Joan Mosenthal DeWind Award

Lepidoptera Research and Conservation Awards

Joan Mosenthal DeWind was a pioneering member of the Xerces Society. A psychiatric social worker by profession, she was also an avid butterfly gardener and an accomplished amateur lepidopterist. Her contributions of time, organizational expertise, and financial support were essential to the growth and success of the Xerces Society over the past 30 years. Joan also had a keen interest in young people, supporting what became the Young Entomologists’ Society. In Joan’s memory, Bill DeWind established this student research endowment fund. The Xerces Society administers two $3,750 awards each year for research into Lepidoptera conservation. We are now accepting proposals for the 2015 awards. Please see the application instructions for submitting a proposal.

2014 award recipients

Habitat enrichment for butterflies in tropical forest and urban landscapes
Anuj Jain – National University of Singapore, Department of Biological Sciences

Deforestation and habitat degradation are primary conservation concerns, reducing and fragmenting critical habitats and resources for tropical insects. As a result, many threatened insects cannot maintain their own populations and need intervention in the form of habitat enrichment. Experimental studies that manipulate key insect resources and quantify insects’ response are lacking, despite these studies’ great conservation potential. Using Singapore as a model system, our research will quantify the effect of a habitat enrichment strategy by using larval host plants and nectar plants for four butterfly species (two locally threatened) with different habitat requirements, studied across mature forest, degraded forest, and urban landscapes.

Do corridors increase gene flow in butterflies?
Yu-Hsuan Liu – North Carolina State University, Department of Biological Sciences

Many butterflies are threatened by habitat fragmentation, which causes loss of genetic diversity in their populations, deteriorating long-term survival, and diminishing restoration success. Corridors, which reconnect fragmented landscapes through strips of habitats, are a promising conservation strategy to reverse these adverse effects. However, there is not enough support for the theory that corridors promote sufficient gene flow to assist in butterfly population persistence. I propose to use two well-studied species, the buckeye (Junonia coenia) and variegated fritillary (Euptoieta claudia), in the world’s largest corridor experiment at Savannah River Site as a case study to test whether corridors will be an effective long-term conservation strategy for butterflies.

2013 award recipients

Consequences of selective-herbidice use on butterfly populations: evaluating the magnitude and persistence of negative herbicidal effects on the demography of a lycaenid (Glaucopsyche lygdamus columbia).
Rachel Glaeser – Washington State University, Vancouver

Selective herbicides are a cost-effective tool for controlling invasive perennial grasses and improving habitat for plants and animals. However, these chemicals can potentially alter butterfly demographic vital rates and negatively impact populations. The field component of this study will examine the effects of a grass-specific herbicide on the oviposition and larval survivorship of the Columbia silvery blue (Glaucopsyche lygdamus columbia). A complementary laboratory investigation will evaluate mechanisms for how herbicides might deter butterfly oviposition. The study will characterize negative effects in order to improve spraying regimes and will additionally evaluate the use of a potential surrogate for at-risk butterfly species.

Conservation genomics of the checkerspot butterfly, Euphydryas editha: finding genes responsible for dispersal propensity.
John Schroeder – Stanford University

Many threatened butterfly species face rampant habitat destruction that interrupts metapopulation dynamics of colonization and extinction. These disruptions result from the isolation of a shrinking number of available habitat patches. Thus, reintroduction is necessary to replace the natural process of recolonization following local extinction. Refining reintroduction techniques is therefore important for butterfly conservation. This project seeks to develop genetic techniques to select optimal subsets of source populations for reintroduction.  Specifically, it will determine the genes responsible for dispersal propensity, which can then be used to select a subset of the source population prone to remain in optimal habitat patches.

2012 award recipients

Lessons for conservation of montane butterfly metapopulations in fragmented habitats in the 21st century: The important role of local patch dynamics on metapopulation stability in response to climate change in the American Southwest.
Rachael Ryan – New Mexico State University

Montane butterflies occupying fragmented habitats have been identified as particularly vulnerable to the effect of climate change predicted over the 21st Century. The response to environmental stochastic events is controlled in part by the underlying population dynamics. For classic Levin-style metapopulations, with low dispersal rates, within-patch processes primarily direct population dynamics. The current study seeks to use genetic data from Euphydryas anicia cloudcrofti to understand within patch dynamics influencing the stability of the metapopulation, and use this data to model population viability in response to environmental stochastic events predicted for climate change in the Southwest over a 100-year time scale.

Land Use Abandonment in Eastern Mediterranean – effects on butterfly and moth communities
Jana Šlancarová – University of South Bohemia, Biology Center AS CR v. v. i., Institute of Entomology

The Southern Balkans belong to the Mediterranean global biodiversity hot-spot. As elsewhere in Europe, its biodiversity is threatened by land use intensification and abandonment. Negative consequences for Lepidoptera, well described from Iberian Peninsula, remain practically unknown for the Balkans. We will combine timed surveys (butterflies) and light trapping (moths) to detect abandonment effects on formerly grazed lands in Bulgaria, Macedonia and Greece. Proposed study regions cover the diverse natural and socioeconomic conditions of the Southern Balkans. Diverse data analysis approaches (community indices, ordination, life history traits) should provide a comprehensive picture of how land abandonment affects Lepidoptera in eastern Mediterranean.

2011 award recipients

The effects of anthropogenic landscape fragmentation on genetic connectivity of Rocky Mountain dotted blue (Euphilotes ancilla) metapopulations.
Elizabeth Paulson – University of Colorado at Boulder

Rapid rates of landscape fragmentation and associated habitat loss across the globe pose a serious threat to biodiversity and the persistence of environmentally sensitive species. Understanding the impacts of land-use conversion and increased habitat isolation on ecological processes such as dispersal and gene flow will allow for effective conservation planning and land-use management practices. This research will delimit the functional connectivity of metapopulations in an anthropogenically fragmented landscape through coalescence-based genetic analyses, in combination with geographic information system (GIS) modeling, using isolation by resistance and circuit theory to model butterfly movement between habitat patches.

Mechanistic Modeling of Monarch Range in Relation to Global Climate Change
Kelly Nail – University of Minnesota

Eastern North American monarch butterflies may serve as a particularly effective indicator species for climate change, in part due to their long migration that necessitates multiple habitats. Monarch butterflies have also previously shifted their migration patterns, which may allow them to better adapt to future climate change. This shift may already be occurring in Texas, where some monarch butterflies are thought to be overwintering instead of Mexico. I propose to study the degree of overwintering in Texas, the cold limits of monarch butterflies, and use this information to inform a mechanistic model of monarch range under future climate scenarios.

2010 award recipients

Landscape Genetics of butterflies:Exploring the effects of habitat fragmentation on levels of genetic diversity and fitness.
Lindsay Crawford – University of Western Ontario

Effective, long-term management of threatened species experiencing habitat fragmentation requires an understanding of the genetic consequences of such habitat change on populations. This study will investigate the population genetic structure of the bog copper butterfly Lycaena epixanthe in a naturally patchy habitat network and relate the observed spatial patterns of genetic diversity to (1) the surrounding landscape configuration and composition, and (2) components of individual fitness. Using this system as a model, the results from this study will contribute to efforts to predict future population trends and preserve evolutionary potential for threatened butterflies experiencing habitat loss.

Climate change effects on trophic interactions in montane meadows systems
Jill A. Sherwood – Iowa State University

This study will provide an initial examination of climatic trends in an effort to understand how interactions between Parnassius clodius butterflies and their host plant Dicentra uniflora may be affected by climatic changes. The results will provide insight into the phenological interactions of P. clodius and D. uniflora and be used as a proxy for understanding climate change impacts in many systems.

2009 award recipients

Impacts of Wolbachia Infection on Conservation Strategies for the Karner Blue Butterfly (Lycaeides Melissa samuelis)
Zach Gompert, Graduate Student – Department of Botany, University of Wyoming

Some populations of the federally endangered Karner blue butterfly are infected with a cytoplasmic incompatibility inducing strain of the endoparasitic bacterium Wolbachia. This infection may negatively impact the demographics of Karner blue populations. This research will use molecular methods to assess the Wolbachia infection status (presence or absence and strain of Wolbachia) of Karner blue butterflies from 16 populations covering their extant range. Additionally, computational models will be developed to predict the demographic effect(s) of the spread of Wolbachia to uninfected populations. Findings will inform Karner blue butterfly conservation strategies, particularly regarding the utility of translocations and reintroductions.

Filling in the Gaps: Characterizing Habitat Requirements of an Imperiled Butterfly
Erica Henry, Graduate Student – Science Program, Washington State University Vancouver

Lack of basic biological information about at-risk butterfly species is a key limiting factor in butterfly conservation. This study will fill information gaps for the Mardon skipper (Polites mardon) populations in South Puget Sound. Larval food plants will be identified and Mardon skipper habitat characteristics described with respect to oviposition site selection and general use areas. How the invasive tall oatgrass (Arrhenatherum elatius) impacts Mardon skipper behavior and oviposition will also be examined. Understanding these aspects of the Mardon skipper’s life history is vital in developing effective conservation strategies.

2008 award recipients

Linking Local Behavior and Range-Wide Movement to Conserve a Rare Butterfly in an Urbanized Landscape
Allison K. Leidner, PhD candidate – Department of Zoology, North Carolina State University

Habitat loss and fragmentation by urban development pose severe threats to species viability. This research focuses on a newly identified Atrytonopsis species which uses heavily fragmented sand dune habitat along a 30-mile stretch of North Carolina’s barrier islands. Combining local behavioral studies with range-wide analyses of population structure this study will determine the effects of habitat fragmentation and urbanization on the movement of Atrytonopsis. Ultimately, this information can identify features in the landscape that promote movement, and be used to generate conservation strategies that will help maintain the long-term persistence of Atrytonopsis.

Climate Change as a Threat to Geometrid Moths Along an Altitudinal Gradient In the North Eastern Andes of Ecuador
Genoveva R. Casta̱eda, PhD candidate РDepartment of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Tulane University

Climate change is predicted to change species’ distributions, potentially decoupling interactions among species, with related consequences for entire communities. Ecological models and empirical data predict that these impacts will be more severe for montane species, as these species have upper limits to potential range expansion in response to warmer temperatures. This study will experimentally extend the altitudinal range of ants, the dominant predators of Eios geometrid caterpillars in the Andean mountains of Ecuador, in order to investigate the impacts that increases in global temperatures will have on ant-plant mutualisms and distributions of Lepidoptera.

Rising Treeline and Shifting Host-Plan Dynamics: Implications for a Monophagous Alpine Butterfly
Kurt Illerbrun, Graduate Student – Department of Biological Sciences, University of Alberta

Climate mediated treeline rise reduces the size and contiguity of alpine meadows worldwide, altering the ecology of alpine flora and fauna. On Jumpingpound Ridge in Alberta, Canada, treeline may be a major determinant of distribution and abundance for Sedum lanceolatum, host plant of the Apollo butterfly Parnassius smintheus, whose larvae are monophagous. This research will examine the effects of advancing treeline and herbivory on Sedum distribution and dynamics, and relate these effects to the observed responses in movement and herbivory pattern of Parnassius larvae. Knowledge of fine-scale resource usage by larvae will aid in understanding and predicting butterfly responses to habitat change in similar environments, with direct relevance to endangered lepidoptera.

 

2007 award recipients

Indirect Effects of an invasive gall wasp on a native butterfly, a possible mechanism for population declines in a threatened butterfly species
Kirsten M. Prior, PhD Graduate Student – Department of Biological Sciences, University of Notre Dame

Garry oak ecosystems are hotspots of butterfly and plant diversity in North America. They are under immediate threat, especially at the edge of their range, due to habitat loss and degradation as a direct result of changes in land-use. Population extinctions and declines of a native threatened butterfly species have been observed in locales that are surrounded by an urban matrix, which have outbreaks of a high-impact oak-galling invader. The importance of indirect interactions between these two species mediated by changes in resource quality will be examined to uncover a possible mechanism for population extinctions of this butterfly. As more locales in this region face the threat of urban encroachment, understanding the causes of population extinctions and declines of species in these changing ecosystems becomes increasingly important.

Responses of Butterfly Abundance and Species Richness to Mechanical Treatments of A Sagebrush Ecosystem in the Upper Gunnison Basin of Colorado
Tyler L. Hicks, Undergraduate Student – Department of Natural and Environmental Sciences, Western State College of Colorado

Native sagebrush-steppe ecosystems in North America are rapidly declining due to degradation, fragmentation, and destruction. The lack of natural disturbance and overgrazing has reduced the productivity of these shrublands. Mechanical treatments of sagebrush are being undertaken to increase its productivity. However, the affects of these treatments on sagebrush invertebrate communities is poorly understood. By utilizing butterflies we can monitor how an important component of all ecosystems, invertebrates, responds to these treatments. Here we will determine the effects of two types of mechanical treatment, Dixie harrow and brush mowing, on butterfly abundance and species richness within the sagebrush-steppe ecosystems of the Upper Gunnison Basin.

2006 award recipients

Biodiversity, systematics, and evolution of Schrankia, a cave and rainforest dwelling Hawaiian moth (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae)
Matthew J. Medeiros, Graduate Student – Department of Integrative Biology, University of California

Hawaiian Lepidoptera have value as indicator species, as food for endangered birds, and as pollinators. However, many groups are poorly studied. One such group, Schrankia, is interesting because it occurs in two threatened Hawaiian ecosystems: rainforests and caves. Its ecological role and natural history are almost entirely unknown. This study has two main goals: 1) Document the diversity of Schrankia and begin work on a functional key and phylogeny for this group; and 2) explain the distribution and evolution of flightless cave populations of Schrankia, predicting levels of diversity for the Hawaiian cave fauna in general.

Studying the effects of invasive Argentine ants on Lycaenid butterflies
Jessica Shors, PhD Graduate Student, Stanford University

Many North American ants protect North American lycaenid butterfly larvae from parasitism, a mutualism carefully mediated by co-evolution. However, Argentine ants are displacing native ant populations. Because of the geographic isolation between Argentina and North America, it is assumed that Argentine ants cannot protect North American lycaenids. Therefore, Argentine ants have been implicated in the decline of many lycaenid populations, a dire situation because many lycaenid butterfly species are threatened and/or endangered. This study will test this implication with a factorial design, comparing lycaenid larval survivability for ant-exclusion and ant-inclusion treatments in habitat with native ants and habitat with Argentine ants.

Does timing and frequency of mowing affect butterfly assemblages in post-agricultural fields?
Jessica Stager, Graduate Student, Antioch New England Graduate School

Grassland butterflies are declining across the Northeast, and small post-agricultural fields may provide important refuges. These fields may also act as population sinks, however, if field-cutting interferes with key life history periods. This thesis aims to determine whether mowing regimes significantly influence butterfly species richness, abundance, and/or community composition in the post-agricultural fields of the Champlain Basin of Vermont. A non-technical report describing the results and recommendations of the study will be produced and distributed to regional landowners.

2005 award recipients

Using behavior to link restoration to population dynamics for an endangered butterfly
Leslie Rossmell, Washington State University – Vancouver

This study examines effectiveness of a habitat restoration technique which creates nectar-source buffers adjacent to endangered Fender’s blue butterfly habitat. Understanding dispersal behavior is a critical component in designing reserves that serve as sources to bolster the population. Leslie will compare dispersal behavior in buffer areas with and without nectar sources to predict effects on population dynamics. Results of this study will enable better conservation by influencing decisions about reserve design. This behavioral approach links on-the-ground restoration action to population dynamics, a linkage rarely made in scientific literature and one with potential to greatly aid restoration strategies for endangered invertebrates.

Investigating the use of herbicides to control invasive weeds: effects on at-risk butterflies
Cheryl Russell, Washington State University – Vancouver

Northwest prairies support several at-risk butterfly species. These prairies are severely impacted by invasive perennial grasses and few management techniques hold promise in reducing these weeds. Cheryl will investigate the effects of herbicide exposure on at-risk butterflies by using the Puget blue butterfly as a model species. Larvae will be subjected to herbicide exposure followed by assessment of lethal and sublethal effects to make recommendations to land managers on the use of herbicide in these sensitive habitats.

2004 award recipients

Systematics and status of threatened Hawaiian leaf-roller moths in the genus Omiodes (Gueneé) (Lepidoptera: Crambidae)
William Haines, University of Hawai’i at Manoa

The genus Omiodes contains some of the most remarkable and anomalous of Hawaiian insects. Unfortunately, due to the impacts of non-native parasitoids and habitat alteration, over half of the Hawaiian species are thought to be extinct. In this project Mr. Haines will survey for populations of threatened Omiodes species, map these populations, and assess their status by scoring sites based on presence or absence and parasitism rates. He will also construct a phylogeny of the group, assessing the validity of currently described species.

Microlepidoptera of hill prairies
Terry Harrison, Department of Entomology, University of Illinois

Microlepidoptera are of substantial biological importance in prairie communities. Larvae of almost all microlepidoptera are a food source for a diverse and often specialized array of pathogens, parasitoids, and predators. In this project, microlepidoptera will be collected at eight different hill prairie sites in Illinois. Mr. Harrison will compile the first-ever dedicated species inventory of microlepidoptera in a prairie community within the original range of eastern tallgrass prairie. He will then analyze the data to test hypotheses regarding reserve design and management, which are of critical importance in conservation of endangered biotic communities such as prairie remnants.

2003 award recipients

Conservation status of species of Cydia, an endemic Hawaiian moth
Peter T. Oboyski , The University of California, Berkeley

This research will document the distribution, natural histories, and threats to endemic Hawaiian moths (Cydia spp.), as well as identify new species and outline their conservation needs. Hawaiian Cydia are extremely important to ecosystems in native Hawaiian forests. The larvae of these moths feed on seeds of endemic leguminous plants, affecting this plant’s recruitment, and are the most important insect prey to palila, an endangered Hawaiian forest bird. However, much of the biology of this genus remains unknown. The initial goals of this project are to extensively survey for Cydia species, determine host plants and distributions, and document the native and alien parasitic wasps that depredate them.

Gene flow between populations of the endangered maritime ringlet (Coenonympha tullia inornata) and a common subspecies (C. t. nipisiquit), and its impact on endangered species conservation
Makiri Sei, University of Massachusetts, Amherst

The maritime ringlet is a Canadian federally endangered, rare butterfly that inhabits six salt marshes in northern New Brunswick and a few salt marshes in the Gaspé Peninsula of Quebec. Makiri will study the genetic distinctness and the rate of gene flow between the endangered maritime ringlet and a common, closely related subspecies that may live in nearby grasslands. Hybridization with common species is increasingly being examined as a significant threat to rare species, which are often adapted to unique habitats. The use of genetic analysis at the population level is still infrequent in invertebrate conservation, but may determine if hybridization is occurring. This project will consist of three steps: collection of samples, DNA extraction and genotyping, and genotype analysis to estimate the amount of gene flow between the subspecies.

 

 

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Program Features
Program Highlights
  • • The Xerces Society has awarded two $3,750 Joan M. DeWind awards for research into lepidoptera conservation
  • Butterfly-a-thon pledges raise $30 per species that Bob Pyle observes for butterfly conservation work
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