Each year, the Xerces Society grants two to three Joan DeWind Awards to students who are engaged in research related to Lepidoptera conservation. Many award recipients go on to publish their research in scientific journals. You can find a list of awardees below, and see published work here. You can also learn more about the DeWind Award here.
2021 Joan Mosenthal DeWind Award Recipients
Christopher Halsch – University of Nevada Reno, Ecology Evolution, and Conservation Biology
The interactive effects of pesticide exposure and climate change on a widespread butterfly
Common and widespread Lepidoptera are experiencing a multifaceted set of anthropogenic stressors resulting in declines across large spatial scales. Relatively little is known about interactive effects of different stressors, which are potentially devastating, but difficult to study using historical records. Here we propose an examination of the combined effects of warming temperatures and pesticide exposure on Pyrgus communis in a laboratory experiment. By parameterizing our experiment with observed pesticide data and realistic warming scenarios, we will learn about the isolated and interactive effects of these stressors. These results will inform climate sensitive, pesticide management plans for common and widespread butterflies.
Wendy Valencia-Montoya – Harvard University, Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology
Evaluating the impact of limestone mining on cycad-feeding Eumaeus butterflies in Colombia
The three species of Eumaeus butterflies in Colombia all are obligate feeders on Zamia, a Neotropical genus of cycads whose species are critically endangered. The butterflies are thought to be similarly imperiled, but research to assess their distributions, population sizes, and/or threat status remains to be done. By integrating population surveys with cutting-edge DNA sequencing and composite likelihood modeling techniques, we will generate baseline information and assess the impact on Eumaeus of the most pressing threat to Zamia: limestone mining. This information is essential to be able to make recommendations for maintaining habitat connectivity and identify areas of greatest conservation concern.
For more information about the DeWind Award, please visit our Frequently Asked Questions Page.
Past Joan DeWind Awardees
2020 Award Recipients
Douglas Boyes – Newcastle University
Using DNA metabarcoding to understand the impacts of light pollution on moth populations.
Light pollution is increasingly recognized as a threat to nocturnal Lepidoptera. However, its effects on moth populations remain poorly understood. As part of an existing project, 1800 caterpillars have been sampled from lit and unlit sites using a matched pairs design. This has revealed a strong negative effect of street lighting on moth abundance. Additional funding would enable the deployment of cutting-edge molecular techniques, offering novel insights into the mechanisms through which artificial light impacts moth communities (e.g. through parasitism rates). These techniques would also improve the resolution of caterpillar identification and generate valuable data on foodplant associations.
Jayme Lewthwaite – Simon Fraser University
Phenological shifts as a potential trade-off to high levels of spatial climate change debt.
Although distributional shifts have been documented in many butterfly species, Canadian butterflies seem to be spatially lagging behind the pace of climate change. An alternate climate tracking strategy involves shifting phenology to maintain niche requirements; this has not been examined in this group. This study will investigate whether species that are not spatially tracking climate change have advanced their emergence dates instead by looking at dates for first emergence through time. We predict that species that have larger spatial climate debts are emerging earlier in the spring than those who are successful spatial climate trackers.
Max Ferlauto – University of Maryland
Assessing the impacts of leaf litter disturbance on overwintering Lepidoptera communities.
Little is known about the ecology of overwintering Lepidoptera. However, conservation of this life stage may be vital to protecting threatened populations. One potentially harmful disturbance to overwintering eggs, larvae, and pupa is the seasonal removal or mulching of leaf litter in managed environments. This research examines the impacts of leaf litter removal and mulching on spring-emerging lepidopteran communities and assesses if planting a diverse tree canopy can mitigate the negative effects of litter disturbance. This study will answer questions about an overlooked life stage and provide landowners with conservation strategies to increase the ecological value of their properties.
2019 Award Recipients
Niranjana Krishnan – Iowa State University
Assessing the risk of insecticides to monarch butterflies
Both the western and eastern monarch populations are in severe decline. To stem this decline, it is essential to establish milkweed breeding habitat across different land cover types. This includes agricultural landscapes, where foliar and systemic insecticides are used. This research project will evaluate the toxicity and exposure of agricultural insecticides to monarch eggs, larvae, pupae, and adults. Mortality and sublethal effects will be estimated at different distances from treated fields and incorporated into a landscape-scale model to predict monarch population numbers. Results from this project will help identify ideal locations for milkweed placements in agricultural landscapes.
Molly Wiebush – Florida State University
The importance of small-scale fire refugia for butterfly communities in an old growth longleaf pine savanna
Prescribed fire can be an important tool for maintaining the early seral stage habitats needed by butterflies and many other pollinators. While the effects of timing and frequency of fire on pollinators and their host plants have been studied, the effects of fire heterogeneity on butterflies is less well known. This research project will examine how the butterfly community in an old growth longleaf pine savanna responds to unburned patches within prescribed burns, including how adults use unburned patches, survival of larvae and pupae within these patches, and whether unburned patches change how butterfly flight periods and floral resources overlap. This information can improve the use of prescribed fire as a conservation tool for Lepidoptera and other species.
2018 Award Recipients
Geena Hill – University of Florida, McGuire Center for Lepidoptera and Biodiversity
Conservation mutualism of a critically endangered lycaenid in the Florida Keys.
Ants have mutualistic relationships with various organisms, including Lycaenid butterflies, where ants feed on sugary secretions from the larvae and in return may provide some sort of protective or physiological benefit to the butterfly. These butterflies may be negatively impacted by invasive predators that have disturbed their habitat, either directly by predation or indirectly by disrupting the existing ant-larval interactions, which may increase the chance of mortality. Knowledge is lacking about the protective benefits ants may provide to butterfly larvae against specific predators, such as invasive ants and predatory assassin bugs. This research project aims to study the behavior of mutualist ants and potential predators of the Miami blue butterfly (Cyclargus thomasi bethunebakeri), a critically endangered butterfly in the Florida Keys.
Lady Carolina Casas Pinilla – Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil
Assessing the effects of Pinus plantation aging on fruit-feeding butterflies in a grassland-Atlantic Forest mosaic in Southern Brazil.
The southern portion of the Atlantic Forest includes highlands covered with complex grassland-Araucaria forest mosaics. Silviculture radically alters ecological succession dynamics and turns grassland ecosystems into secondary forests. However, we do not know the long-term consequences of this succession for forest specialist species. Thus, we have compared frugivorous butterfly communities in native Araucaria Atlantic Forest with Pinus plantations at different ages (20 and 70-years). This project aims to inform the conservation and management of Atlantic Forest ecosystems and assess the impacts of anthropogenic changes on natural landscapes on a large temporal scale.
Ashley Wilson – California Polytechnic State University
Moths to flames: Low hanging fruit in a new light.
Artificial nightlight is globally widespread and has the potential to disrupt species interactions and alter distributions across taxa, but little is known about its effects on Lepidoptera populations and species with which they interact closely. In a manipulative field experiment, this study will measure larval production and predation dynamics of Tegiticula maculata, as well as the fruit production of the obligate mutualist Hesperoyucca whipplei, to observe fitness when exposed to artificial nightlight. The results from this study will help conservation efforts alleviate anthropogenic pressures by controlling the light pollution levels moths can be exposed to before affecting long-term fitness.
Megan Kobiela – University of Minnesota, Twin Cities
Assessing the potential for long term effects of road salt on monarch butterflies.
Habitat loss is a major threat to butterflies, and restoring roadside verges is proposed to combat it. However, we know little about how increased sodium due to road deicing salt affects monarch life histories, how much genetic variation for salt tolerance exists, or how milkweed nutrition and defenses are affected by salt. This study will build on previous work to further quantify plant characteristics and elucidate tolerance mechanisms. This work will add to not only monarch-specific conservation efforts by clarifying how changes in roadside plant nutrition impact caterpillars, but also to our knowledge of how human-induced changes in nutrient availability affect animals’ life history evolution more broadly.
2017 Award Recipients
Zhengyang Wang – Harvard University, Department of Organismic & Evolutionary Biology
Butterfly telemetry in mountainous terrain: a novel method to track and estimate population sizes for the Golden Birdwing (Troides aesacus) on Mt. Gongga in Garze Tibetan Prefecture.
Butterfly movement in mountainous terrain is difficult to study. This study will develop methods to track montane butterflies using Troides aeacus on the foothills (c 8,000 ft.) of Mt. Gongga (c 24,790 ft.) as a model system. The study has two aims: (1) to use 0.2 gram transmitters placed on the upper abdomen of individuals of T. aeacus to estimate movement parameters using an insect telemetry system, and (2) to develop object-oriented Monte Carlo simulations using telemetry obtained parameters to estimate T. aeacus population size. This telemetry system allows researchers to monitor individual butterflies at fine-tuned spatial and temporal scales and has the potential to provide more accurate population estimates for conservation management.
Federico Riva – University of Alberta, Department of Renewable Resources, Canada
Modeling the distribution of Plebejus optilete ssp. yukona in Alberta’s boreal forest.
Information on the North American populations of Plebejus optilete ssp. yukona (Holland, 1900) is scarce. In Alberta, less than 20 populations are known. Here, in situ oil sands deposits and extraction cover more than 142,000 km2 of boreal forests, including areas potentially suitable to this species. Following research conducted on P. optilete in 2015 and 2016, this study will test a species distribution model for the species using natural and anthropogenic factors. This will be used to assess its distribution at regional scales and the rarity status in Alberta, revealing if conservation efforts are needed to preserve the species.
2016 Award Recipients
Paola Olaya-Arenas – Purdue University
Non-target effects of neonicotinoid insecticides on monarch butterflies.
Monarch butterflies are undergoing a long-term population decline. Although different factors are hypothesized to cause this decline, one potential factor is the exposure of their milkweed host plants to neonicotinoid insecticides when growing in close proximity to agricultural fields. Neonicotinoids are a relatively new class of pesticides that were recently associated with the decline of widespread butterflies inhabiting farmland in England and result in lethal and sublethal effects on insects feeding on nectar, pollen, and leaves. Evaluating the effect of neonicotinoids in the monarch–milkweed system will help guide restoration efforts that aim to protect monarchs and other Lepidoptera specialized on milkweed.
Cameron Thomas – Washington State University–Vancouver, School of Biological Sciences
Factors associated with ant tending in Fender’s blue butterfly (Plebejus icarioides fenderi): assessing an understudied and potentially significant mutualistic relationship.
Fender’s blue butterfly, Plebejus icarioides fenderi (Macy), survives in remnant prairie habitat in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. Research involving habitat restoration has focused primarily on how invasive vegetation affects the adult stage, but recent work suggests ant tending of caterpillars may significantly increase population growth rate. In this project, we will systematically document ant tending and associated biotic and abiotic factors in Fender's blue larvae by its ant mutualists with a specific focus on the vegetation gradient among nine sites. Results aim to inform restoration efforts relative to vegetation structure during the larval phase, a stage that may be more significant for conservation of this butterfly than previously documented.
2015 Award Recipients
Ania Majewska – University of Georgia, Odum School of Ecology
Gardening with good intentions: examining the effects of tropical milkweed (Asclepias curassavica) on monarch migration and disease.
Habitat loss is a major threat to monarchs and their spectacular migration. Gardeners attempt to counter habitat loss by planting milkweed in their gardens to provide host plants for monarch reproduction. Yet, the most readily available and easiest-to-grow species, tropical milkweed (Asclepias curassavica), might have negative consequences. This study proposes to investigate the effects of exotic milkweed on migratory monarchs and a monarch-specific protozoan parasite as well as a management technique for the exotic milkweed. This study will provide an evidence-based understanding of the impacts of exotic milkweed on monarchs and yield recommendations for best practices for home gardens.
Joseph Smokey – Washington State University–Vancouver, School of Biological Sciences
How do butterfly metapopulation dynamics change in response to fire? Evaluating the impact of burning as a restoration method of remnant prairie habitat on a federally endangered butterfly (Plebejus icarioides fenderi).
Land managers using fire to restore fragmented and degraded prairie sites seek to understand how many sites and how frequently to burn to provide the greatest benefit to threatened butterflies. This study will use a mark-recapture study on U.S. Army Corps of Engineer sites in Eugene, OR, in combination with a fire model to evaluate relative benefits of burning entire, small but well-connected sites versus subdividing small patches for burn management in a Fender’s blue butterfly (Plebejus icarioides fenderi) metapopulation. Results will provide ecologists and managers with insight into best practices of fire restoration for prairie butterflies.
2014 Award Recipients
Anuj Jain – National University of Singapore, Department of Biological Sciences
Habitat enrichment for butterflies in tropical forest and urban landscapes.
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.
Yu-Hsuan Liu – North Carolina State University, Department of Biological Sciences
Do corridors increase gene flow in butterflies?
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
Rachel Glaeser – Washington State University–Vancouver
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).
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.
John Schroeder – Stanford University
Conservation genomics of the checkerspot butterfly, Euphydryas editha: finding genes responsible for dispersal propensity.
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
Rachael Ryan – New Mexico State University
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.
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.
Jana Šlancarová – University of South Bohemia, Biology Center AS CR v. v. i., Institute of Entomology
Land Use Abandonment in Eastern Mediterranean: effects on butterfly and moth communities.
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
Elizabeth Paulson – University of Colorado–Boulder
The effects of anthropogenic landscape fragmentation on genetic connectivity of Rocky Mountain dotted blue (Euphilotes ancilla) metapopulations.
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.
Kelly Nail – University of Minnesota
Mechanistic Modeling of Monarch Range in Relation to Global Climate Change.
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
Lindsay Crawford – University of Western Ontario
Landscape Genetics of butterflies: Exploring the effects of habitat fragmentation on levels of genetic diversity and fitness.
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.
Jill A. Sherwood – Iowa State University
Climate change effects on trophic interactions in montane meadows systems.
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
Zach Gompert, Graduate Student – Department of Botany, University of Wyoming
Impacts of Wolbachia Infection on Conservation Strategies for the Karner Blue Butterfly (Lycaeides Melissa samuelis).
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.
Erica Henry, Graduate Student – Washington State University–Vancouver
Filling in the Gaps: Characterizing Habitat Requirements of an Imperiled Butterfly.
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
Allison K. Leidner, Ph.D candidate – Department of Zoology, North Carolina State University
Linking Local Behavior and Range-Wide Movement to Conserve a Rare Butterfly in an Urbanized Landscape.
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.
Genoveva R. Castañeda, Ph.D candidate – Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Tulane University
Climate Change as a Threat to Geometrid Moths Along an Altitudinal Gradient In the North Eastern Andes of Ecuador.
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.
Kurt Illerbrun, Graduate Student – Department of Biological Sciences, University of Alberta
Rising Treeline and Shifting Host-Plan Dynamics: Implications for a Monophagous Alpine Butterfly.
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
Kirsten M. Prior, PhD Graduate Student – Department of Biological Sciences, University of Notre Dame
Indirect Effects of an invasive gall wasp on a native butterfly, a possible mechanism for population declines in a threatened butterfly species.
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.
Tyler L. Hicks, Undergraduate Student – Department of Natural and Environmental Sciences, Western State College of Colorado
Responses of Butterfly Abundance and Species Richness to Mechanical Treatments of A Sagebrush Ecosystem in the Upper Gunnison Basin 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
Matthew J. Medeiros, Graduate Student – Department of Integrative Biology, University of California
Biodiversity, systematics, and evolution of Schrankia, a cave- and rainforest-dwelling Hawaiian moth (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae).
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.
Jessica Shors, Ph.D Graduate Student – Stanford University
Studying the effects of invasive Argentine ants on Lycaenid butterflies.
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.
Jessica Stager – Graduate Student, Antioch New England Graduate School
Does timing and frequency of mowing affect butterfly assemblages in post-agricultural fields?
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
Leslie Rossmell – Washington State University–Vancouver
Using behavior to link restoration to population dynamics for an endangered butterfly.
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.
Cheryl Russell – Washington State University–Vancouver
Investigating the use of herbicides to control invasive weeds: effects on at-risk butterflies.
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
William Haines – University of Hawai'i at Manoa
Systematics and status of threatened Hawaiian leaf-roller moths in the genus Omiodes (Gueneã) (Lepidoptera: Crambidae)
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.
Terry Harrison – Department of Entomology, University of Illinois
Microlepidoptera of hill prairies
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
Peter T. Oboyski – The University of California, Berkeley
Conservation status of species of Cydia, an endemic Hawaiian moth
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.
Makiri Sei – University of Massachusetts, Amherst
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
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 Gaspã 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.