Aloha Interns!

I have ended my internship a bit early in order to pursue my master’s degree at the University of Hawaii. I recently moved to Oahu, and am loving it so far. Here’s a little summary of my summer in the Panoche Hills:

This field season I had the opportunity to investigate grasshopper and lizard ecology in the central valley region of Panoche, California. I examined how two different grasshopper species, Odaleonotus enigma and Trimerotropis pallidpennis, are distributed across the Panoche landscape. I designed an original protocol for counting and collecting grasshoppers. I also reviewed some important literature to gain a deeper understanding of grasshopper characteristics, abundance, and distribution. While I did not ultimately work on incorporating lizard ecology into my study, this data may be used to eventually discover the food preference of endangered blunt nose leopard lizards in Panoche. It may also be used in a separate note for a journal.

My office worked closely with The Ecoblender lab from York University. The lab reviewed my protocol. I needed to make corrections, but it was a straightforward protocol for a straightforward task. There were three areas where leopard lizards were previously identified in Panoche. I used lat/long coordinates to establish three separate zones where I would count and sample. I initially used a transect method, but it proved to be very misleading in the data. For example, both species of grasshopper are highly gregarious. Having near zero counts within the transect did not represent the grasshopper population as a whole. So, I began to do something I called a “zone sweep.” I completed a zone sweep at each site twice a week.

Dr. Lortie (ecoblender) suggested that I was actually using a belt transect method. From there, I was able to establish an area and calculated grasshopper density per square meter. I also noticed a few other protocols where density was used, further corroborating my decision to use density instead of raw numbers. I comprised two tables. One table has raw count numbers, and the other has calculated density for each belt transect. Both can be used for further statistical testing using excel or even the statistical program “R.” I also ran an analysis of variance several times this season. Each time I had more data to use. However, no statistically significant results were found. The P value was 0.121.

I had a lot of time to myself this summer in an isolated place. I feel I contributed in a small way to a much larger picture at the BLM. The federal experience is invaluable to me, and will propel me in my career as an entomologist. I’m very thankful for my mentors. I look forward to the end result of this project, even if I am only involved from a distance!

Aloha Everyone!

Jennifer Michalski
BLM Hollister Office

Finishing Up

I’ve been working really hard on my grasshopper survey in the Panoche hills region of the central coast valley. I do back to back surveys during the week in 100+ degree heat, but I don’t really mind it too much. The data is starting to shape up and I’m enjoying reviewing the results with my peers.

I’ve also been traveling to the Monvero Dunes to collect specimens from malaise traps for the UC David Bohart Museum of Entomology. The picture you see below is the south face of the dune. The other side is a doozy to climb too!

I will be finishing the survey over the next few weeks and then preparing for my departure to Hawaii for grad school. I’m really looking forward to the journey.


It's a doozy to climb even on the other side!

It’s a doozy to climb even on the other side!

Grasshopper Survey in the Panoche Hills

Over the past few weeks, I have been almost exclusively working on a grasshopper survey in the Panoche Hills region of Northern California. I have developed a protocol that will hopefully be published by the end of the summer (along with a literature review of other recent grasshopper studies).

I spent a significant amount of time since my last blog post in the field at three different test sites. One is located in Little Panoche Valley, one is located on the Panoche Plateau, and one is in Silver Creek. Each test site represents a zone where leopard lizards have been found. I completed several zone sweeps and transects in order to collect grasshoppers, and identify them down to species.

The next phase of the protocol calls for a genetic comparison and analysis to assess where and why each different species is overlapping with the observed leopard lizard populations. This will answer questions about the genetic composition of the community, overall gene flow, and dietary preferences of the endangered lizard.

I visited UC Davis this past Friday to work on IDing the grasshoppers with the head curator of the insect collection there. It is quite an impressive collection. Over six MILLION specimens! If anyone reading is at all interested in bugs, it is worth a visit! I now possess a great key that will help me identify down to species for each grasshopper that I have collected (more than 200 so far). It’s somewhat difficult to do because grasshoppers vary greatly in coloration and markings within a species. For example, taking each specimen through a key requires that I look at wing venation, pronotum structure, reproductive structure, and many other morphological traits. I will get through them all eventually!

Over the next few weeks, I hope to begin the genetic component of the protocol as well as the literature review. I’m really enjoying this project, and can’t wait to see the end results.

Jen Michalski
Hollister Field Office

GPS coordinates of where I spotted a leopard lizard in the field one day!

GPS coordinates of where I spotted a leopard lizard in the field one day!

Panoche Plateau test site

Panoche Plateau test site

Panoche Hills, California

Hey Everyone,

I’m a first year Master’s student in Entomology at the University of Hawaii, and will spend the next few months working at the BLM office in Hollister, California. I have taken on several projects with my mentors. I will be studying native dune beetles in the Monvero Dunes, addressing concerns with malathion use to control spread of the Curly Top Virus and the Beet Leafhopper, and completing a genetic/statistical survey to address genetic diversity/primary productivity in grasshopper and leopard lizard populations. Our team is passionate, driven, and resourceful. I’m looking forward to collaborating and working with my mentors on awesome projects at various field sites this summer.

Good luck to all the other interns who are starting out.

Here are two pictures from my first day. I traveled to Buttonwillow, CA to look for leopard lizards. No such luck in finding any… but we found plenty of whiptails, and I noosed one on my first try! Looking forward to geeking out over science for the summer.


Jennifer Michalski
BLM, Hollister Field Office

Noosing Whiptail Lizards

Noosing Whiptail Lizards

Whiptail Lizard

Whiptail Lizard