The East Texas Natural History Collection
The East Texas Natural History Collection

The Nature of Field Research

Robert J. "Bob" Nuelle, Jr. Robert J. "Bob" Nuelle, Jr. published this 2 days ago

Field research - the kind that we are doing is all about questions and answers. We observe a wonderful natural phenomenon -- the flight of a gorgeous black and white moth in the cold month of December along the Texas coast -- and then we start wondering:

What moth is it?
How is it flying in these temperatures?
What triggers it to come out from its buried pupa and take wing?
Where did it come from originally?
How large an area does it cover?
What counties can it be found in?
When do its caterpillars hatch?
What food plant does the female choose to lay eggs on?
Where do they pupate?
How many of them are there?
What do the ova look like?
Is it genetically different than other Hemileuca in Texas?


These question form the basis for hours of conversation, collaboration and additional research. The next steps always involve a return expedition to the target area to make new observations -- and the effect of each subsequent trip is that some questions get answered but new questions arise -- knowledge is self-nurturing by it very nature.

For example:

What moth is it?
Answer: Hemileuca peigleri

How is it flying in these temperatures? 

What triggers it to come out from its buried pupa and take wing?
Answer: Temperature and moisture - most likely

Where did it come from originally?

How large an area does it cover?
Answer: It appears to cover most of the oak dominant ecosytem in the county.

What other counties can it be found in?
Answer: It appears restricted to Calhoun County 
New question: Does it actually occur in any other coastal county?

When do its caterpillars hatch? 
Answer: February in a typical year

What food plant does the female choose to lay eggs on? 
Answer: Oak trees - apparently any one of 3 present in the ecosystem.
New question-- What oaks are present in the ecosystem?

Where do they go to pupate?
Answer: In loose Leaf litter and sandy soil beneath the food plants.

How many of them are there?
Answer: We surveyed extensively and found that there were several hundred to a thousand larva per acre - leading to an estimate of millions of larva in Calhoun County.
New Question: How can we more accurately estimate the size of the population?
New question: How is it affected by the presence of frequent natural and
intentional fires?
New question: What local parasitoids exist for this species and how do they
affect the population size?

Is it genetically different than other Hemileuca in Texas?
Answer: No, CO1 Mitochondrial DNA Barcoding yields a high degree of similarity to the other known populations.

The process is one of continual research, fresh visits, new observations fueled by more tightly targeted research and eventually the publication of scientific knowledge gained.

Your assistance in this project will help us to answer all of these questions and many of the new ones that will be asked.

Please Share this project with your social media communities -- become a backer and help us better understand this amazing denizen of the Coastal barrier islands of Texas.

Sincerely,

Bob


 

 

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Breaking News:

ETNHC and International Journal of Entomology and Zoology Studies Announce Partnership

 

The East Texas Natural History Collection is proud to be the first North American Host and partner with the International Journal of Entomology and Zoology Studies. The Journal of Entomology and Zoology Studies  is a peer reviewed international Open Access Journal which is abstracted in various reputed databases. The Journal provides a platform with the aim of motivating students and personnel in all fields of Zoology.

The Journal publishes review and research articles in all fields of Zoology.

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