Dung Beetles, Soil Microbes and Carbon Sequestration in Pasturelands

Suzanne Lipton – Philpott Lab and Meyer Lab

Positions: 1-2 interns

Tentative dates: June 15 -September 30, 2021

Project Location: Ranches within ~1 hour driving distance of Santa Cruz , and the Coastal Campus

Project Background: This project, led by a Ph.D. student in the Philpott lab (ENVS) in collaboration with the Meyer lab (EEB), investigates the influence of dung beetle abundance and diversity on soil microbial diversity and carbon sequestration in soils of ranches in the Central Coast (and slightly inland) region of California. This is the second year of data collection for this project. Field work involves going to ranches in the area, and monitoring dung beetle populations, while taking soil samples, over a two month period. The lab work component involves soil microbial population analysis. Lab work will be completed in the Meyer Lab on the Coastal Campus during and after field work.

Intern duties: The intern for this project will be expected to join for all trips into the field to collect samples. The first several times will be to trap dung beetles—full disclosure, this involves collecting cow dung and putting it in traps (using tools, gloves, and plastic containers). We will then collect and sort the dung beetles. Subsequent trips into the field will be to set up and monitor enclosures that contain different abundances of dung beetles, and set additional traps to monitor dung beetle populations around the ranches. This will involve dung beetle observation and collection, as well as soil sampling for eDNA. There will be frequent day trips into the field for the first several weeks of the summer, followed by more sporadic trips as the project moves forward.

The other part of this project involves lab work in the Meyer Lab on the Coastal Campus. This will involve extracting DNA from the soil in preparation for PCR. Depending on the speed of extractions we may also begin PCR and additional analyses over the summer. The intern is welcome to join for as much of the analysis as they would like, but it may extend past the summer quarter. Sessions in the lab generally last for 5 hours.

Intern qualifications: The inland ranch site is in Paicines, where it can reach 110+ degrees on a midsummer afternoon, so interns should be comfortable with 5-6 hours in the field in potentially hot conditions. Other ranch sites will be on the coast with milder temperatures. Interns should be comfortable being in the proximity of cows, sheep, pigs, and herding dogs, as well as interacting with animal manure and beetles/other soil arthropods. We will drive to all field sites, but some mild hiking while carrying equipment may be involved onsite. Interns should also be comfortable with car rides of up to 1.5 hours without stops.

The eDNA lab work requires careful attention to detail. Students with some prior lab experience are preferred, but this is not required as students will learn lab work as part of the process. Sessions in the lab generally last between 5-6 hours, depending on the activity. Please note, if funding is not available for lab work for this experiment, there will be other opportunities for lab work involving samples from a different project.

Do you recommend the intern(s) volunteer in your lab during Spring quarter?
Yes, if possible. There may be the opportunity to join for scouting trips to field sites or even learn some lab work in the spring.

UC Santa Cruz Land Acknowledgement

“The land from which we base our work is the unceded territory of the Awaswas-speaking Uypi Tribe. The Amah Mutsun Tribal Band, comprised of the descendants of indigenous people taken to missions Santa Cruz and San Juan Bautista during Spanish colonization of the Central Coast, is today working hard to restore traditional stewardship practices on these lands and heal from historical trauma.”