Exploring Urban Ecology and Biodiversity using iNaturalist When you finish this

Exploring Urban Ecology and Biodiversity using iNaturalist
When you finish this semester long project you should be able to generate hypotheses concerning biodiversity in urban settings, design and carry out a sampling scheme and collect data and then analyze that data to generate conclusions about diversity and ecological structure of urban environments and communicate these results in a professional scientific poster session. IN this assignment you will put together a 4 part research proposal so I can give you some advice to be sure your ideas and methods are doable and meet the objectives of this project. To begin read the paper:
Theoretical Perspectives of the Baltimore Ecosystem Study: Conceptual Evolution in a Social–Ecological Research Project by Steward T. A. Pickett et.al, 2020. Urban ecology is one of the fastest growing areas of biology as we begin to wrap our minds around the planetary scale impact of our civilization. In the paper Anthropogenic transformation of the biomes, 1700 to 2000 by Ellis et.al (2010) it is easy to see that most of the surface of the planet has been substantially altered by human activity and should now be considered anthromes (human use) rather than biomes (natural systems). The human population is also shifting geographically with globally 60% of the population now living in and around urban environments doubling from just 2 decades ago and in North America now 83% of the population lives in cities. The urban landscape is becoming our “natural habitat†but it also true for millions of other species and we are just now starting to realize that this is a new frontier in science; Urban Ecology.
Steward Pickett, the first black president of the Ecological Society of America, is one of the pioneers and most original thinkers in urban ecology. He and his colleagues on the Baltimore Ecosystem Study have sketched out a path that will take from traditional ecology to a new science of urban ecology. Fig. 1 from Steward’s review show the basic steps in this transformation showing the anchoring theories and bridging theories that involve gradients and patch dynamics leading up to understanding the relationship between these variable and issues of social equity and ecosystem functions that can eventually lead to theories of urban systems that will allow us to plan urban environments that are better for all. Fig. 4 sketches out the human ecosystem in urban environments with some general ideas about how natural and anthropogenic systems might work synergistically. This semester we will be working mainly on the first 3 steps of the hierarchy proposed in Fig. 1 starting with you verifying what some of the gradients or patches of the urban environment look like, how some factors relate to biodiversity and the significance of these patterns for a system like the one in Fig. 4.
Step1. Choose a theme and a gradient or patch mosaic
Choosing a gradient and making predictions; You are essentially choosing a phenomenon that occurs along a gradient or is found in patches in an urban environment and then making a prediction as to how that distribution or geography effects species diversity. You can also zoom in one aspect of biodiversity if the general data seems overwhelming or you have special interest. For example, some people have focused on birds, butterflies, or even large carnivores, like coyotes and bobcats. In these cases you would see if large carnivores are found more commonly in say older neighborhoods or areas with a particular ethnicity. Be a bit cautious about being too specific at the start as you may have trouble getting enough data to test your hypothesis.
Here are a few common gradients to start you thinking:
Urban to natural
Socioeconomic gradient by household income
Ethnicity: this is more of a mosaic patch structure where you have neighborhoods of predominately one ethnicity compared to neighborhoods with different ethnicities.
Distance from freeways or industrial areas. Age of development: once again more of a pact h dynamic some areas like Rancho Cucamonga are more recent than older cities like Boyle Heights.
Distance from the Ocean
There are an infinite number of gradient and patch mosaics that make up an urban environment and Los Angeles is one of the most complicated cities in the world with a great diversity of different environments and microclimates. For example, on any day in Los Angeles county it can be 65oF at the beach and 105oF in the valley or sunny in Long Beach and raining 7 inches in Altadena making this an excellent metropolis to study urban ecology. If you would like to check out some tools for exploring some of the climate, health, and equity gradients you can go to the Social Justice and Climate Change assignment now and click on the tools for some general exploration. Later in the term you will be doing an assignment with these tools to explore the study sites you have chosen.
Step 2. Choose your study sites / sampling areas
This part of the submission will vary with the gradient you’re testing but here are a few things to consider. First, you should have at minimum 3-5 locations and at least one set of replication which are the same types of conditions in more than one place to be sure the pattern find holds true. So, the minimum samples would be between 6 and 10.
What do I submit for this part? Cut and paste the url for each of your locations from the iNaturalist website. So, you will send a set if urls for the sites will use for sampling. This way I can check to see if the locations work for your gradient and if there is sufficient data for your hypothesis from these sites. I will recommend other locations if necessary in the same way so you can just click on them and go to the site. Step 3. Make an Hypothesis.
Once you have chosen your gradient it is time to make an hypothesis so as a good scientist you will first do a review of the literature to see what others have found. You can do a Google scholar search or a PLOS to get at least one peer reviewed source that has explored your gradient in one way or another. Summarize their findings in a paragraph and be sure to cite your sources. This section ends with your hypothesis, kind of like this;
“Based upon the findings of Ramirez (2015), Zhang (2017) and Asghar (2019) I expect that there will be a negative correlation between urbanization and diversity, with the mid-city being less diverse than the urban parklands.â€
Step 4: How will you use the data to test your hypothesis?
For your methods section you’ll also need to sketch out or describe the graphs you will eventually use to test your hypothesis. For example, maybe you’ll make a column graph of the number of species in each of the neighborhoods, or a scatterplot of the number of species Vs the average income.
Obviously, you do not have to have data in these graphs for the proposal these are just to let me know that you have thought about and understand how to use your data to test your hypothesis. I can give you some suggestions once I see where you are going with this section.
The steps above are the sections you will turn in for this proposal. I will read through all parts and give you feedback within the week so you can get started on the study ASAP.