Skip Navigation

Michael E. Kaspari

Skip Side Navigation

Michael E. Kaspari

Presidential Professor of Biology
George Lynn Cross Research Professor

Ph.D., University of Arizona
M.S., University of Nebraska
B.S., University of Nebraska
405-325-3371 (Phone)
405-325-6202 (Fax)
SH 311

web page

curriculum vitae


My lab has built its reputation in Geographical Ecology: exploring how environmental templates of temperature, precipitation, and biogeochemistry predict gradients of abundance, diversity, and function of terrestrial invertebrates (with a particular specialty in ants). Our work is grounded in theory and fieldwork and combines continentally distributed snapshots studies with experiments in the field and lab. Our four current NSF funded projects capture the kind of work we do.

  • Our NEON Eager work has just finished resurveying most of the 49 New World ant communities we initially studied in the mid 90's. Our resamples also add data on activity and thermal traits of species in these communities. The resulting 20-year community trajectories in abundance, diversity, and composition will be used to test models from global change and community ecology.
  • Our DEB PopComm work tests the hypothesis that sodium shortfall targets the vigor of herbivores in grassland food webs. We explore how sodium sources act as a catalyst, improving herbivore fitness to the detriment of their plants and predators. We have just finished Year 1’s survey of 65 North American grasslands, quantifying abundance, biomass, and diversity of food webs. Year 2 and 3 will focus on large-scale field experiments.
  • Our new MacroSystems grant leverages the National Ecological Observatory Network’s 47 North American pitfall trap arrays. NEON currently uses traditional methods to identify one group from these traps--the carabid beetles--and storing the rest. We propose to unlock the potential of these samples. In Years 1 and 2 we develop eDNA and Imaging pipelines to transform trap samples into data on the seasonal and annual dynamics of insect orders: a significant fraction of the diversity of terrestrial life. In Years 3 and 4 we analyze two years of NEON samples toward testing 6 big hypotheses from Macro and Geographical Ecology.

Recent Publications

  • Kaspari, M. (2020) The seventh macronutrient: how sodium shortfall ramifies through populations, food webs, and ecosystems. Ecology Letters 23:1153-1168.
  • Welti, EAR, KA Roeder, KM de Beurs, A Joern, M Kaspari. (2020) Nutrient dilution and climate cycles underlie declines in a dominant insect herbivore. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science USA 117-7271-7275. See Pennisi, E. (2020). Carbon dioxide increase may promote ‘insect apocalypse’. Science 368: 459.
  • Kaspari, M., EAR Welti, and KM deBeurs (2020) The nutritional geography of ants: gradients of sodium and sugar limitation across North American grasslands. Journal of Animal Ecology 89:276-284.
  • Prather, RM, KA Roeder, NJ Sanders, M Kaspari (2018) Using metabolic and thermal ecology to predict temperature dependent ecosystem activity: a test with prairie ants. Ecology 99:2113-2121.