The Effect of Blight on Insect Populations

My name is Alec Lyons and I am a rising senior at William and Mary. I am a member of Dr. Harmony Dalgleish’s plant ecology research lab and will be researching the effect of chestnut blight on insect associations this summer. Before chestnut blight was accidentally introduced to North America, American chestnuts were vastly abundant and a major influence to the ecosystem. Once blight was introduced, American chestnuts became nearly extinct, thus causing the ecosystem it once had a significant impact on to change. Because chestnut was so important ecologically and culturally, many groups have worked to develop blight resistant chestnut and their efforts are beginning to come to fruition. Not much is known about insects that were associated with American chestnuts before and after blight. However, the Hopkins Notes and Records Systems has since been discovered, offering a plethora of information that includes insects found on American chestnuts. The date ranges on the cards are from 1899-1942, allowing insight on insect association before and after blight afflicted American chestnuts. Through an examination of these records and by looking at primary literature after blight, I aim to understand the impact of blight on the eastern forest ecosystem. Such knowledge can inform forest management by uncovering insect species that may be a barrier to chestnut restoration. My plan for summer research is to continue my study of the Hopkins Cards in Washington, D.C., at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. In addition, I plan to initiate some new insect collections on extant chestnut near D.C. as well as oak stands that once had chestnut in them.