We’re one month away from the inaugural edition of whatever-we’re-goiing-to-call-this-event. It’s kind of like a bioblitz, but we’re going to focus on butterflies and flowering plants – though we may expand that focus in future years. We’ll be collecting data, but also learning and exploring. There is no expertise required – we’ll show you what you need to know when you come.
Let me explain:
This new event grew out of a survey by former Hubbard Fellow Alex Brechbill, who was helping us think about how to better engage the public at our Platte River Prairies. The survey results showed that people had a considerable interest in a bioblitz event, or something similar. I wanted to be sure that we weren’t just making lists of species for fun, and that we had a clear purpose for whatever data was collected. As a result, we came up with this event, which we haven’t yet named.
We’ll be doing a combination of things on June 29, 2019. During each of three session periods, we’ll let people break themselves into three groups. One group will walk transects (with a leader) and count butterflies seen along those transects, focusing particularly upon monarchs and regal fritillaries. A second group (with a leader) will walk those same transects and count the plant species that are currently blooming. The third group will go on an exploratory hike (of a different part of our Platte River Prairies each session) with an ecologist, and learn about prairie ecology, restoration, and management.
I hope the butterfly and nectar plant data will help us better understand both the ecology of monarch and regal fritillary butterflies and the ways in which our restoration and management work affects them. Most people are familiar with monarch butterflies and their current population issues. Regal fritillaries are also large colorful butterflies, but they are specialists – they are found only in prairies and their larvae feed exclusively on violets. They are an at-risk species, and while they’ve traditionally done well along the Platte River, our annual surveys have shown lower numbers in recent years.
Those annual surveys showed that regal fritillary populations crashed after the 2012 drought, and haven’t really come back very well since. Previous to that drought, we collected enough data to feel comfortable that our fire and grazing management was positively supporting regal populations, so we don’t think the current low numbers are tied to management. However, we’re not sure why the numbers haven’t climbed back up since the drought. Our current survey work only covers a few transects a year, so this event gives us a chance to greatly expand that scope and, hopefully, build a better understanding of what’s going on. If we repeat this event, as we plan to, over many years, we should build a really valuable dataset.
I hope you can come join us at this first event. I’m sure we’ll learn a lot, both about butterflies/plants and about how to make this event as useful as possible – both to participants and science. Also, if I haven’t mentioned it yet, we hope to have your help coming up with a better name for the event itself…
You don’t need to have any expertise in butterflies, plant identification or anything else. We will have people to lead each group and train others on the methods we’re using. It should be a great opportunity to learn and have fun. And if you don’t want to collect data, just come and go on the prairie hikes to enjoy what should be a very pretty time of year in the prairies.
If you intend to come, please RSVP to Mardell Jasnowski at firstname.lastname@example.org or 402-694-4191. If you do happen to have particular expertise in butterflies or plant identification, please let her know if you’d be willing to play a leadership role, if needed. Bring drinking water, sunscreen, a lunch, and whatever else you need for a day in the prairie. We will provide refills for your drinks, as well as some light snacks.
Here is the schedule for the day:
June 29, 2019
9:30 am – introduction to the day
10 am – first session
11:30 am – lunch (bring your own – we’ll provide refills of water/other drinks and snacks)
12:15 pm – second session
1:45 pm – break
2 pm – third session
3:30 pm – done
The event will take place at The Nature Conservancy’s Platte River Prairies and our Derr House. Click here for a map, or just take the Wood River exit from Interstate 80 (exit #300), go two miles south, and then turn right immediately after the sharp curve in the highway to continue south. You’ll immediately see our sign and a driveway up to the brick house on a small hill.