Thursday, August 18, 2011
Butterflies are a great species to study because they come in so many varieties, each focused on a particular niche in the ecosystem for feeding and reproducing. Jim Burnett explains on the National Parks Traveler website: "Subalpine meadows are projected to shrink dramatically due to the effects of climate change, but the rate and magnitude of this change are unknown. Butterflies make ideal indicator species because they are particularly sensitive to climatic changes, and are relatively easy to identify in the field by scientists and volunteers alike." They also capture the imagination as they flutter colorfully among the summer flowers.
The "Cascades Butterfly Project" will engage volunteers to inventory butterflies and upload photos and locations onto the Butterflies and Moths of North America website. The volunteers will also note how many of each species of butterfly they see, and which flowers are blooming.
Training of volunteers took place on July 23 at Sauk Mountain and on August 13 at Mount Rainier, though the survey transect at Paradise was still under snow. Other areas included in the study include the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, Okanagan-Wenatchee National Forest, Skagit Valley Provincial Park, and Manning Provincial Park.
Survey locations at Mount Rainier include Mazama Ridge, Naches Peak, Berkely Park, and Spray Park. Volunteers at North Cascades National Park will survey Maple and Easy Pass, and in the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, Yellow Aster Butte and Skyline Divide.
The National Park component of the butterfly survey project involves Wildlife Biologists Mason Reid, at Mount Rainier, and Bob Kuntz, at North Cacades, along with Botanists Lou Whiteaker and Mignonne Bivin. The monitoring program was developed by Dr. John McLaughlin, of Western Washington University, with help from teams of high school students from the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry for two years of field testing. The program is modeled after a similar program in the Rocky Mountains, which has been monitoring butterflies for 14 years now and has contributed to a significant increase in the number of documented species in Rocky Mountain National Park. A preliminary survey of butterflies at Mount Rainier was completed in 2008 by Dr. Dana Garrigan of Carthage College, including a checklist of 65 species.
Volunteers are still being recruited for this long-term project. To join the Cascades Butterfly Project, contact Jeff Anderson, North Cascades Institute Science Coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 206-526-2574. Download the project's Resource Brief here. You can also check out the Cascades Butterfly Project Group on Yahoo.