17 Jul Hungry Hungry Island Marble
The thing that most interested me about the project description at this site was the focus on a conservation effort for a single insect species. Bee conservation programs are usually all that is seen in regards to insect conservation which is what makes the Island Marble butterfly(IMB) program unique. Even though the attention the public gives this program might be because of the beauty of the butterfly itself, I still think this is a major win for insect conservation. Even though possibly less eye catching species are going extinct daily, and winged insects as a whole are in major decline. I think of pollinators like honey bees and butterflies as being the pandas, or killer whales of insect conservation.
Now, specifically my job at San Juan Island National Historic Park (SJINHP) involves the captive rearing of IMB caterpillars and surveying the presence of flying adults at seven sites throughout the park. Our “lab” is a repurposed maintenance shed tucked away on the road leading to out visitor center. Every day we come down to the lab and record data on 80-100 caterpillars who live on sprigs of their host plant from our nursery. We record things like their life stage, feeding activity and location on the plant to make finding them the next day easier. The caterpillars are collected as eggs or day-old caterpillars from seven different sites within American Camp. We raise them from eggs until they form their chrysalis, where we place them in a pupation box or “pup box”.
They then stay in a temperature controlled environment until the following spring where the next round of interns will release the newly hatched butterflies. Because of the quarter system at UW I have arrived later than most interns to their sites, which means I have only caught the tail end of the butterfly releasing season. Work in the lab is winding down which will give me a chance to take on some independent projects within the park. More on that in the future…