Satisfying your Curiosity...What would you research?

Okay, I will definitely check these out- thanks!

Another research question. Do fire fighters and forest treatment or thinning crews spread plant pathogens and disease? If so, by what means and how to prevent it? This question arises out of discovering a lot of crazy things going on with shrubs after they did a forest thinning treatment.

If I were to be in the ecology field (and related) I think I would like to research the chemical relationship between Lepidoptera and their host plant, ie. what makes certain species choose certain plants as food, how polyphagous they are etc. For species within a certain taxonomic grouping what are the taxonomic relationships between their host plants (eg. Asterocampa celtis and Hestina assimilis both feed on Celtis sp.) Also the relationship between parasitoids and their hosts.


Oh, where do I begin? I tend to fixate on a particular species that catches my fancy for some reason, and try to learn everything about it. If a species has no economic value – positive or negative – and isn’t of conservation concern, there is seldom very much research on it. I’m probably an expert on several such species, to the extent that “expert” can apply to a species that has been neglected due to lack of interest, but I doubt that I will ever know which ones.

One bigger question that has come to mind lately is the flipside of invasive species: of all the species transported to new continents and planted out or released, only a relatively small proportion become invasive. There has been considerable research on what characteristics make a species likely to become invasive; but I wonder why don’t most species have those characteristics? To put it another way, why are most species NOT invasive when transported to a new area, even if it has a similar climate to their native range? With all the plantings of oleander, for example, all over California – including different colored cultivars, which must, therefore, be genetically distinct – why don’t we find little wild oleanders popping up in neglected, shrubby spots?

A related question is why do we have genera with a few widespread species and many localized species? The genus Rattus has 64 extant species, but only three – Rattus rattus, Rattus norvegicus, and Rattus exulans – have spread across the world and become pests.

I’d love to have been one of those old-school explorers that went out and did species inventories in remote places (Like Darwin in the Galapagos) and got to name all the new species they found. Preferably somewhere up in the mountains for me, though. Bonus points for discovering anything so weird the scientific community immediately assumes it’s a fake.


I’ve observed a similar thing in Cretanweed near me. I was wondering what mechanism is behind that.

For myself, I’d like to learn much more about Lichens. I grew up in the outer boroughs of New York City when our air quality was too bad for Lichens to survive, and now that they are growing here I wish I knew more. Unfortunately I probably need a microscope and some other gear to really ID the many varieties.

If I could sponsor some else’s research, I have a hypothesis that invasive species (especially, but not exclusively, plants) establish themselves because they have some quality that humans find attractive. If they did not, we’d have killed them off as soon as they arrived. I’m not sure how to objectively study this or quantify the attractiveness of invasives, but if there are any grad students or researchers out there looking for a topic, please steal this idea and let me know what you learn!

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I am also very curious about lichens. I live in the high elevation mountains and I’d like to go back and photograph the same ones over long periods of time to see changes along side air quality measurements both from cars and forest fires.

There are 2 distinct categories I can think of right off the top of my head for invasives.

  1. Intentionally introduces with good intentions but failed.
  2. hitch-hikers. Many plants have seeds that are “stickers” and hikers unintentionally spread them in their boots, clothes, cars, shoe tread, or luggage.

And RE: jasonhernandez74
Again, I can quickly put into 2 categories

  1. introduces species via one of the 2 methods above that don’t outcompete native plants/animals because there are natural endemic predators or pathogens that keep them in check.
  2. … that do outcompete native plants/animals without any natural predators or pathogens to keep them in check.
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You might want to check out this book. It focuses on lichens in NYC.

You can actually get pretty far with lichens without a microscope or chemical laboratory, especially for the the larger ones novices are likely to take note of. You will likely need a little equipment, but on the much more approachable scale of a handlens and occasionally a couple household chemicals.

The impression that a microscope is needed IME mostly comes from the fact that advanced specialist litterature (which may be the only available sometimes) will both want to cover everything and often assume that the users are already familiar with the characteristic species and/or often know how to get to a family or genus intuitively, which in turn means that their keys are designed with the assumption that most things run through them will be those that do require microscopy anyway.

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Ooh! Exciting! A new lichen book! Thanks!