My REU Experience in China


Iwo P. Gross

Eastern Illinois University

Charleston, IL









Eastern Illinois University

Alabama A&M University


How it all Began                                                                                     


My first aspirations of coming to do research in China began in late November of 2011. I received an email from a former colleague whose friend was looking for undergraduate assistants to aid him in his PhD research in China. I could hardly believe my luck; I thanked my buddy for recommending me, then quickly cc’ed him in an email I composed to the PhD student I would quickly come to know as Kevin Messenger. The next few months were tumultuous as Kevin and I exchanged longer and longer email threads, concerning the status of his grant and other delicate logistics. In that time I began research on China’s herpetofauna, I found a Mandarin Chinese tutor, and anxiously waited for a call or email guaranteeing my ticket. Finally, Dr. Elica Moss ended my torment with a phone call, and I could not help dancing around the lab as she confirmed my assigned research project.




My project in a Nutshell


Hainan Island is an island directly south of Mainland China. With the ever-expanding tourism market, Hainan’s enormous biodiversity could be at risk to increasing trends in human disturbance. In our study, we examined the effects anthropogenic and elevational gradients may have on herpetofaunal community composition, richness, and diversity.  After surveying several sites using basic opportunistic encounter methods, we determined percent community similarity between sites, as well as species richness and diversity using Simpson’s diversity index.  These three calculations are commonly used when judging the overall condition of an area’s floral and faunal communities. Species richness is simply the total number of species found within a certain site. Species diversity, specifically Simpson’s Index of Diversity, is only one measure of diversity that factors in both species richness and evenness (similarity of population sizes of each species in a given community).

We discovered that at our field sites, neither disturbance nor elevation had significant effects on species richness, diversity, or community similarity. High amphibian abundance at higher elevations skewed our results from the more commonly observed pattern best explained by the intermediate disturbance hypothesis. Previous studies have shown that moderate levels of disturbance may increase relative biodiversity in an area.  This hypothesis has also been found to explain shifts in biodiversity along elevational gradients as well.  In our study, we have found that it is important to include other factors when determining levels of biodiversity in an area, since elevation and disturbance are not the only variables at play. I would urge land managers and the Chinese government to enforce more stringent conservational laws on both pristine and slightly disturbed areas that may encroach more on the virgin habitat still present on Hainan Island.








































Research Experience


Personal Experience


My Mentors


Procedure and Data Analysis




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Personal Interests