Joan Mosenthal DeWind Award
Lepidoptera Research and Conservation Awards
Joan Mosenthal DeWind was a pioneering member of the Xerces Society. A psychiatric social worker by profession, she was also an avid butterfly gardener and an accomplished amateur lepidopterist. Her contributions of time, organizational expertise, and financial support were essential to the growth and success of the Xerces Society over the past 30 years. Joan also had a keen interest in young people, supporting what became the Young Entomologists’ Society. In Joan’s memory, Bill DeWind established this student research endowment fund. The Xerces Society administers two $3,750 awards each year for research into Lepidoptera conservation.
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Congratulations to the 2018 DeWind Award recipients!
Conservation mutualism of a critically endangered lycaenid in the Florida Keys
Geena Hill – University of Florida, McGuire Center for Lepidoptera and Biodiversity
Ants have mutualistic relationships with various organisms, including Lycaenid butterflies, where ants feed on sugary secretions from the larvae and in return may provide some sort of protective or physiological benefit to the butterfly. These butterflies may be negatively impacted by invasive predators that have disturbed their habitat, either directly by predation or indirectly by disrupting the existing ant-larval interactions, which may increase the chance of mortality. Knowledge is lacking about the protective benefits ants may provide to butterfly larvae against specific predators, such as invasive ants and predatory assassin bugs. This research project aims to study the behavior of mutualist ants and potential predators of the Miami blue butterfly (Cyclargus thomasi bethunebakeri), a critically endangered butterfly in the Florida Keys.
Assessing the effects of Pinus plantation aging on fruit-feeding butterflies in a grassland-Atlantic Forest mosaic in Southern Brazil
Lady Carolina Casas Pinilla – Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil
The southern portion of the Atlantic Forest includes highlands covered with complex grassland-Araucaria forest mosaics. Silviculture radically alters ecological succession dynamics and turns grassland ecosystems into secondary forests. However, we do not know the long-term consequences of this succession for forest specialist species. Thus, we have compared frugivorous butterfly communities in native Araucaria Atlantic Forest with Pinus plantations at different ages (20 and 70-years). This project aims to inform the conservation and management of Atlantic Forest ecosystems and assess the impacts of anthropogenic changes on natural landscapes on a large temporal scale.
Moths to flames: Low hanging fruit in a new light
Ashley Wilson – California Polytechnic State University
Artificial nightlight is globally widespread and has the potential to disrupt species interactions and alter distributions across taxa, but little is known about its effects on Lepidoptera populations and species with which they interact closely. In a manipulative field experiment, this study will measure larval production and predation dynamics of Tegiticula maculata, as well as the fruit production of the obligate mutualist Hesperoyucca whipplei, to observe fitness when exposed to artificial nightlight. The results from this study will help conservation efforts alleviate anthropogenic pressures by controlling the light pollution levels moths can be exposed to before affecting long-term fitness.
Assessing the potential for long term effects of road salt on monarch butterflies
Megan Kobiela – University of Minnesota, Twin Cities
Habitat loss is a major threat to butterflies, and restoring roadside verges is proposed to combat it. However, we know little about how increased sodium due to road deicing salt affects monarch life histories, how much genetic variation for salt tolerance exists, or how milkweed nutrition and defenses are affected by salt. This study will build on previous work to further quantify plant characteristics and elucidate tolerance mechanisms. This work will add to not only monarch-specific conservation efforts by clarifying how changes in roadside plant nutrition impact caterpillars, but also to our knowledge of how human-induced changes in nutrient availability affect animals’ life history evolution more broadly.
For previous award winners, click here.