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College of Science and Mathematics

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Website Update

Biology Professor’s Research on Dragonflies and Stress Making Headlines

Nov. 14, 2011

Professor McCauley and colleagues
Professor McCauley (far right) with colleagues collecting dragonfly larvae for their lab study.

SAN LUIS OBISPO -- A research article by Cal Poly Biological Sciences Professor Shannon McCauley is making a splash in the media. One of McCauley’s research specialties is dragonflies. According to one of her studies, stress can make them drop dead.

McCauley and colleagues studied dragonfly larvae raised in a protective underwater cage. swimming around the cage were fish or other predators that love to snack on the larvae. McCauley found that just being within sight and smell of the fish and predators made dragonfly larvae death rates double – or even quadruple.

McCauley worked on the study as a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Toronto. She wrote a research paper on the study and its results, which was accepted for publication this summer in the journal Ecology. The journal Nature picked it up as “Research Highlight” and featured it in October. Since then, McCauley’s dragonfly stress research has been featured on more than 30 network news and popular science web sites including CNN, MSNBC, CBC, ScienceDaily, National Geographic, and Discover Magazine.

Read the highlight
Read the CBC story (and listen to audio)
Read the MSNBC story
Read the Discover Magazine web story
Listen to a Science Update radio podcast on the study
Read the Science Daily story
Read Professor McCauley’s research paper

McCauley is continuing her dragonfly research with student assistants at Cal Poly. The professor took three Cal Poly students to the Georgian Bay National Park in Canada during summer 2011 to study global warming’s effects on freshwater insects thanks to a $15,000 grant from the National Geographic Society. The park, in Canada’s Great Lakes region, is the largest freshwater archipelago in the world and offered the professor and students a unique place to study large and small aquatic insects. Watch for more details in the winter 2012 edition of the College of Science and Mathematics E-Newsletter.


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