Most people cringe when they hear “fire ant,” but University of Central Florida biologist Joshua King is likely to ask where – and head straight to them.
King, an entomologist or insect expert, studies the invasive ant species and has found some startling results. While Floridians may spend thousands of dollars trying to eradicate them, the more the residents plant and change the landscape, the more the ants tend to thrive.
“There’s growing evidence that land-use change is one reason, if not the major reason for exotics,” King says in a short video featured on the National Science Foundation’s website this week. Click here to see video .
In the Science Nation video, King and his coresearcher Walter Tschinkel at Florida State University talk about what we may be able to learn from these very complex social insects.
Science Nation is the foundation’s online magazine which debuts new scientific discoveries or news weekly. The NSF partially funds King’s work.
King is an assistant professor at UCF. His research focuses on understanding the fundamental mechanisms that drive species invasions associated with land-use changes. He’s been studying Florida’s native and non-native populations for the past 11 years and has found that contrary to popular belief, fire ants did not force native ants out of their natural habitats. Fire ants actually thrive because they move into areas where native species can’t survive – typically areas of massive soil disturbance, such as road-widening projects or mall construction.
The goal of King’s work is to improve the understanding of the consequences of land-use change and how events such as species invasions can be prevented or their impacts can be diminished.
King joined UCF in 2008. He has multiple degrees including a Ph.D. in entomology from the University of Florida and a master’s degree in education from Tufts University.