment and a survey. In the laboratory experiment dung beetles are cultivated in custom climate controlled chambers. The internal temperature of these chambers can be mapped to the ambient external temperature +/- the desired offset in degrees Celsius. These chambers allow us to expose the beetles to small changes in temperature over long periods of time while still subjecting them to the natural range of temperatures they are exposed to in the field. The survey involves volunteers trapping beetles along an altitudinal gradient from 0 metres asl to 1400 metres asl. The use of volunteers to bait traps and collect samples has allowed for a much larger to be surveyed than otherwise possible.
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