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McGUIRE CENTER NEWS,
Issue 7, April 2013
Scientists work to overcome challenges
of South American butterfly research
Keith Willmott, Associate Curator _________________________________________________
Training the next generation of South American
butterfly experts is a vital step in building the
capacity for research on this diverse insect group in
South American countries, which have the Earth’s
greatest number of butterfly species. I have been
studying the tropical American (Neotropical) fauna
for more than 20 years and every expedition brings
new discoveries. Nevertheless, the manpower
needed to gain an adequate understanding of the
distribution and biology of this region’s butterflies
in the face of ongoing habitat loss and climate
change is severely limited. An important part of
the solution to this problem is developing strong
research bases in Neotropical countries.
Mention the word biodiversity and many people
immediately think of the Amazon basin. While
Amazon communities are highly diverse, the
eastern slopes of the Andes Mountains contain the
world’s richest faunas per unit area. The Andes
Mountains stretch more than 5,000 miles from
Venezuela to Argentina, with species replacing
one another across different elevations and valleys.
Mapping the complex butterfly distributions and
understanding the origins of butterfly diversity
in these often remote and poorly explored
mountains is a major challenge requiring a large-
scale collaborative approach. To confront this
challenge, several colleagues and I formed the
Tropical Andean Butterfly Diversity Project funded
by the United Kingdom’s Darwin Initiative, to help
unite scientists, institutions and organizations
researching butterflies of the tropical Andes.
During 2006-2007, the project conducted eight
one-week training courses in Bolivia, Colombia,
Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela with 180 students,
some of whom are now enrolled as graduate
students in various institutions, including UF.
The McGuire Center has had a particularly
strong program in graduate research on South
American butterflies, housing a number of
South American and U.S. students studying
Neotropical butterflies. These students include
Christian Salcedo and Mirian Hay-Roe, who
work on
Heliconius
biology; Jonathan Saunders,
Delano Lewis, Elena Ortíz and Sebastián Padrón,
studying the evolution and classification of
Riodinidae,
Heraclides, Catasticta
and Preponini
butterflies, respectively; María Checa, who has
been exploring seasonality in equatorial forest
butterflies; and Geoff Gallice, who examines the
relationship between butterfly abundance and
their distribution. National Science Foundation
Research Experiences for Undergraduates grants
have enabled the McGuire Center to involve
undergraduate students, including Ian Segebarth,
Derick Crespo and Kirsten Verster, in small projects
focusing on the evolution and classification of
particularly complicated butterfly groups.
In addition to training students, another
important task has been to make information
on butterfly taxonomy and distribution broadly
available to South American scientists as a
foundation for future research. The Tropical
Andean Butterfly Diversity Project compiled
distribution data from more than 170,000 butterfly
specimens in museums and digitized a nearly
complete collection of print photographs of
Neotropical butterfly “type” specimens compiled
by Gerardo Lamas in Lima. These images are
now available online through a collaboration
with the Butterflies of America project, www.
butterfliesofamerica.com, as a vital identification
resource. During a workshop and conference
on tropical Andean butterflies in Urubamba,
Peru, which brought together 120 people from
12 countries, project members began using
distribution data to identify research and
conservation priority areas in the tropical Andes.
We hope future fieldwork will target these areas to
improve knowledge of their faunas and enhance
host country collections.
McGuire Center Staff
Badon, Jade, Graduate Assistant
Barszczak, Lukasz, Technical Research Assistant
Bliss, Andrew, Technical Research Assistant
Breinholt, Jesse, Postdoc
Checa, Maria Fernanda, Graduate Assistant
Chickoree, Christopher, Technical Research Assistant
Colburn, Jonathan, Technical Research Assistant
Covell, Charles V., Curator of Lepidoptera
Daniels, Jaret C., Assistant Curator &
Assistant Director of Education
Doyle, Jonathan, Technical Research Assistant
Eliazar, Christine M., Program Assistant
Emmel, Thomas C., Director
Gallice, Geoffrey, Graduate Assistant
Harris, Karina, Technical Research Assistant
Hay-Roe, Mirian Medina, Research Associate
Hayden, James, FSCA Curator of Lepidoptera,
Immature Collection
Heppner, John B., Curator of Lepidoptera
Houlihan, Peter, Technical Research Assistant
Huber, Stacey, Technical Research Assistant
Jia, Qianju, Graduate Assistant
Kawahara, Akito Y., Assistant Curator of Lepidoptera
Koi, Sandy, Graduate Assistant
Lane, Katrina, Technical Research Assistant
Lopez, Davys, Technical Research Assistant
Lott, Deborah Matthews, Biological Scientist
Lukhtanov, Vladimir, Visiting Scientist & Curator
Miller, Jacqueline Y., Curator of Lepidoptera
Norell, Tatum, Technical Research Assistant
Ortíz, Elena, Graduate Assistant
Padrón, Pablo Sebastián, Graduate Assistant
Park, K.T., Research Associate & Visiting Curator
Pence, J. Akers, Research Associate
Ponce, Francesca, Technical Research Assistant
Reeves, Lary, Graduate Student
Romero, Cassandra, Technical Research Assistant
Rossetti, Kristin, Technical Research Assistant
Sanchez, Stephanie, Technical Research Assistant,
Endangered Species
Schlachta, James B., Operations, Assistant Director
Segebarth, Craig L., Technical Research Assistant
Segebarth, Ian K., Special Projects Program
Sourakov, Andrei, Collections Coordinator
Standridge, Matthew, Technical Research Assistant
Streifel, Marissa, Technical Research Assistant
Stubina, Minna, Technical Research Assistant
Sullivan, Jillian, Technical Research Assistant
Thomas, Kelly, Technical Research Assistant
Turner, J.D., Research Associate & Curator
Turner, Nancy C., Research Associate
Warren, Andrew D., Senior Collections Manager
Whelan, John ‘Court’, Graduate Research Assistant
Willmott, Keith R., Associate Curator of Lepidoptera
Xiao, Lei, Genetics Lab Manager
MCGUIRE CENTER NEWS
ISSN # 1938-3029
Editor:
Andrei Sourakov
email: asourakov@flmnh.ufl.edu
Copy Editor:
Paul Ramey
Graphic Designers:
Andreina Hornez Peralta & Hollis Wooley
Photography:
Alexandr Chuvilin
Geoffrey Gallice
Andrei Sourakov
Court Whelan
Keith Willmott
Andreas Bergmann
Jaret Daniels
Lary Reeves
Thomas Emmel
Pablo Sebastián Padrón
Tropical Andean Butterfly Diversity Project Workshop, Urubamba, Peru