Project Title: Improving Insect Conservation & Record Keeping at Stratford Ecological Center
Project Participants: Allie Smith, Dr. Laurel Anderson, Dave Noble, and Stratford
Description & Overview of Project: The project at Stratford (and for this class) is divided into three small projects that comprise a larger whole. The first ‘mini’ project is to establish a butterfly transect on Stratford property. The transect is to be approximately 1 mile in length and must cover several different habitat types. Stratford has a variety of habitat types, so this is not to be an issue. The current transect draft runs through pasture, prairie, wetland/pond, and woodland areas. Each habitat type is to contain numbered sections so the recorder can identify which butterfly species was located in which habitat type. Once this is up and going, a volunteer group is to walk the transect once a week and record a variety of factors that are integral to butterfly monitoring. Eventually, this information can be sent to a statewide database system at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History to examine total trends throughout the state of Ohio. Butterfly monitoring is essential to conservation for a multitude of reasons. First, the presence of butterfly diversity in a habitat may suggest high integrity of the ecosystem (Roy et al. 2007). Secondly, butterflies are often portrayed as useful indicators of the impact of environmental and land management changes, as well as being representative of other taxa (Thomas, 2005). Due to their rapid responses to subtle habitat change, as well as their ability to be easily seen in an open field, butterflies are one of the few insect groups for which monitoring of trends has been possible. Lastly, monitoring provides information about how populations are faring and may offer critical cues to when management should be modified (Taron and Ries, 2015). There are a variety of other reasons that explain the benefits of butterfly monitoring, but these are just three that briefly clarify the advantages of undergoing weekly surveys.
A second small project that I’ve decided to do is to continue an insect guide containing Stratford insects that a previous student began a few years ago. She has constructed the format of the guide and supposedly has insects from early spring documented, so now it is my turn to document insects found at Stratford in the fall. My goal is to photograph individual species of butterflies, grasshoppers, bees, etc. and identify them to genus and/or species, and provide a brief description of their habitat, season, food source, etc. An insect guide would be beneficial for Stratford to have, as this would provide information about insects that can be located on property. This is also beneficial to visitors in case they find any interest in the insect populations found on site.
A final project that I will take under my wing is to develop a Stratford guide/project on the awesome app, iNaturalist. In case you’re not familiar with iNaturalist (although I’m fairly certain you are; I think we discussed it in class once), it is an app designed to identify photographed organisms that get uploaded via phone or computer. The user provides up to four photos of the insect, mammal, bird, plant, etc. and clicks on a provided option that most closely resembles the species. Once the user also includes the location of where the photo was taken, a member of the iNaturalist community can confirm or deny the user’s identification, thus making it a confirmed search. iNaturalist is great for everyone to use, from any age range, and so it would be highly beneficial for Stratford to have its own ‘guide’ on iNaturalist. Volunteers, young students, and any other visitors can add to the Stratford collection of photos and create an overarching data base of hundreds of photos found all throughout the Stratford site.
Outline of Project: First section will contain an overview of the project. It will include a list of all three of my projects so everyone knows what to expect out of the presentation. Second section will begin with the general butterfly transect information. I will first explain to everyone the benefits of butterfly monitoring, how that impacts the general ecosystem, and will explain the general parameters of tracking butterflies (a protocol, if you will; it’ll be brief as to not bore everybody in the room but is important to know). In the third section I’ll show an image of the Stratford butterfly transect taken using Google Earth. It’ll be a bird’s eye view of the transect, which I’ll be sure to include information like the length, where the divided sections are, etc. I’ll provide some images of various butterfly species I’ve seen on my walks (most photos taken by me, some may be taken from an online source, but I’ll provide photo credit). I’ll find averages of most common butterfly sightings for the several surveys we’ll get to go on this year because that’s always interesting to see. Plus, who doesn’t want to look at pictures of beautiful Ohio butterflies? I’m sure there will be other miscellaneous information within these first three sections, but that’ll come to me at a later time. In section four, I will discuss the insect guide and my interest in it (i.e., why I think it is important to have). I’ll make a table or something of all of the species I found this fall, and will show images of my favorite insects, most common insects, etc. In section five, I’ll talk about iNaturalist. I will provide a brief ‘tutorial’ of the app (which I will make myself) and will show everyone the Stratford guide and photos uploaded to it. I plan to explain the importance of the app and its significance to Stratford.
Anderson, Laurel. Professor of Botany and Microbiology. Ohio Wesleyan University.
- Dr. Anderson is my adviser for the Stratford Apprenticeship (BOMI 495) and is a reliable source of information pertaining to a variety of topics.
Evans, A. V. National Wildlife Federation Field Guide to Insects and Spiders & Related Species of North America. Sterling Pub., 2008.
- This is an insect guide that has been of great use to me over the years, and will continue to assist in identifying unknown insects.
- A great way to identify unknown species, any where at any time. Will also be used as a portion of my project.
Noble, Dave. Apiarist. Stratford Ecological Center.
- Stratford’s apiarist, Dave, is very knowledgeable in a variety of fields and will be helpful in establishing the transect, identifying some unknown plants, and will help me set up the iNaturalist guide as well as other areas of my project.
Roy, D. B., Rothery, P., & Brereton, T. (2007). Reduced-effort schemes for monitoring butterfly populations. Journal of Applied Ecology, 44(5), 993–1000., doi:10.1111/j.1365-2664.2007.01340.x.
- A journal article that provides general information on the usefulness of butterfly monitoring and conservation. This article was used in a previous paper I’ve written and has proven to be very informative.
Rzeszotarski, M., & Wiedmann, J.L. The Ohio Lepidopterists Long-Term Monitoring of Butterflies: Instructions for Recording. The Ohio Lepidopterists.
- A butterfly monitoring guide that provides instructions on how to establish a transect, how to take surveys, and other miscellaneous – yet relevant – topics. These are the guidelines I will be following when I set up the Stratford transect.
Stratford Ecological Center: Educational Farm and Nature Preserve.
- This is the location of my project, and the website provides an abundant amount of information on what the organization is about, what goes on at Stratford, etc. This is the location where I will be doing all of my field work.
Taron, D., & Ries, L. (2015). Butterfly Monitoring for Conservation. In J. C. Daniels (Ed.), Butterfly Conservation in North America (pp. 35–57). Dordrecht: Springer Netherlands., doi:10.1007/978-94-017-9852-5_3.
- The title conveys the topic of the article pretty well; obviously this article will provide information about butterfly conservation. It will help me explain conservation more clearly and accurately.
Thomas, J. A. (2005). Monitoring change in the abundance and distribution of insects using butterflies and other indicator groups. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 360(1454), 339–357., doi:10.1098/rstb.2004.1585.
- A journal article that discusses the importance of butterflies as decent indicator species. This will help provide more information about their integrity and usefulness to butterfly surveys.
Wepprich, T., & Ohio Lepidopterists (2018). Ohio Lepidopterists Long-Term Butterfly Monitoring, tyson-wepprich.shinyapps.io/OHbutterfly/.
- This website is extremely useful in comparing butterfly trends across the state. Select an area where surveys have taken place, and it provides information on specific species and their overall trends. It compares populations at specific locations to populations across the entire state. This would be cool to show the class in my presentation – compare species that we’ve seen at Stratford to state trends.