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Kate Gorman

Graduate Student | Department of Applied Ecology | North Carolina State University

2020 – 2021 Global Change Fellow

Statement of purpose:

I am a first year PhD student in the Applied Ecology department working with Dr. Elsa Youngsteadt. I am interested in urban ecology and specifically how urban systems affect the community structure of pollinators. After studying invertebrates in both rural and urban systems in Ohio, I became fascinated by the intersection between invertebrate community structure and the land changes in urban systems that are impacted by the socioeconomic factors affecting human communities. Understanding how the nuances of urban systems affect the biodiversity of invertebrates is vital to creating more sustainable cities in the future.

Description of research:

For my research, I will be studying how the affluence and other socioeconomic variables that are present in urban systems influence the community structure of ground-nesting bees. The “luxury effect” is a pattern in which biodiversity is greater in affluent urban neighborhoods than in their lower income counterparts. Because urban biodiversity can increase ecosystem services and human wellbeing, the luxury effect is problematic for urban sustainability. Although the luxury effect has been documented in plants and birds across multiple continents, the mechanisms linking wealth to diversity, and the consequences for local ecosystem services, remain poorly understood. My research will address this knowledge gap using ground-nesting bees as a study system. Although 85% of eastern bee species nest in soil, the role of urban soil cover in shaping bee communities has not yet been examined. I expect socioeconomic and cultural factors to drive landscaping priorities that will alter vegetation and soil properties, with consequences for bee nesting, community structure, and pollination. My work will combine methods of ecology and social science to test these pathways that may link affluence to diversity and ecosystem services.

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