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May 18, 2004
CONTACT: Kathleen Shields

New hope for endangered butterfly, thanks to EMU biologists, state taxpayers

YPSILANTI — Michiganders who contribute to the Nongame Wildlife Fund on their state income tax form may be helping Eastern Michigan University researchers save a rare butterfly from extinction.  

Mitchell's Satyr butterfly

Catherine Bach, an EMU biology professor, and Barbara Barton, a biology master's degree candidate, have been awarded a $10,000 grant from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources' Michigan Natural Heritage small grants program to study the Mitchell's satyr butterfly ( Neonympha mitchellii mitchellii ). The program's funding comes from the income tax form contributions; direct donations to the fund; or through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service state wildlife grants program.

Mitchell's satyr is currently listed on state and federal endangered species lists. The reasons for the species' decline are unclear, but potential factors include habitat loss or degradation and isolation.

"Because satyrs are so rare and remaining colonies so isolated and small, we do not have a firm understanding of their habitat and oviposition (egg-laying) needs.   In order to recover the species from possible extinction, that basic information must be gathered," said Bach.  

She and Barton will visit sites in central and southeastern Michigan where the Mitchell's satyr is known to have colonies; monitoring those populations using field studies and catch and release methods. Females will be followed and oviposition sites marked. Bach and Barton will examine and log the light intensity, temperature, relative humidity and vegetation at each site to determine conditions that exist in each area the butterflies populate.

The data will enable the researchers to quantify the satyrs' habitat requirements, responses to habitat disturbances and oviposition behavior. Bach and Barton will then share the results with land managers and others who will use it for management and habitat creation, providing more opportunities for the butterflies to colonize and reproduce.

The study, entitled Population Ecology and Oviposition Site Selection by Mitchell's Satyr Butterflies, will be performed June through August 2004.


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Editor's Note: Looking for an expert source for a story? Check out EMU's Eastern Experts online at www.emich.edu/univcomm/easternexperts.

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