Page 7 - McGuireCenterNewsletter2013

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McGUIRE CENTER NEWS,
Issue 7, April 2013
7
A bee pollinates native
Coreopsis flowers.
Butterfly plant propagation
facility, Natural Resources
Conservation Services, Oregon
Miami Blue butterflies raised
in captivity, a mating pair.
Captive propagation facility
at the McGuire Center
Karner Blue Butterflies are released as
part of a reintroduction effort, Ohio.
Conservation of biodiversity forms the basis of
the McGuire Center’s overall research and education
mission. With millions of specimens representing most
of the world’s 20,000 butterfly species and many of
the estimated 245,000 moth species, it all starts with
collections. This vast “library of life” catalogs new
faunal inventories, facilitates the description of new
species previously unknown to science, and enables
researchers to study the diversification of living forms
and their evolutionary history. The collections also help
document changes through time. This may include
the loss or decline of species resulting from dwindling
habitat, range shifts or alterations to phenology
triggered by global climate change, or differences in the
genetic structure of imperiled populations. So whether
it be dried adult specimens, various life stages preserved
in alcohol or frozen tissue samples, the collections
provide a rich resource for research – the extent of
which continues to grow with ever-emerging scientific
tools, techniques and questions. Beyond collections, the
McGuire Center has strategically addressed numerous
additional critical conservation needs.
Species Recovery:
McGuire Center researchers
have initiated various programs to conserve imperiled
and at-risk species. These include efforts to help
combat the alarming decline of several charismatic
Florida butterflies, including the Schaus’ Swallowtail,
Miami Blue, Florida Atala and Frosted Elfin. In most
cases, recovery and management of these species are
exceedingly challenging owing to the lack of knowledge
about their biology, severely reduced remaining habitat,
poorly understood management needs and complex
policy and stakeholder issues. Several programs
involve more aggressive captive breeding and organism
reintroduction efforts.
Professional Development:
Zoos, natural history
museums, botanical gardens and state and federal
wildlife agencies are progressively focusing on
insects, particularly groups such as butterflies and
other pollinators, to help advance local conservation
efforts and foster increased public interest and
community engagement. Insufficient experience and
familiarity with insects, however, prevent staff and
institutions from adequately planning, implementing
and evaluating conservation activities. The McGuire
Center-based Imperiled Butterfly Conservation and
Management program was developed to address this
need. The four-year initiative involved more than 27
institutions and targeted 20 critically imperiled species.
Through six national workshops, the program improved
participant skill levels and their capacity to develop new
conservation programs or enhance existing efforts by
providing hands-on experience on the latest laboratory
and field techniques.
Pollinator Conservation:
Pollination is an essential
ecosystem service. By conservative estimates, 75
percent of the Earth’s flowering plants rely on animal
pollinators, primarily insects, to ensure reproduction.
Alarmingly, managed and wild insect pollinators have
suffered declines in recent years, prompting calls for
proactive strategies to help bolster their populations.
Continued declines could adversely affect agricultural
systems, result in increased vulnerability of some plant
species to extinction and increase overall ecosystem
disruption.
Though much attention has been placed on
alternative management approaches in agricultural
systems, it is clear that effective pollinator conservation
must be comprehensively incorporated to include
locales outside the basic farm margin.
The McGuire Center has led or helped lead several
key research initiatives. In a multi-year study with the
Florida Department of Transportation, researchers
are investigating how mowing roadside vegetation
and wildflower augmentation affects native pollinator
richness and abundance. The information will be
used to further refine best practices for vegetation
management and native plant establishment techniques
in linear easements. Partnering on a much larger
national effort called the Integrated Crop Pollination
Project, Museum and UF Department of Entomology
researchers are developing tailored tactics including
combined use of different pollinator species, habitat
augmentation and crop management practices to
provide reliable and sustainable pollination of U.S.
specialty crops. McGuire Center researchers also are
working with the Florida Wildflower Foundation to
evaluate the use of conventional, Florida-friendly and
native residential landscaping practices for enhancing
urban wildlife and pollinator diversity.
The McGuire Center’s research, public education
and collaboration efforts have synergistically generated
progress and direct conservation impact. The McGuire
Center continues to amass one of the most prominent
global collections, train the next generation of
scientists and emerging conservation leaders, conduct
high profile research, and produce real and lasting
educational benefits.
Nature conservation at the McGuire Center
Jaret Daniels, Assistant Director of Exhibits and
Public Programs, Florida Museum of Natural History ______________________________________
An Atala Butterfly bred in captivity at the University of Florida