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Michael Kaspari

OU Biologist Receives $1.2 Million NSF Grant in Support of Ecological Research at Continental Scales

Norman--A University of Oklahoma biology professor, Michael E. Kaspari, has been awarded a $1.2 million National Science Foundation grant to study MacroSystems ecology—exploring how Earth’s temperature, precipitation and biogeochemistry govern the abundance, diversity and activity of ecological communities. Kaspari will test these models by generating the first standardized field data from entire communities of ground dwelling arthropods—an invertebrate animal having an exoskeleton, a segmented body and paired jointed appendages.

“Community data at continental extents are sparse and restricted to a few taxa. They vastly underrepresent the terrestrial arthropods—perhaps the most diverse and abundant animal group—in part due to the immense effort required to count, size and identify taxa ranging from mites to ants to beetles to spiders,” said Kaspari.

Kaspari will lead the project, “MSB-FRA: Testing abiotic drivers of activity, abundance and diversity of ground-dwelling arthropod communities at a continental scale,” from August 15, 2017 to July 31, 2021, with colleagues from the new OU Geographical Ecology group: Katie Marshall, Matthew J. Miller and Michael D. Weiser, Department of Biology, OU College of Arts and Sciences; and Cameron Siler, Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History. The NSF grant is one of 10 new awards in support of ecological research at regional to continental scales.

The few existing data suggest that as one travels from deserts to rainforests, terrestrial arthropod communities vary dramatically. By understanding the sources of this variation, Kaspari’s group hopes to better understand how arthropods regulate ecosystem services like decomposition and seed dispersal. The new dataset will build a baseline for predicting and monitoring changes in communities, including the spread of invasive species, over the next 30 years.

For more information about this project, contact Michael E. Kaspari at


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