Yanayacu Biological Station, Ecuador — Perched on the eastern slope of the Andes above the Amazon basin, the cloud forest of Ecuador hosts thousands of different caterpillar species, and an equally impressive diversity of plants. Caterpillars in Ecuador and elsewhere have a variety of strategies designed to break through plant defenses and protect against parasites and predators. Whether they grow stinging "hairs," develop immunity to specific plant toxins, or frantically wiggle their way to freedom, caterpillars must figure out how to keep the food coming without becoming food. At Yanayacu, you can help Dr. Lee Dyer study how the survival strategies of caterpillars, plants, and parasites are affected by a changing climate. Data from this site will be compared with data from sites in Costa Rica, Arizona, and New Orleans, painting an ecological picture that spans the hemisphere.
Meet the Scientists
Dr. Lee Dyer
University of Nevada, Reno
On this project, we spend most of our time collecting and rearing caterpillars. This means that we will spend a lot of time in the forest, hiking the trail system, searching off trail, and enjoying the views. The best part about working in our forests is, of course, that we are working in super diverse habitat and will see a lot more than caterpillars and plants. I look forward to seeing you down in the tropics.
Dr. Lee Dyer is an ecologist who has worked with a variety of organisms in the tropics and in temperate areas for approximately two decades. He received a B.S. in biochemistry and English from the University of California at Santa Barbara and a Ph.D. in ecology from the University of Colorado, Boulder where his thesis work examined interactions between plants, herbivores, and their natural enemies. Lee was a professor for five years at Mesa State College in Colorado where he established the Western Colorado Center for Tropical Research. He is now a professor in the Biology Department at the University of Nevada, Reno. Lee spends his free time hanging out with his son, rock climbing, listening to music, and reading books. He is in charge of all aspects of the project, and his specialties relevant to the project are statistical modeling, community ecology, caterpillar natural history, and basic natural products chemistry.