Biodiversity, blow flies, drought featured in Great Plains Research

Released on 05/15/2008, at 2:00 AM
Office of University Communications
University of Nebraska–Lincoln
Lincoln, Neb., May 15th, 2008 —

Was the first biodiversity inventory completed by the Stephen Long Expedition of 1819-1820 at winter quarters on the Missouri River?

Two University of Nebraska-Lincoln faculty members say that is the case and present their theory in the spring issue of Great Plains Research, a publication of the Center for Great Plains Studies at UNL.

Hugh H. Genoways and Brett C. Ratcliffe, professors in the Systematic Research Collections at the University of Nebraska State Museum, suggest this accomplishment should rank among the most significant of the expedition, but has been overlooked by both biologists and historians. In "Engineer Cantonment, Missouri Territory, 1819-1820: America's First Biodiversity Inventory," the authors compare this early inventory with modern ones and found nine species have been lost through habitat destruction. Included with the article are six appendices on plants, snails, insects, amphibians and reptiles, birds and mammals, which feature scientific names, common names and remarks on each species.

Blow flies is the topic of an article by Timothy E. Huntington, David O. Carter and Leon G. Higley from the UNL Department of Entomology. They suggested the potential exists for multigenerational colonization of a single carrion source by blow flies in the Great Plains and tested this possibility in replicated experiments. Previous studies associated with the decomposition of carrion form the foundation upon which forensic entomology is based. What the authors noticed is that these studies have ignored the fact that the same species of blow flies that colonize shortly after death continue to be attracted to the carrion long into the process of decomposition.

Patti R. Dappen, Ian C. Ratcliffe, Cullen R. Robbins and James W. Merchant, colleagues at the UNL Center for Advanced Land Management Information Technologies, wrote about digital land-cover and land-use datasets in "Mapping Agricultural Land Cover for Hydrologic Modeling in the Platte River Watershed of Nebraska." The Platte River Cooperative Hydrology Study is a federal-state, multi-agency collaborative effort that seeks to improve understanding of the ecology, geology and hydrology of the Platte River basin in Nebraska. Mapping using satellite images is an important component that will be used to provide a basis for developing policy and procedures related to groundwater and surface-water management.

University of Winnipeg geographers John C. Lehr and Brian McGregor used the formation of rural school districts in 35 southeastern Manitoba townships to map frontier settlement. Population density data are only available at 5-year intervals, and land alienation data do not always reflect settlement, while the formation of school districts is an easily employed indicator of the limits of frontier settlement.

Brandeis University sociologist Karen V. Hansen and University of Massachusetts-Lowell sociologist Mignon Duffy analyzed the ethnicity of landowners on the Spirit Lake Dakota Reservation using 1910 plat maps in their article, "Mapping the Dispossession: Scandinavian Homesteading at Fort Totten, 1900-1930." When the reservation was opened to white homesteading in 1904, the turnover from Dakota to Euro-American hands was rapid. Scandinavians, the largest foreign-born group in the state, took advantage of this opportunity, acquiring 25 percent of the land within six years.

North Dakota State University colleagues Nancy M. Hodur, F. Larry Leistritz and Kara L. Wolfe identified opportunities and challenges facing tourism businesses in "Developing the Nature-Based Tourism Sector in Southwestern North Dakota." The authors used surveys and interviews to provide insight into the basic characteristics of the tourism businesses.

Donna L. Woudenberg, Donald A. Wilhite, and Michael J. Hayes, all faculty members in the National Drought Mitigation Center at UNL, studied drought hazard and its sociological impacts in south-central Nebraska. They found crop and livestock producers not only very aware of the drought hazard but also increasing their adoption of drought mitigation practices over the past 40 years.

UNL School of Natural Resources scientists Courtney Quinn and Mark E. Burbach studied personal characteristics preceding pro-environmental behaviors that improve surface water quality. Quinn and Burbach wrote, "The decisions made by individual farmers to adopt conservation practices that improve surface water quality will be of increasing importance in the 21st century."

Great Plains Research is edited by Robert F. Diffendal Jr. and published by the Center for Great Plains Studies. The journal is available online at or can be purchased in the gift shop at the Great Plains Art Museum, 1155 Q St.

News Release Contacts: