UNK Graduate Student Receives Grant

Dr. W. Wyatt Hoback
UNK Department of Biology, 308.865.8602

University of Nebraska at Kearney masters student Mathew Brust has received a grant for $350 from the Center for Great Plains Studies. Brust, who is originally from Wisconsin, is pursing a masters degree in biology and his specialty is entomology.

“I will be using the grant to get a better picture of the conservation status of a rare, short-grass prairie specialist tiger beetle,” said Brust. “Overall, this species is very poorly known. One expert in the field suggests that the species could in fact be a complex of two or three species. The study will occur in the northwest corner of Nebraska and will be conducted in May, as the adults of this species are primarily active in spring. In a way, I wish there was more known about this species as it would make my research easier, but the fact is there have probably only been about 400-500 specimens collected to date in total.”

Brust has spent about 16 years studying tiger beetles in Wisconsin and has spent a few years as a field biologist for the Wisconsin Endangered Resources Department. He has also acquired expertise on butterflies in the Midwest and has done work with such species as the Swamp Metalmark, the Northern Blue, and the Regal Fritillary.

“One thing I’m already impressed with about Nebraska is the diversity of tiger beetles here, and I’ve noted a high diversity among butterflies as well,” said Brust. “This is likely because the state lies not only in a moisture gradient transition zone on an east-west line, but also on a climatological transition zone from north to south. There are also good numbers of the Regal Fritillary in Nebraska, which will likely give me management insights that can be applied to eastern populations of this butterfly, most of which are vanishing rapidly. From my studies on this species so far I have noted that the biggest threat to this species is simply land development, and in particular, the rapid proliferation of row-crop agriculture. Yes, I know people have to eat, but if we devote every useable acre to crops, we are likely destined to lose much of our biodiversity.”