The aspen and the caterpillar: Student-made video highlights ecological impacts of climate change

Entomology graduate students Michael Falk and Jeremy Hemberger put together this impressive video to illustrate Falk’s graduate research project. Shot on a Nikon D7000 digital video camera and edited using Adobe Premier Pro software, the video is the duo’s submission for the Entomological Society of America’s student video competition.

Their submission, which describes Falk’s research project and why it’s important, features footage of Falk doing fieldwork at sites near Portage and at Kemp Natural Resources Station, plus a fun stop-motion chalkboard drawing segment. Here’s a synopsis of his research (for those who prefer text), submitted by Falk:

As our climate continues to warm, how will temperature-sensitive ecological processes be affected? My research uses the relationship between early-spring insect defoliators and trembling aspen (a common host tree) to address this question. These particular insects benefit most from hatching in synchrony with aspen leaf flush, as younger leaves provide better nutrition than older leaves. Our lab groups (Dr. Ken Raffa & Dr. Rick Lindroth), however, recently discovered that warmer spring temperatures can disrupt the timing of this relationship. I am looking at the ecological ramifications of these shifts in synchrony, and assessing the potential impacts on both insects and trees. Through my research, I hope to provide more information on an essential, yet poorly understood topic: the ecological outcomes of climate change.

The video is also available on the Entomological Society’s YouTube page.

Falk is doing his graduate training in the labs of Ken Raffa and Rick Lindroth. Hemberger is in Claudio Gratton’s lab.