Museum Research


Moths of Puerto Rico

Lead investigator: Montana M. Atwater

Description: Our knowledge of moths in Puerto Rico is scarce compared to that of the butterflies, with much remaining to be discovered about their diversity and life-history. This project began in 2012, as a backyard survey of moths, in the hills of mixed dry forest of Coamo, Puerto Rico. Since then, with the help of folks at the UPRRP Zoology Museum and El Verde Research Station (Director, Dr. Alonso Ramirez), this survey has expanded to other ecoregions, including the dry subtropical forests of Vieques, the wet tabanuco forests of El Verde, up to the moist montane forests of Aibonito. The resulting collection is housed at the UPRRP Insect Collection and continues to expand and act as a reference collection for on-going Lepidoptera related study at the museum. We now have Catherine Hulshof (UPR Mayaguez) on board, who is jump-starting a program to digitize the collection. So, stay posted for upcoming photographs of the Puerto Rico moths!!




Pollination Networks in Tropical Beach Dune Ecosystems: Stability Under Unstable Conditions?

Lead Investigator: James D. Ackerman

Tropical beach dune systems are among the most naturally unstable terrestrial habitats.  The flowering plants that occupy these dunes are specialized in the sense that they must be tolerant of salt, be able to exploit ephemeral water supplies, and cope with shifting substrates.  Their pollinators must be specialized as well, or be able to commute from more stable habitats to forage in the dunes.  Are the networks of plant-pollinator interactions in the dunes nested and modular as they are in more stable habitats, or does the natural instability demand loose niches and generalized interactions?

For the last few years, undergraduate and graduate students have been making observations of floral visitors, collecting plant and animal vouchers along beaches of Puerto Rico and Vieques.  The data are still arriving and the analyses have yet to be completed.  But we do know that there is a lot of variation in plant and animal species richness among beaches.  One of the most diverse areas in both plants and insect pollinators are the dunes of Piñones.  Thus far, everywhere we go, nearly all floral visitors are either Hymenoptera (bees and wasps) or Lepidoptera (butterflies).