Friday, January 15, 2016

Meet Jonathan!

First, let me introduce myself.  I'm Jonathan Knudsen, one of Dr. Verble's new graduate students in the Fire Ecology Lab at Texas Tech.  I hail from the great state of Nebraska, Go Big Red!, where I completed my B.S. in Biology, focusing on ecology and zoology, from Doane University (formerly Doane College).  After graduation I took a summer field technician position with the Nebraska Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, where I conducted wetland assessments and frog call surveys.  I moved to east Tennessee at the end of the summer and promptly found work in a moonshine distillery!  During the next three years I was fortunate to work in the shadow of the Great Smoky Mountains and take in all that they offered.  I picked up fly fishing and often spent my free time seeking out remote stretches of stream in search of brook trout.  During the spring of 2013, I took a three month internship at the Universiti Malaysia Terengganu, helping to implement their sea turtle nest monitoring program.  Three months on a tropical island in the South China Sea with crystal clear blue water and coral reef just off the beach, let me tell you, it was just as bad as it sounds.  I joined the lab in early October, after a whirl-wind of a month finishing a field technician position in south-central Tennessee, quickly packing, and finding a place to live.  I have settled into Lubbock, and have been using my time here to get a jump start on my project before classes begin. 

            
Clear skies and clear waters

My research project focuses on evaluating the impact of wildfire on ant communities in the Valles Caldera National Preserve, another picturesque field site.  My research interests center around the effects of habitat management and restoration on arthropod and amphibian communities.  Specifically the use of fire in managing and restoring habitats, and the impact of recreational use on arthropod and amphibian communities.  Currently, along with two terrific undergraduates, Zac and Maria, I am sorting through the back catalog of samples from Valles Caldera.  Samples are collected from pitfall traps, a container buried flush with the ground and partially filled with preservative, and sorted by morphospecies.  Once sorted, a representative from each morphospecies is pinned and given a unique code for identifying which pitfall trap it was from and the dates the trap was left open.  After pinning, the specimens are identified to species, when possible, and that data is recorded for analysis.