These annual awards support students pursuing research in Lepidoptera conservation.
As students across the world are experiencing online classes and unexpected delays and cancelations due to the spread of the coronavirus, many of us wonder what the next few weeks and months will bring. Studies are interrupted, housing situations are changing, and research plans are uncertain. Without knowing what the future will bring, we approach it one day at a time. In the midst of this uncertainty, Xerces is heartened to continue our annual grant program—the Joan Mosenthal DeWind Award for student research into Lepidoptera (butterfly and moth) conservation. This year, we are thrilled to award three students research grants.
Douglas Boyes, a PhD student at the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology at Newcastle University in England, will use the DeWind award to build on an existing project investigating the impacts of light pollution on moth populations. Although light pollution is increasingly recognized as a threat to nocturnal wildlife, its effects on moth populations are poorly understood. Using previously collected specimens, Boyes will use DNA metabarcoding to examine the ways in which artificial light affects moth communities, such as through higher parasitism loads. These techniques will also improve the accuracy of caterpillar identification—often a difficult or impossible task based on structural traits alone—and generate valuable data on food plant associations.
Our second award goes to Jayme Lewthwaite, a PhD student at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, Canada. Lewthwaite will be investigating phenological shifts in Canadian butterflies. Although distributional shifts have been documented in many butterfly species, Canadian butterflies seem to be lagging in the face of climate change. An alternate strategy that has not yet been examined for this group involves shifting phenology to maintain niche requirements. This study will investigate whether species are shifting their emergence dates rather than their distributions in response to climate change.
Our third awardee, masters’ student Max Ferlauto, will be assessing the impacts of leaf litter disturbance on overwintering Lepidoptera communities. Based at the University of Maryland, Ferlauto’s research will have direct implications for landowners and site managers. Little is known about the ecology of overwintering Lepidoptera, yet protection of this vulnerable life stage may be critical for conserving threatened populations. Ferlauto will examine the impacts of leaf litter removal and mulching on spring-emerging lepidopteran communities and determine if planting a diverse tree canopy can mitigate the negative effects of litter disturbance.
It is our hope that the DeWind award will help support these students in accomplishing their research, especially during these difficult times. DeWind award winners often go on to publish their research in peer-reviewed scientific journals, and many continue down career paths in invertebrate conservation. If you or a student you know are interested in Lepidoptera research, we encourage you to apply for the next round of awards. Announcements are typically posted at the beginning of November, and the proposal deadline is usually in early January. Winners are notified by the end of March, with funds distributed by the end of May.