Discipline: Ecology Environmental and Earth Sciences
Room: Park Tower 8212
Dominic Morrell - Delaware State University
Co-Author(s): Dr. Radomir Graczyk, MSc Eng., Uniwersytet Technologiczno-Przyrodniczy, Bydgoszcz, Poland; Sylwiusz Pacek, Uniwersytet Technologiczno-Przyrodniczy, Bydgoszcz, Poland
Mites comprise the subclass Acari of Arachnida, arachnids; an incredibly diverse and ubiquitous presence, most are small and easily overlooked. Because of their ability to survive in many diverse environments, and to break down dead organic matter in the soil into nutrients, their presence is a strong indicator for soil and agricultural quality. As with many other fauna, we expect their numbers and distribution to differ in an anthropogenic (human-influenced) ecosystem. Our research focused primarily on the order Oribatida, or moss mites. Research was conducted across four weeks at the University of Technology and Life Sciences in Bydgoszcz, Poland. During the first week, we collected soil samples from two different environments around the campus’ one a forest, one a grassy empty lot. Between these two areas differently affected by humans, we hoped to observe the differences in mite distribution. We collected two samples from each area, these samples sectioned into top and bottom layers. Each layer was roughly 8cm in depth. In addition, one sample of bark, and one of moss, were collected from the forested area. After this day of field research, samples were taken back to the laboratory. Each sample was placed in a Tullgren funnel to be dried for five days, collecting the mites in isopropyl alcohol below. The collected, preserved mites were separated from other debris collected by the funnels, identified, and tallied. Oribatida species were identified to the family or genus; we noted additionally the number of mites in other orders such as Mesostigmata. Our research found that the highest number of Oribatida, and of Acari in general, occurred in the studied forested area. The highest count of Mesostigmata, however, could be observed in the grassy, more anthropogenic area. Mites were least numerous in the bark sample. Species from the genii Oppiella and Tectocepheus are generally urban-dwelling and usually prefer forests; The high number of Tectocepheus in our grassy area indicates anthropogenic pressure and the softening borders between biotopes. Innumerable factors were not considered in this research, due to constraints of time and scope; among these are seasonal factors, rainfall, dominant species, and pollutants, all of which likely have a significant impact on mite distribution. Time is especially needed to identify individual species, which can yield a significant amount of information due to the specific ecological requirements of each species. Future research would consider these factors, analyses of the soil and botanic profile of each biotope, as well as statistical procedures analysis of variance, canonical correspondence analysis, and the Shannon diversity index.
Funder Acknowledgement(s): I thank Professor Radomir Graczyk, my faculty advisor and mentor; Sylwiusz Pacek, who provided assistance in the field and in identification; and Dr. Mazen Shahin of Delaware State University, for organizing the I-STARS program which this research was conducted under. Funding was provided through the National Science Foundation and the Greater Philadelphia Region branch of the Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation.
Faculty Advisor: Radomir Graczyk, email@example.com
Role: I collected some of the soil samples in the field; placed soil samples into the Tullgren funnels; separated mites from debris under the microscope, and tallied the number of mites in each sample. I made initial guesses in identification of the mites, with suggestions provided by Sylwiusz and confirmation provided by Dr. Graczyk.