Final Thoughts: Much More Work to be Done

I cannot believe my time at the Natural History Museum is at a close. The 10 weeks I spent there were filled with fun and exciting days and I have made many friends that I will be keeping in contact with in the future. While I am now happy I don’t have to wake up at 5:30 in the morning anymore, I will admit my last day was bittersweet since I will miss everyone there and all of the things I learned through my research. I will miss the wonderful tours that the intern department allowed all of the interns to go on and learning about various fields of science that I previously had limited knowledge of. It was truly an experience that I will never forget.

Now that I’m done working at Smithsonian Natural History Museum, I have approximately 15000 scanned cards on my computer that I will be bringing back to William and Mary for the fall semester to analyze and database pertinent information. I have scanned cards that show associations between American chestnuts and insects as well as oak trees and insects. Through a combination of looking at the primary literature already published about the effect of blight on insect populations and the cards that I have scanned, it does appear that there are insect species that are now extinct due to the introduction of blight. However, I will not be able to confirm these suspicions until field work is conducted on extant chestnut sites in the future to see if these species are still present. This will be one of the next steps in this project!

It also appears that there are a plethora of insect species that thrive around oak trees. This is important since oak species have taken over the ecosystem once dominated by American chestnuts. As ecologists begin to try to reintroduce chestnuts into the ecosystem, it will be important to know what insect species are associated with oak trees in order to determine if any of the species will cause obstacles for reintroduction. Insect collections will also need to be done on oak sites in the future as well to determine what species are actually associated with oak trees.

I am excited to be continuing this project during the fall semester. One of the interesting aspects of this project is that it is still in the exploratory stage. There has been little research done on insect associations on American chestnuts so a lot of the research I did this summer was to gain a solid background of what is already known in order to determine the best course of action to gain valuable results. While it is unknown what kind of results this project will yield, it will hopefully help the reintroduction of American chestnuts.