Science Diary: Caterpillars – Microcosm

music; ambience: rain

“When I think of some of the plants that I’ve studied, I think of them as unique ecosystems.”

Sometimes when you study the world of nature, there’s a moment of discovery an epiphany. And that plant you’re looking at is more than just a plant it becomes a microcosm. Welcome to Pulse of the Planet’s Science Diaries, a glimpse of the world of science from the inside. Lee Dyer is an ecological entomologist who studies the relationship between plants and the insects that feed on them.

“It’s a pepper plant and it’s in the understory of a rainforest. Most people who would go to a rainforest as a tourist would not notice this plant. But if you sort of like, get inside there and you see that it’s an entire world. It’s an ecosystem. It’s its own rainforest. So inside that pepper plant, you have ants living in there; you have beetles that kill those ants, you have a number of different types of worms and beetles and animals called arthropods that consume the waste products of the ants. And then you have predators that eat all of those animals that are eating the waste products of the ants. Then you have predators of the beetles. After years of looking at this, you realize that this is a very complex web of interactions within a much larger web of interaction. So this plant is part of an entire rainforest. And the things that are going on inside of this plant will actually have an impact on the entire forest. And that, if you tinkered with this ecosystem inside of this plant, that you could actually affect other organisms in the rainforest, and that’s really been a big lesson.”

We’ll hear more about that lesson and its implications in future programs. Our thanks to Lee Dyer and Earthwatch. Our latest project is a competition for third to sixth graders. Check out kidsciencechallenge.com.

Pulse of the Planet’s Science Diaries are made possible by the National Science Foundation. I’m Jim Metzner.

Science Diary: Caterpillars - Microcosm

A diverse ecoysystem can be found within the leaves of one rainforest plant.
Air Date:07/15/2011
Scientist:
Transcript:

music; ambience: rain

“When I think of some of the plants that I've studied, I think of them as unique ecosystems.”

Sometimes when you study the world of nature, there’s a moment of discovery an epiphany. And that plant you’re looking at is more than just a plant it becomes a microcosm. Welcome to Pulse of the Planet’s Science Diaries, a glimpse of the world of science from the inside. Lee Dyer is an ecological entomologist who studies the relationship between plants and the insects that feed on them.

“It's a pepper plant and it's in the understory of a rainforest. Most people who would go to a rainforest as a tourist would not notice this plant. But if you sort of like, get inside there and you see that it's an entire world. It's an ecosystem. It's its own rainforest. So inside that pepper plant, you have ants living in there; you have beetles that kill those ants, you have a number of different types of worms and beetles and animals called arthropods that consume the waste products of the ants. And then you have predators that eat all of those animals that are eating the waste products of the ants. Then you have predators of the beetles. After years of looking at this, you realize that this is a very complex web of interactions within a much larger web of interaction. So this plant is part of an entire rainforest. And the things that are going on inside of this plant will actually have an impact on the entire forest. And that, if you tinkered with this ecosystem inside of this plant, that you could actually affect other organisms in the rainforest, and that’s really been a big lesson.”

We’ll hear more about that lesson and its implications in future programs. Our thanks to Lee Dyer and Earthwatch. Our latest project is a competition for third to sixth graders. Check out kidsciencechallenge.com.

Pulse of the Planet’s Science Diaries are made possible by the National Science Foundation. I’m Jim Metzner.