John Shukle is a research entomologist at Purdue University—he studies insects. John first started visiting Kankakee Sands in the summer of 2011, when he worked in the prairies sampling beneficial insects. John is especially interested in the sand blowout ecology present at Kankakee Sands, and spent the fall of 2012 mapping and studying sand blowouts across the preserve.
Many species of insects are highly specific to certain environmental conditions. At Kankakee Sands, whole communities of insects are intimately associated with exposed, drifting, sand blowouts. Blowouts occur where overlying vegetation dies back and winds are allowed to ‘blow out’ sand, resulting in a depression. Blowouts are highly dynamic environments that can appear, disappear, and even move across the prairie. Many of the largest blowouts at Kankakee Sands were never plowed for agriculture and represent remnant communities within the restored prairies. In order to protect sand blowouts, it is important to understand how landscape features, like wood lots, roads, and fence rows affect the ecology of these microhabitats. John will use GIS software, high-tech GPS equipment, and past and present aerial photography of Kankakee Sands to help answer questions about the sand blowout ecology of the site and to inform future management.
In addition, John was instrumental in the planning and execution of the highly successful BioBlitz at Kankakee Sands and surrounding oak savanna preserves this past summer.