Monday, March 17, 2008

EEA 2008: Butterfly Conservation

I just looked back through my blog posts to find what I had written about last year's EEA (Environmental Education Alliance) Conference at Jekyll Island. My first EEA Conference was such a wonderful experience. I was surprised to realize that I had never gotten around to blogging about it! Oh, my!

Sheila and I just got back from the 2008 Conference held in Helen, Georgia at the beautiful Unicoi State Park and Lodge. Another great learning experience, even though almost all of the field trips were cancelled because of the famous Georgia storm of last weekend.

I participated in about a dozen sessions. These included three keynote addresses by dynamic speakers, and nine workshops. I have enough Great Outdoors blogging material to keep me going for weeks!

The first keynote was a presentation on butterfly conservation by Dr. David Wagner. Dr. Wagner is the National Book Award author of the Princeton Field Guide to Caterpillars of North America. He led a butterfly atlas project in Connecticut that has helped to document the threats to lepidopterans in the Northeast and come up with recommendations for how we can stem the decline in butterflies and moths.

His study established a tier system of threats that puts habitat loss at the peak and a lack of botanical succession as the second most important threat to butterflies and moths. Not only do these animals have to put up with a tremendous loss of habitat, but the habitat they now have is often "conserved" in a static state. Without the natural cycle of fire and then a succession of different sizes of plants, some Lepidopterans cannot survive.

The second tier of threats are important, though they do not reach the critical state of peril of tier one. These include invasive or introduced species that eat or crowd out host plants and nectar plants that butterflies and moths depend upon. An overabundance of deer and beaver are included in this group of threats. For instance, 26 Lepidopterans are threatened by the ash blight.

Other threats get a lot of attention, but are less important in the grand scheme of things. These minor threats against our scale-winged beauties include pesticides and, horrors!, insect collectors.

Dr. Wagner would like to see atlases of Lepidopterans developed in each state. He would like to enlist students, seniors, parents, homeschoolers, and anyone-else to help with these projects. That is why he is a supporter of the Discover Life Project.

Two miscellaneous notes:

Conservation = Management (not just preservation)

Children should be given the opportunity to explore the
"Serengeti of the Backyard."

More to come.

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