Climate change affects the timing of spring leaf growth, insect activity, bird migration, and breeding. Allen Hurlbert, associate professor in the Department of Biology, leads undergraduate students in surveying arthropods – like caterpillars, beetles and spiders – to see if plants, insects, and birds all respond to climate change to the same degree.
This summer, students like UNC sophomore Allison Duprey and senior Andrew Zachman visited the same trees every week in Chapel Hill and Raleigh to measure abundance and size of arthropods. This data will be used to relate trends in arthropod populations to bird populations in the same areas.
The study is part of a citizen science project, called Caterpillars Count!, encouraging people across the nation to collect their own surveys and contribute to the collection of data. For senior Andrew Zachman, this program gives him a head start on his future career. “I think a lot of opportunities are going to stem from having research experience,” he says. “That’s the direction I want to go in so the earlier I can get started in doing research the better.”