Using toad diets to understand arthropod declines

Toads (Bufonidae) are voracious and almost indiscriminate consumers of insects and other arthropods. Recent high-profile studies have revealed extraordinary and alarming declines in the diversity and total biomass of arthropods. Can we detect signatures of these declines in the guts of toads by studying changes in prey items through time? There is an urgent need to understand how widespread these declines are and if multiple trophic levels are affected. We are using historic data collected by Penn State researchers, alongside specimens preserved in natural history collections and newly collected specimens to find out.

University Park
Description of Responsibilities: 

Students will assist in dissecting and flushing guts from preserved anurans, sorting gut contents, imaging contents, and identifying insects and related organisms. There may also be field work to collect fresh material from sites in Pennsylvania.

Number of Opportunities: 
Minimum Qualifications: 

Interested students should have taken at least one of the following courses or their equivalents: BIOL 220, BIOL 240, and/or ENT 313.

Posting Date: 
Tuesday, January 29, 2019
Position Type: 
Academic Credit
Opportunity Timeframe: 
Academic Year
Other Requirements: 

Curiosity and excitement to learn new taxonomic groups. Experience with spreadhseets, microscopes and imaging software.

Application Procedure: 

Interested students should submit their application to Dr. Andrew R. Deans ( or Dr. Julian Avery (

Requested Materials: 

Applications should include:

  1. a brief letter describing career goals
  2. list of relevant coursework
  3. one-page resume, including references