Discipline: Ecology Environmental and Earth Sciences
Trevor McIntosh - Southern University at New Orleans
Co-Author(s): Julie Kapuvari and Claire Y. O'Kane, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Cornell University, Ithaca NY; Alexander Whittle, Department of Ecology and Evolution, Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, NY; Tim Green, Environmental Protection Division, Brookhaven National Laboratory, Upton NY
People typically associate pollinators with bees, but there are many other animals that contribute to this crucial ecosystem service, such as Lepidopterans (butterflies and moths). Our research at Brookhaven National Laboratory focused particularly on butterflies. In the face of global butterfly decline in recent decades, conservation for butterfly habitat is becoming even more critical. The Long Island Solar Farm located at Brookhaven National Laboratory features a variety of wildflower species that butterflies are attracted to. We believed that we would find decent variety of butterflies if we found the more flower abundant areas. Our team conducted surveys on the species abundance of all butterflies found within the boundaries of ‘Solar Farm 1’ and determined which wildflower species are most favorable. To obtain our data, we walked through the site for approximately one hour every day in the late morning, identifying the butterfly species and the wildflower species they were observed on using a 100m transect line technique. With data on butterfly diversity, we were able to analyze the important role that ‘Solar Farm 1’ plays as a sanctuary for these important pollinator species. For instance, we found that there was a large population of ‘dusky winged’ butterflies that were particularly found on a native flower known as ‘Blue Vervain’. Extensive Lepidopteran surveys at BNL have not been performed since 2005, thus our data will update and expand the database, and most importantly inform the solar farm administration how to best approach vegetation management to best support butterflies and other pollinators. While performing our daily surveys, we learned how to create a protocol for collecting vast amounts of data in the field and how to accurately identify both wildflowers and butterflies using credible field guide books. In turn, there is hope for continued research for pollinators in general. If there were to be more studies done at Brookhaven National Laboratory, then we would hope that more areas of the Solar Farm would be surveyed to provide more results to analyze. References: Pleasants, J. M. and Oberhauser, K. S. (2013), Milkweed loss in agricultural fields because of herbicide use: effect on the monarch butterfly population. Insect Conservation and Diversity, 6: 135-144. doi:10.1111/j.1752-4598.2012.00196.x
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. ‘Northeast Region Monarch Update.’ U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, July 2015,
WWF. ‘Monarch Butterflies and Climate Change.’ World Wildlife Fund, 2015, https://www.worldwildlife.org/pages/monarch-butterflies-and-climate-change.
Xerces Society. ‘Red Listed Butterflies of North America.’ Red List of Butterflies and Moths, Xerces Society,
Funder Acknowledgement(s): I would like to thank NSF/LSAMP for summer 2017 research internship and allowing this project to be conducted at Brookhaven National Laboratory.
Faculty Advisor: Murty Kambhampati, MKambham@suno.edu
Role: I participated in Identifying, collecting, recording, analyzing, and ddocumenting the research that would be presented.