Master's Theses



Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Ground beetles (Carabidae) are increasingly used as ecological indicators in studies regarding land use because they are ubiquitous, respond quickly to environmental change, have a well-understood taxonomy, and can be trapped with ease. While the effects of various plant communities on ground beetle assemblages are relatively well-known, past studies have operated within boreal and tropical forests and have not placed much emphasis on the effects of native and nonnative species. In this study, ground beetles were investigated as indicators of invasion in a grassland setting. Ground beetles were sampled using pitfall traps throughout the 2018 growing season at Quivira National Wildlife Refuge, located in south central Kansas, and characterized by the presence of inland salt marsh and prairie sand dunes, habitat types uncommon to the area. With a sampling effort of 2 traps per array (1 sample) x 8 arrays x 3 treatments x 12 sampling periods, 580 individuals representing 39 species were observed. Capture rates of ground beetles more closely resembled two habitat types: encroaching and invasive habitats, with native habitats overlapping with both. Results from pitfall traps suggest that carabids and plants were probably responding to environmental disturbance and sandy soils rather than directly to each other. There was a clear dominance of carabid species adapted to habitat disturbance (including Chlaenius erythropus, Scarites subterraneus, and Pterostichus permundus). Many plant species that were significantly associated with ground beetle assemblages, including poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans), one-seed croton (Croton monanthogynus), and Panicum, were also adapted to disturbance. Moreover, ground beetles reacted negatively overall to areas with sandy soil. This suggests that ground beetles might not be the best indicator species for this region, because any effects of invasion were overshadowed by soil type or disturbance.


Dr. William Stark

Date of Award

Spring 2020

Document Type



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