National Bison Range

Grasshoppers, birds, and plants in Montana grasslands

Grasshoppers in the Western U.S. are thought to annually cause more than $150 million in damage to grazing lands; in response, grasshopper control measures have created serious environmental problems when insecticides damage biodiversity and ecosystem functioning. Grasshoppers also provide a model system for studying basic ecological processes.

We study what limits grasshopper populations and the role played by grasshoppers in prairie ecosystems. Our studies have integrated field experiments in animal behavior, population ecology, and ecosystem dynamics for more than three decades to understand how food and predators influence grasshoppers in combination with varying climate. In turn, we have examined how grasshoppers affect nutrient cycling and plant production, often benefiting the ecosystem contrary to popular belief.