While in Panama during the Spring 2015 semester as part of the IGERT Vertically Integrated Training in Genomics Fellowship offered in partnership by the NSF, the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, and the University of Illinois, I will be conducting a project that tests the "Landscape of Fear" hypothesis posited by Laundre et al. (2010).
Though this hypothesis has been examined previously in systems pertinent to charismatic fauna, including cougars and white-tailed deer, the phenomenon has never been tested from an entomological perspective to my knowledge. As such, I plan to investigate the spatial patterns of abundance and stress-gene expression of a nocturnal butterfly family, Hedylidae, in relation to ambient predation cues produced by their main predator, insectivorous bats. I aim to build transcriptomes of Hedylidae individuals reared from egg to adult that are either exposed to bat call recordings nightly or never exposed to accumulate a list of candidate genes that respond to bat predation cues.
I then plan to take this information into the field and measure the expression of these candidate genes along a gradient of predation risk, from along a riparian edge to interior habitat. I also aim to investigate the effects of land-use on these relationships by carrying out this study in various land-use contexts, including teak plantations, pasture, secondary rainforest, and primary rainforest.
This project is ongoing and I hope to develop this approach into my Ph.D. dissertation.