Note: This program was recorded in advance and broadcast on Tuesday, July 11.
Dr. Arthur Shapiro, Distinguished Professor of Evolution and Ecology at the University of California – Davis, has been monitoring butterfly populations across central California at two-week intervals for 45 years. This is the longest butterfly population study in North America, and one of the two longest in the world (the other, in the UK, began almost simultaneously).
In the course of that work and related research and teaching, he has become extraordinarily knowledgeable about butterfly population dynamics, evolution, and a wide range of related subjects. We could talk with him for hours…
Dr. Shapiro also authored the “Field Guide to Butterflies of the San Francisco Bay and Sacramento Valley Regions” (illustrated by Dr. Timothy Manolis, a previous Ecology Hour guest). (Amazon link here.) Much more than just a guide to identification, it presents a lot of information about butterflies, their life cycles and habitats, conservation, tips on gardening, and even how to raise them.
For this program, Dr. Shapiro discusses his monitoring project, some of the many findings, and its historical context. He also updates us with specifics about the status of the Monarch butterfly in California and elsewhere, and how the use of different Milkweed species in urban gardens is affecting their life history. We also hear about some of the myriad other butterfly species, native and alien, whose populations and ranges are changing as the California climate changes. Some of the findings are counter-intuitive and may surprise you!
The North American Butterfly Association offers more information about butterflies, including the July 4 Butterfly Count. Next year we will try to schedule another interview with Dr. Shapiro for June, so you can all prepare for the Count!