Bonnie Blaimer Receives NSF Grant to Study Madagascar Ants
March 2, 2011
Bonnie Blaimer has received an NSF grant to study Crematogaster ants in Madagascar.
DAVIS--Bonnie Blaimer, a graduate student in the Phil Ward lab, has just received a National Science Foundation Dissertation Improvement Grant for $13,794 to help support her doctoral dissertation research on the systematic and evolution of Malagasy ants of the genus Crematogaster in Madagascar.
The grant is titled "Aligning Ant Diversity with Conservation Priorities in a Biodiversity Hotspot: Systematics and Biogeography of the Arboreal Ant Crematogaster in Madagascar."
Crematogaster ants are a species-rich, world-wide occurring group of ants with a notoriously difficult species-level taxonomy, Blaimer said.
“I will mostly use the NSF funds to perform DNA sequencing of the Malagasy species and also a variety of species from other biogeographical regions,” Blaimer said.
Crematogaster ants in Madagascar. Click to enlarge. (Photo by Bonnie Blaimer)
“This enables me to investigate and revise species boundaries within Crematogaster in Madagascar, and to establish a framework phylogeny for the genus upon which I can explore the evolution of the genus in the Malagasy region. A smaller portion of the grant will further allow me to travel to Madagascar to do some outreach and education work.”
Blaimer, who holds a master’s degree in Forest Sciences from Albert-Ludwigs-University in Freiburg, Germany, first became interested in the Crematogaster ants while doing field work as an intern for the CalAcademy of Sciences in Madagascar.
“This genus fascinates me particularly because of its species diversity and dominance in tropical forests, and its intriguing natural history,” she said. “Most species are canopy-nesting in dead twigs and branches or under bark, or they make elaborate independent carton-nest from wood fibers. Some species are suspected to be temporary social parasites, and many tend scale insects or mealybugs. In short, many different aspects remain still open for investigation beyond my dissertation work!”
Blaimer is listed as the co-principal investigator of the grant, and Ward, her major professor, serves as the principal investigator.
--Kathy Keatley Garvey
UC Davis Department of Entomology