UR professors receive NSF support for rock pools research

June 12, 2018

University of Richmond biology professor Kristine Grayson has received a $20,000 Research Opportunity Award grant from the National Science Foundation for a collaborative project with colleague Todd Lookingbill (Departments of Geography and the Environment and Biology) and James Vonesh (Center for Environmental Studies, Virginia Commonwealth University) on understanding species diversity in rock pool communities in the James River.

Todd Lookingbill“Rock pools are great to study because they are micro habitats shared by several species,” said Lookingbill. “It’s a defined space we can use to learn about behavior and survival and how different species interact.”

With support from the NSF grant, Grayson and Lookingbill will collaborate with UR’s Spatial Analysis Lab to further develop mapping components of the project which will look at factors such as predators and flood frequency and their impact on aquatic invertebrates, such as snails and mosquito larvae, found in the pools.

Kristine Grayson“We are using the rock pools to design curriculum for ecology and geography courses that teaches how aquatic organisms are structured both as ecological communities and spatially on a landscape,” Grayson said. “The rock pools have been used in both high school and undergraduate college classes and we are excited to bring this research system to UR students and share the teaching materials more widely.”

Long-term, this research can be used to test predictions about the impacts of climate change and storm frequency on species living in the rock pools and other aquatic habitats.

# # #