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To effectively conduct conservation efforts, we can use biodiversity to assess the condition of our environment. Biodiversity has been commonly defined as the variety and variability among living organisms within an area. When our ecosystems are at their best, they clean water, purify air, maintain soil, regulate climate, recycle nutrients, and provide food. Everything within an ecosystem is interdependent, so biodiversity is an important factor and indicator of environmental health. Indicators help us to measure and monitor pressures or threats in land and water use, habitat loss or invasive species, the state of species and ecosystems, the conservation response, and the benefits to people. Many different organisms have been used to assess biodiversity, such as plants, mammals, birds, butterflies, beetles, etc. Ants are a great candidate for biodiversity research, as they are found in many types of habitats, are diverse, extremely numerous, fulfill a variety of ecological roles, are sensitive to environmental change, and are conveniently easy to collect. Our most used method of collection is sorting through leaf litter. We collected leaf litter from three sites in Rowan County: Eagle Lake, Stony Cove, and Rodburn Hollow. We used Berlese funnels to extract the specimens from the litter, organized, identified, and counted them in order to analyze the biodiversity. Over the past three years we have collected almost 7,000 ants, including 18 genera. We plan to use the Shannon and Simpson indices to better evaluate alpha and beta diversity among our three study sites using ants.

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Quantifying Ant Populations to Measure Biodiversity in Morehead, KY



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