Project Title: Water quality sensors offer insights into stream response to invasive Gypsy Moths
Mentors: Kelly Addy and Dr. Art Gold
Abstract: Based on three years of high-frequency sensor deployment, we had the opportunity to examine the impacts of a severe invasive Gypsy Moth (Lymantria dispar dispar) outbreak in 2016 on a pristine, forested headwater stream. We were able to isolate the stress caused by Gypsy Moths since this was a pristine stream in a minimally disturbed watershed. Our results indicated that there was a marked increase in stream temperature and decrease in dissolved oxygen (DO) that coincided with the Gypsy Moth caterpillar feeding period. Comparable fluctuations were absent in both 2014 and 2015. Using DO as a proxy of stream metabolism, we predicted that defoliation and frass deposition caused changes in the dynamics and composition of the in-stream community. In addition, DO encroached levels that are deemed to generate stress in sensitive stream biota. If we extrapolated our findings to degraded watersheds, the additional stress of Gypsy Moths may have lowered DO to even more critical levels—severely impacting the aquatic community. This study exhibits the usefulness of high frequency sensors in understanding the water quality and ecological impacts of watershed disturbance at levels of detail previously unattainable.