Meet Dr. Carol Landry. She enjoys hiking and long walks on the beach.
No, really—she's an ecologist; that's her fieldwork.
Even as a child, Dr. Landry was interested in nature. Her father would take the family on camping trips and advise her to "go look at something" to pass the time.
"I'm really, really interested in the details of interactions," Dr. Landry says. But, as an ecologist, she is also able to appreciate stepping back to consider how the "interactions between species affect the community as a whole."
Dr. Landry is an expert in plant-animal interactions in The Bahamas and is investigating how biodiversity is maintained following extreme disturbance events. Her current research is focused on understanding the infrastructure of the pollination networks of coastal plant communities using mathematical theories that describe this complex "web of interactions." Strong tropical storms and hurricanes sweep through the tropics every year, sometimes with catastrophic effects, whisking everything away with high speed winds or storm surge. Yet after a short time, life returns to these barren lands— the insects, the plants and their flowers. "Where were they [animals] hiding? Where did they go? How did they find their way back?" Questions such as these are what drive Dr. Landry's research in The Bahamas.
What's neat about research in the tropics is that "there are so many unanswered questions that student research can be novel!" she says. "There is a lot to do and very few people doing it." Students with an Ecology or Biology background have the opportunity to accompany Dr. Landry to The Bahamas for research. One of her most recent publications with a student author gives the first description of the reproductive ecology of the bee species Megachile alleni! Another recent publication describes plant-pollinator interactions in coastal communities on San Salvador Island, and reports the most comprehensive field survey of pollinators in The Bahamas to date.
If you are a student interested in pursuing this type of research, don't worry! There are plenty of questions to be answered here at the Mansfield campus too, even without a strong Biology or Chemistry background. All Dr. Landry asks is that students be "willing to go outside and get their hands dirty," as a large portion of her research is the fieldwork itself—collecting insects and pinning them for identification, hand-pollinating, tracking seed germination rates and seedling survivorship, or collecting insect nests. ''
One of the benefits of ecological research is that "there are so many different things that [students] can do," Dr. Landry says. "We need lots of information! But, I am only one person. Field work can be challenging but it can also be a lot of fun, and it's even more fun with students."