TEAM ATTA IS AT THE 54th annual meeting of the Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation in Merida, Yucata, Mexico July 9-14, 2017 

Luigard Schwendenmann and Alejandro G. Fargi-Brener are organizing a symposium: Leaf cutter ants and forest ecosystem processes

Wednesday July 12th at the Holiday Inn, Merida

11:00 Introduction

11:15 Alejandro Farji-Brener & Victoria Werenkraut - Leaf-cutting ant effects on soil fertility and plant performance: a review 

11:30 Emma Aronson, Diego Dierick, Jon Botthoff, Amanda Swanson & Michael Allen - Tropical rainforest methane consumption by leaf cutter ant nests and soils under variable moisture 

11:45 Angel Santiago Fernandez Bou, Thomas Harmon, Odemaris Carrasquillo Quintana, Michael Allen, Diego Dierick, Steve Oberbauer, Philip Rundel, Luitgard Schwendenmann, Amanda Swanson & T. Jane Zelikova - Soil structure and CO2 gas dynamics are affected by leaf cutter ants in a neotropical wet forest 

12:00 Amanda Swanson & Michael Allen - Dynamics of root and mycorrhizal fungi in leaf cutter ant nests in a lowland tropical forest

12:15 Luitgard Schwendenmann, Michael Meredyth-Young, Diego Dierick & Jane Zelikova - Amount and composition of dissolved organic matter in leaf cutter ant nests

12:30 Catalina Murillo-Cruz, Allan Artavia-León, Esteve Mesén-Porras, Miguel Pacheco-Leiva, Gabriel Monge-Navarro & Adrián Pinto-Tomás - Microbial symbionts of leaf-cutting ants

12:45 Conclusions


TEAM ATTA IS AT THE SOIL ECOLOGY SOCIETY ANNUAL MEETING IN FORT COLLINS CO JUNE 7-9 2017

Two Michael Allen, Emma Aronson, and Jane Zelikova are at the SES 2017 meeting to present some exciting results from the ATTA project.

Michael Allen is presenting "Soil Net Primary Production and Carbon Emissions in a Tropical Rainforest: Effects of Leaf Cutter Ants through an ENSO Cycle" Wednesday June 7 at 2pm at the CSU Lory Student Center Grand Ballroom C.

Emma Aronson is presenting "Soil Microbial Dispersal by Way of Terrestrial Slugs" Wednesday at 2:30pm in Grand Ballroom D

Jane Zelikova is presenting "Industrious Leaf Cutter Ants and their Big Footprints in tropical Soils" Thursday June 8 at 9am in Grand Ballroom C


TEAM ATTA REPRESENTING AT THE ANNUAL EMERGING RESEARCHERS NATIONAL CONFERENCE IN STEM IN WASHINGTON DC ON MARCH 2-4, 2017

Two OTS REU students from the summer 2016 REU program, Odemaris Carrasquillo (University of Puerto Rico Mayaguez) and Shaquetta Johnson (Jackson State University), presented their REU projects at the annual Emerging Researchers National Conference in STEM in Washington DC on March 2-4, 2017. 

Odemaris presented a poster titled: Carbon Dynamics in Leaf-Cutting Ant (Atta cephalotes) Colonies: Soil and Vent Behavior in Response to Precipitation.

Shaquetta gave an oral presentation titled: Influence of Precipitation on Leaf Cutter Ant Atta cephalotes Vegetation Input and Foraging Behavior.

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Quick interview with Odemaris Carrasquillo (University of Puerto Rico Mayaguez) about her work and poster.

1.- What was your talk/poster about?

The poster presented at the ERN Conference was about the work conducted at la Selva during last summer, where we had the opportunity to study the behavior of Atta cephalotes and its contribution to the carbon cycle. I focused in the analysis of carbon emissions from the soil and how they are affected by the environmental conditions, including rain events and wind speed. For this, I presented in the poster the data and results obtained from three sites selected in La Selva of precipitation, drain time, and carbon dioxide flux from the soil.

2.- Was it your first time presenting your work? 

This was the first time presenting this work after I presented at la Selva.

3.- How did you feel about it? 

It feels really excited to present our results in a national conference after all the hard work performed, because letting people learn about the research and receiving feedback from them, let us enhance our horizons. Every new experience is a challenge, and overcoming the challenge helps us to discover what we are able to do.

4.- What is your student status now? 

I am currently a Senior in Chemical Engineering at the University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez Campus.

5.- How did people respond?

People were very interested in Atta and surprisingly there were few researchers that have been in La Selva before, so they react very enthusiastic about the work we did there. 

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Quick interview with Shaquetta Johnson (Jackson State University) about her work and presentation.

1.- What was your talk/poster about?

My oral presentation was about the foraging behavior of Atta cephalotes, and whether environmental factors such as precipitation affect their activity. This particular study involved numerous observations to monitor the Atta's foraging behavior such as: velocity of the ants, vegetation amount going into the nest, and whether activity was of abundance diurnal or nocturnal. Utilizing this information, our team was fortunate to establish a rough estimate of the vegetation input at our most active nesting site. 

2.- Was it your first time presenting your work?

No, I presented my research at a research forum held at Jackson State University on September 22, 2016.

3.- How did you feel about it? 

This was an interesting research topic, and I'm feeling very happy about what we were able to accomplish at La Selva.

4.- What is your student status now?

 I am a senior Biology major at Jackson State University. 

5.- How did people respond?

After my presentation, many other researchers and the judges were interested in learning more about the Atta biogeochemistry work, as well as how beautiful Costa Rica was. While my research partner, Odemaris, presented her work, she also struck several researchers and judges interest in learning more about the fluxes/output in relation to the input at the nesting sites.

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Team Atta is heading to the American Geophysical Union (AGU) annual meeting in San Francisco. Come check out our posters and lets talk about ants and carbon!

(1) Leaf cutter ant (Atta cephalotes) soil modification and in situ CO2 gas dynamics in a Neotropical wet forest. Lead: Angel S. Fernandez Bou

Session Date and Time: Wednesday, 14 December 2016; 08:00 - 12:20

Session Number and Title: H31F: Methods and Process Interpretations in the Soil-Plant-Atmosphere Continuum II Posters

Location: Moscone South; Poster Hall

(2) Integrated In Situ sensing and modeling to assess carbon dioxide emissions from tropical wet forest soils: The role of leaf cutter ant Atta cephalotes. Lead: Thomas Harmon

Session Date and Time: Wednesday, 14 December 2016; 08:00 - 12:20

Session Number and Title: H31F: Methods and Process Interpretations in the Soil-Plant-Atmosphere Continuum II Posters

Location: Moscone South; Poster Hall

(3) The role of leaf cutter ants on soil organic carbon dynamics in a wet tropical forest. Lead: Luitgard Schwendenmann

Session Date and Time: Thursday, 15 December 2016; 08:00 - 12:20

Session Number and Title: B41F: Soil Carbon Dynamics: Models and Experiments Investigating Controls on Soil Organic Matter Vulnerability in Dynamic Landscapes III Posters

Location: Moscone South; Poster Hall


Anna Dipaola, an undergraduate from UC San diego and our 2015 REU student, presented her research in a poster at the February 2016 Emerging Researchers National Conference in STEM in Washington DC. Anna used nest size and leaf intake characteristics to estimate the spatial footprint of leaf cutter ants beyond their nest structures. Anna worked with three other REU students, including Suzanne Henderson from the University of Georgia, Deo Lachman from the University of Wyoming, and Willian Kinn from Colorado State University.

Suzanne Henderson, an undergraduate at the University of Georgia, presented her summer 2015 REU research at the Plant Biology Symposium for Undergraduate and Graduate Students at UGA in August of 2015. Suzie's poster described her research on the impacts of leaf cutter ants Atta cephalotes on plant regeneration on ant nests. 


Deo Lachman, an undergraduate at the University of Wyoming, received an outstanding presentation award at the annual SACNAS meeting in Washington DC in the fall of 2015. Deo's REU research project examined how leaf cutter ant nest size and density varied across different habitats in a lowland tropical wet forest in Costa Rica (La Selve Biological Research Station). 

Deo Lachman at the annual SACNAS meeting, October 2015

Deo Lachman at the annual SACNAS meeting, October 2015


The workshop "Leaf Cutter Ants and Ecosystem Processes" took place at La Selva Biological Research Station, Costa Rica July 14-20.

The workshop was divided into 3 modules: Part I reviewed the field of microbial ecology through the application of field and laboratory methods. Part II focused on the technical aspects of measuring mycorrhizae and fungal methods. Part III reviewed the techniques to measure soil carbon fluxes and pools, including the use of a newly developed CO2 sensing system developed as part of our project. Together, this workshop brought together focused seminars and hands-on activities in the lab and field to answer ecological questions. Students had the opportunity to develop small independent projects and conduct field work at La Selva Biological Research Station. The workshop was a resounding success and we look forward to organizing another in the next couple of years.


2015 REU students

This is the REU crew from 2015, from left to right: Jane Zelikova (University of Wyoming, PI), Billy Kinn (Colorado State University), Anna Dipaola (University of California San Diego), Deo Lachman (University of Wyoming), and Suzie Henderson (University of Georgia). 


2011 and 2012 REU STUDENTS

Jules Cooch was an REU student from University of Michigan and spent the summer of 2012 at La Selva, where she helped us collect soil biogeochemistry data as well as conducted her own shadehouse experiment to test how plant germination and growth differed between nest and non-nest soils

Jules Cooch was an REU student from University of Michigan and spent the summer of 2012 at La Selva, where she helped us collect soil biogeochemistry data as well as conducted her own shadehouse experiment to test how plant germination and growth differed between nest and non-nest soils

Utsarga Bhattarai was an REU student from Colorado College and spent the summer of 2011 at La Selva, where he helped collect soil respiration data that served as the foundation for our funded NSF proposal as well as examined the variation in soil respiration across ant nests

Utsarga Bhattarai was an REU student from Colorado College and spent the summer of 2011 at La Selva, where he helped collect soil respiration data that served as the foundation for our funded NSF proposal as well as examined the variation in soil respiration across ant nests