Date of Award

Spring 2019

Document Type

Open Access Thesis

Degree Name




First Advisor

Joseph Staples, PhD

Second Advisor

Meg Hausman, PhD

Third Advisor

Rebecca Nisetich, PhD


soil composition, ants, ground nesting ants, Formicidae, Honors, Biology


Ants are keystone organisms and engineers in many ecosystems, playing an important role in nutrient cycling and rearrangement of organic and inorganic materials through foraging, waste management and, in subterranean species, nest construction and maintenance. In this study, I conducted elemental analysis of soils for calcium, copper, iron, potassium, manganese and zinc in and around the colonies of subterranean nesting ants. The two-step analysis used in this study utilizes the efficiency of X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) Spectrometry to look for overall trends in elemental composition followed by Flame Atomic Absorbance (AA) to achieve higher resolution of select elements of interest as justified in XRF results. No relationships were found between concentration of elements with depth nor distance. Additional observations made throughout this research revealed significant taxon-specific differences in elemental concentrations.