Michael Benard, PhD

George B. Mayer Assistant Professor in Urban and Environmental Studies
Department of Biology
College of Arts and Sciences

Dr. Michael Benard, The George B. Mayer Assistant Professor in Urban and Environmental Studies, has been conducting research at that farm since 2009. Benard and his students investigate how amphibians respond to natural and human-caused environment change. Amphibians are an important group to study because they are undergoing severe worldwide declines. The University Farm is an ideal site for much of Dr. Benard's research. In a protected area at the farm, Dr. Benard and his colleagues have set up 100 artificial ponds, each holding up to 1,100 liters of water.

These artificial ponds allow Dr. Benard and his students to experimentally manipulate specific environmental conditions while holding others constant. Recent projects by graduate students include Katherine Krynak's study investigating the effect of wetland acidification on frog immune defense, and Kacey Dananay's study examining the effects of road salt pollution across multiple amphibian life stages.

The natural areas of the farm are excellent areas for observational studies of how amphibians use the environment. For example, undergraduate Jeremy Rayl conducted his SAGES Capstone project investigating how salamander populations change over time, and graduate student Hilary Rollins is investigating how wood frogs select among low- and high-quality environments.

The laboratory facilities at the farm provide an important place for Dr. Benard and his colleagues to sort, measure, and preserve samples taken from the artificial ponds. In addition, the wooded areas and vernal pond at the University Farm are home to a large population of wood frogs. By documenting the number of frogs living on the farm, and comparing it to similar population-size estimates from other sites in Ohio, Dr. Benard is able to test the predictions generated by his artificial pond and modeling studies.

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