Class of 2014
Sleepy Hollow High School
Mentors: MRG Staff, Bruce Synder (Kansas State University)
Project: Boraria stricta — an exotic millipede in the Mianus River Gorge Preserve
Project Status: Completed
Project Description: Boraria stricta (yellow-spotted millipede), a millipede species native to southern Appalachia, was first observed in the Mianus River Gorge Preserve, in Bedford, NY, in the year 2000. The B. stricta population in the Preserve has grown rapidly since then, suggesting that it may be invasive. This project aimed to determine life history characteristics and possible effects of B. stricta. We first developed a protocol to keep millipedes alive in captivity. Millipedes were then monitored in plastic containers with various potential foods (dry, fresh leaves; humic soil; woody debris; degraded wood mulch; and roots and fungal hyphae) for several weeks and their survival rates were recorded. Additionally, several locations around the Preserve were sampled to determine whether millipede were associated with certain forest types and/or microclimate variables. In captivity, millipedes were highly sensitive to drops in moisture levels and required relative humidity >70%. They lived for the longest in the leaf litter treatments, suggesting that the species primarily consumes intact leaves. In the field no relationship between forest type or microclimate variables was found; however, there was some indication of an association with high ground humidity. This would also corroborate our observations in captivity. Yellow-spotted millipedes could have a direct effect on the ecosystem by accelerating the breakdown of fresh leaves and releasing nutrients into the soil. In the future, more field sampling performed earlier in the season could improve efforts to characterize the microclimate or soil conditions selected by this millipede.
Recognition: Teatown Young Conservationalist Award – 2013; Mianus River Gorge Ecology Award – 2013 & 2014