Normark Wins NSF Grant

Biology professor Ben Normark has won a $653,000 grant from the National Science Foundation's Biodiversity Discovery and Analysis program to study the armored scale insects of tropical rainforests on four continents. It is part of a collaborative project with Geoff Morse, a former UMass OEB Darwin Fellow, now at the University of San Diego. Normark, Morse, and OEB student Daniel Peterson will collect armored scale insects from the rainforest canopy and understory in Malaysia, Australia, Cameroon, and Panama. Many armored scale insects are common pests in human-altered habitats, but the armored scale insects fauna of rainforests is unknown. The Normark Lab will use DNA sequences and microscopic characters to discover and describe new species. The project will test the "niche explosion hypothesis" of Normark and Biology research professor Norman Johnson, which predicts a correlation between population size and the ability to feed on a large number of different kinds of plants. One of the goals is to discover potentially invasive species before they become invaders.

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