Portrait Photograph of Robert Bohanan

Robert Bohanan

Outreach Program Manager


Hometown: Madison, WI

Dr. Robert Bohanan, an ecologist with 30 years of experience in teaching, research, and outreach, most of which has included citizen science research and education. Robert’s research interests have included: sunfish and zooplankton, changes in stream macroinvertebrates, effects of flooding and drought on stream ecology, red wing blackbird territorial research, effects of damselflies on prey behavior, the evolution of case-building in midge larvae, effects of land use, land cover, and water quality on dragonflies. Though, his interests are many and varied, dragonfly ecology and behavior have been a constant theme.


What Can Dragonflies Tell Us About the Ecology of Our Neighborhoods

Dragonflies are a common feature of most landscapes throughout the world. They are typically associated with lakes, ponds, wetlands, streams and rivers. The larvae, or naiads, spend from one to nearly five years in a completely aquatic stage before emerging as a terrestrial flying adult. Naiads are often on the apex or top predators in ponds without fish, feeding on anything and everything that moves that they can catch and subdue. In bodies of water with fish (and sometimes significant frog and salamander populations) they are a critical part of the food system, again feeding on smaller organisms and serving as food for larger organisms. They are not especially sensitive to water quality being moderately tolerant of a range of conditions. However, they are sensitive to habitat changes, especially emergent vegetation and because many are visual predators, also are most effectively in relatively high water clarity. In this talk, we’ll discuss nearly 15 years of research done in collaboration with K-12 teachers and students, undergraduates and citizen science exploring what the ecology and behavior of dragonflies can tell us about the ecology of our neighborhoods. We will highlight ways you can set up your own studies, including some resources and strategies for identifying adult dragonflies and contributing to what we are collectively learning.