Climate Change and Butterfly Populations

My research seeks to understand how the survival and growth of butterfly populations will change under future climate conditions. I raise Appalachian Brown butterflies (Satyrodes appalachia) from eggs to adults in warming chambers in a greenhouse and at field sites at Fort Bragg NC. I’ve also been able to study how increased temperatures affect adult butterfly survival and reproduction, through mark-recapture surveys and oviposition experiments. This allows me to evaluate the effects of warming on larval survival, development and the timing of lifecycle events. I combine these vital rates into a population model parameterized by downscaled climate data to project future population growth rates.

Here’s a video about my research, created by the NC State College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Magazine:

Ultimately decision makers can use my findings to inform management and conservation strategies.

Non-Analogue Environments

The above research is being carried out as part of a larger collaboration funded by the Strategic Environmental and Research Development Program (SERDP). The goal of the research is to use spatially-explicit population models to predict whether a variety of species will become conservation reliant in non-analogue future environments on DoD lands.

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Key Collaborators:

Brian Hudgens, Institute for Wildlife Studies

Jessica Abbott, Institute for Wildlife Studies

Bill Morris, Duke University

Allison Louthan, Duke University

Jeff Walters, Virginia Tech University

Nick Haddad, Michigan State University

Heather Cayton, Conservation Corridor

As part of the collaboration, I’ve assisted research evaluating population dynamics of the Venus Flytrap (Dionaea muscipula). I’ve led field efforts at Fort Bragg, Camp Lejune and Croatan National Forest to conduct annual demographic censuses, and to set up burning experiments evaluating the effects of fire on population persistence.