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In contrast to many other young biologists, who are drawn to genetic studies and lab work, Belcher was especially interested in the study of her subjects in the field.
That made her an ideal candidate for a project department head May Berenbaum had been hoping to have someone take on, which was to replicate a study of ants in and around homes in Urbana done by a U of I PhD student in the 1920s.
Belcher’s article describing that project is published in the Fall 2016 issue of American Entomologist, under the title “Urbana House Ants 2.0: Revisiting M.R. Smith’s 1926 Survey of House-Infesting Ants in Central Illinois After 87 Years.”
Like Smith before her, Belcher relied on the cooperation of residents in the study area. First, she asked them to become “citizen scientists” and collect any ants found within their homes. This was done by capturing the ants on sticky tape and recording some basic information about them: where they were found, how many there were, if and what they were eating and what, if any, measures were used to control them.
In addition, Belcher sought permission from residents for herself and an assistant to walk around their yards once and collect any active ants they found to help determine the total diversity of ants in Urbana. Beyond that, Belcher sampled ants from three nearby fragments of forest, to allow for some comparisons between them and the urban setting.