Zachary Nolen

Mentor: Dr. Christine Miller
College of Agricultural and Life Sciences
 
"I decided to get involved with research primarily because of my interest the natural sciences. But in a broader sense because I believe research is extremely important to the advancement of society, technology, as well as the pursuit of knowledge for knowledge's sake. I hope with my involvement to gain the experience needed to build a career in scientific research, where I can help better our understanding of the natural world as well as to find applications for this understanding."

Major

Zoology

Minor

Anthropology, Wildlife Ecology and Conservation

Research Interests

  • Animal Behavior
  • Community Ecology
  • Evolution

Academic Awards

Organizations

  • UF Chapter of The Wildlife Society

Volunteer

  • Florida Fish and Wildlife Outreach
  • Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens Guide

Hobbies and Interests

  • Biking
  • Camping and Hiking
  • Birdwatching
  • Reading

Research Description

Variation in the intensity of male-male competition in relation to territory quality in the leaf-footed cactus bug, Narnia femorata

Sexual selection is commonly driven by two primary components, male-male competition and female mate choice. I am investigating if males in the leaf-footed cactus bug species, Narnia femorata, are inclined to compete more or less depending on the quality of the cactus territory on which they live. We know from previous work in the Miller Lab that female cactus bugs are more likely to mate on cactus with ripe fruit on it (Addesso, et al. 2013). I am interested to see if because of this, males will compete more intensely to take control of or defend a cactus with ripe fruit. In my research I observed male cactus bug pairs on cactus with and without fruit, recording their competitive behaviors. I then added a female to the pair and observed further competitive behaviors, as well as mating behaviors. I intend to compare the intensity with which males compete on these territories along with their mating success to determine if competition intensity varies with territory quality. This could have interesting implications as sexual selection is often studied in static environments, with research into possible ecological effects being relatively recent. For this species in particular, these results may point to variation in sexual selection through male-male competition mediated by the availability of cactus fruit.