By: Dr. Katy Prudic
Butterfly caterpillars are nature’s hot dogs, which acquire large amounts of fat in order to prepare for the magical body transformation known as pupation. Birds, spiders, wasps, mammals, lizards, and even humans all dine on juicy caterpillars. I can say from personal experience that some caterpillars are nutty, some are buttery, and many are excellent with garlic. The name butterfly is quite appropriate for the caterpillar stage.
Most pollinator research and overall buzz focuses on bees. Yet, butterflies are much easier to identify and photograph making them ideal for large scale research across a continent. This project will study butterflies and the plants they visit in the backcountry to give us information on the activity and abundance of these pollinators over large and remote areas of land.
Adventure Scientists’ volunteers will collect data on what butterflies are present over the course of the pollinator season (July - October), and which nectar plants they frequent. We will collect this data with eButterfly and use National Phenology Network protocols so that the backcountry data will be in sync with frontcountry data collected by other citizen science groups.
This dataset will allow us to build models that predict how environmental changes across space and time will affect pollinators and their nectar plants. Our goal is that these models will inform land managers on how to meet pollinator needs in a changing world.
My research have broadened our understanding of how butterflies play important roles in human success and innovation. Without them our world would be a dismal place. Working with Adventure Scientists allows us to discover what butterflies are doing in the backcountry and how that affects butterflies in the frontcountry. It also helps us validate our predictive models giving us a more powerful conservation tool.
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