Annie spent last summer up north at the UM Biological Station (UMBS), where she got to grips with collecting ants and the delicate task of pinning ants— a critical step in studying these small yet significant organisms. Annie’s project examined how ant communities and their interactions vary along a forest chronosequence - forests of differing ages - in the “Burn Plots” at UMBS. In total, she collected and identified 1100 ants from 28 species over two summers, including the one in the photo - a lovely example of the species Formica fusca. Many of the ants she collected are ants that you’d find in forests around Ann Arbor, like Aphaenogaster fulva and Camponotus pennsylvanicus. But Annie also collected species such as Temnothorax curvispinosus and T. longispinosus, both of which nest in acorns. Annie is currently analyzing data and preparing her thesis. She intends to submit the manuscript for publication later this summer (at least Dr. Sanders says that’s the plan). 

"Throughout my undergraduate career, I have been eager to use all of the resources and ensure I gain as much from my experience at UofM as possible,” said Cress. “Taking classes, doing research, teaching at UMBS, being a docent at the UMMNH, as well as being taught by professors who are leaders in their field, has emphasized the knowledge gaps in our understanding of the environment.”

Formica fusca

She credits her progress to the support from mentors like Nate Sanders and Marjorie Weber, assistant professor of ecology and evolutionary biology. They've helped her grow more confident in her abilities and encouraged her research goals.

“Engaging in research over the past four years has instilled confidence in myself and my abilities as a scientist, and I feel ready to make an impact and engage in doing novel science," she said.

Now, looking towards the future, Cress will be attending the University of Texas at Austin, aiming to dive deeper into her studies of invertebrates and their complex interactions under the stressors of global change as a Ph.D. student. Her dedication promises to shed even more light on the intricate world of ants, and the University of Michigan is proud to have such a passionate and capable student leading the charge in ecological research.