MBF granted PhD students Libesha Anparasan, from the University of Western Ontario, Canada and Natalie Melnokoff, from the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix, Arizona, the “Lincoln P. Brower Award” in April 2020.
Libesha’s research project is titled “Identifying critical nectaring sites for migrating monarch butterflies: New promise from stable isotopes and fatty acids” and is focused on developing new ways to identify critical stopover nectaring sites for Monarch Butterflies. The Fall migration of the Monarch Butterfly requires frequent stopovers where they rest and refuel. At overwintering sites, individuals must have enough stored lipids to last through the winter and fuel part of the return and reproduction. Libesha will use compound specific stable isotope mass spectrometry as a means of tracking origins of fatty acids to Monarchs. This study will provide the basis for using this technique to estimate spatial origins and allocation patterns of fatty acids of migrating monarchs and define the areas needed for conservation during migration.
Natalie’s research project is titled “Plant trait analysis and environmental niche modeling to determine the future demography of native milkweeds and their capacity to support monarch butterfly populations in Arizona and the arid West”. As monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) populations decline at an alarming rate, the need for advanced conservation and monitoring becomes clearer. With visits from both the eastern and western migratory populations, Arizona is uniquely poised to impact monarch conservation in the arid West. Increased information on the obligatory host for monarchs, milkweed (Asclepias spp.), is needed in order to guide effective conservation efforts. The proposed project will gather critical information on Arizona milkweed through species distribution modeling and future climate scenario modeling with research conducted in an experimental common garden setting to evaluate the effects of drought on plant fitness and biotic interactions between milkweeds and monarchs. Results from this project will lay the foundation for carrying out and evaluating habitat restoration projects in Arizona and the arid West.
MBF granted entomology MSc Student, Anna Skye Harnsberger from the Wisconsin Energy Institute and BS/MS student Cody Prouty from the University of Georgia the “Lincoln P. Brower Award” in April 2019.
Anna’s research is focused on understanding the effects of milkweed patch size and surrounding landscape on monarch presence and survival in the Upper Midwest United States. Anna will survey habitat characteristics and monarchs at 60 sites in Wisconsin that vary in patch size and the landscape context within which the patches exist. This will help her explore how monarch presence, density, and survivorship vary across sites to understand the effect of habitat size and isolation on monarch presence and survival. She has presented a poster with her preliminary results. Currently, Anna is statistically analyzing the data collected in 2018 and 2019, as well as planning for the 2020 field research season. These analyses will eventually be published so that Anna can disseminate this research which will contribute to the improvement of breeding habitat restoration for monarch butterflies
Cody concluded his experiments to determine how exposure to neonicotinoids affects monarch behavior and population size. Three studies examined how monarch caterpillars and adults respond to increasing doses of two different neonicotinoid insecticides. Cody concluded that monarchs are more susceptible when exposed to neonicotinoids as larvae than adults, and the milkweed species they were reared on can also affect their response to the insecticides. Monarchs exposed as adults will have lethal and sub-lethal effects at concentrations much higher than what could be found in wild nectar. Cody’s study will provide an understanding of the impacts of neonicotinoids on monarch behavior and physiology, including potential consequences for the long-distance migration of this iconic butterfly. On November, 2019 Cody presented a summary of his research so far and will be presenting his final reports soon.