Project Overview

Why is hippo dung important to river invertebrates?

Faculty Sponsor

Therese Frauendorf (




Hippos play an important role in rivers, but their populations are declining across the African continent. We are keen to understand how changes in hippo numbers affect river organisms and food webs. One of the important ways that hippos can influence river organisms is through the release of their dung which contains a lot of nutrients and potential for safely housing invertebrates. We are interested in how hippo dung affects the invertebrates that inhabit the Mara River in Kenya. In particular, this project will look at how important hippo dung is as a food source compared to as a shelter. We will also address if the importance of hippo dung is altered with a disturbance (pollution, flooding etc.) to the river. Data collection will mostly include picking out aquatic invertebrates from samples, counting and identifying them, and measuring community metrics like abundance, biomass and diversity.

Student Qualifications

At least one ecology course (at any level, ex. Biol 181), basic Excel knowledge, attention to detail and patience

Number of Student Researchers

3 students

Project Length

8 weeks

Applications open on 10/03/2023 and close on 02/28/2024

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If you have questions, please contact Karyn Belanger (