Environmental Studies major presents at Association of Southeastern Biologists conference

April 3, 2024

Author: Lynne McCarthy

Sage Lockett’s research was conducted at Rice Rivers Center

Sage Lockett standing in front of his poster presentation
Sage Lockett in front of his poster presentation at the Association of Southern Biologists conference.

Many people jump when they see a spider and a term, arachnophobia, was coined for those who have an intense fear of them. Wolf spiders, in particular, can inspire unease even for people who usually don’t mind eight-legged arachnids.

Sage Lockett takes a different look at the fear-inspiring creatures. An undergraduate in the Center for Environmental Studies, Lockett sees the wolf spider with an eye of curiosity. 

During the summer of 2023, Lockett was the recipient of a Rice Rivers Center Student Research Award, which allowed him access to the over 350-acre property where he could conduct his research. The naturally forested ecosystem provided ideal conditions to conduct a study on spiders in the Lycosidae family, which are known colloquially as wolf spiders or Lycosids. “My career aspiration is to contribute meaningfully to the advancement of ecological and natural history knowledge,” states Lockett.

Under the mentorship of Dan Albrecht-Mallinger, instructor in the Center for Environmental Studies, Lockett gathered data about the abundance and diversity of these spiders on two different surfaces on which the spider lives, known as substrates.  He gathered samples from lawn and leaf litter substrates, and repeatedly observed the spiders’ activity through July and August.  “My results are from engaging in field-based research, laboratory, and comprehensive data analysis,” said Lockett. The findings yielded a higher abundance of Lycosids on leaf litter and significant species associations across both substrates. He believes further research is needed to understand how and why these understudied arthropod predators select their hunting habitats.

Lockett’s poster highlighting his research was selected to be part of the Association of Southeastern Biologists 2024 conference held in Chattanooga, Tennessee, where Lockett presented his findings in March. This April, his poster and presentation will be a part of the VCU Undergraduate Research & Creativity Symposium during VCU Research Weeks.

 Lockett graduates with his Bachelor’s of Science in Environmental Studies this May. He plans to pursue field technician positions in the Richmond area and attend graduate school in Fall of 2025.

Sage is also a skilled illustrator. Two of his illustrations are below.

Illustration of three spiders: Gladicosa, pair of black dorsal markings, unique median strip, light colored face, 15.3 - 16.5mm; Gulosa and Pulchra, similar with unique ventral opisthosoma     Illustration of three spiders: Tigrosa, somewhat similar leg width, median strip narrows between eyes, helluo simliar to annexa with unique ventral opisthoma and black sternum, 18-21mm; annexa, tan median strip with paired dashes, 10-18mm dark heartmark (may have paired light dots; georgicola, yellow median strip, dark heartmark