Washington State Magazine

Summer 2011 - Field and Stream

Summer 2011

Field and Stream

In This Issue...


The Storyteller—Patrick McManus ’56, ’59 MA :: Patrick McManus’s comic formula depends on his creation of a world of oddly named characters with generous and adventurous souls. And a markedly different perspective. “As far back as I can remember,” he writes, “I have seen funny. What may horrify normal people may strike me as hilarious.” by Tim Steury

{ WEB EXCLUSIVE–Story: The Lady Who Kept Things by Patrick McManus, 1957 }

{ WEB EXCLUSIVE–Story: About the editorial illustration: The Storyteller—A triple portrait by Derek Mueller with Daniel Vasconcellos (Mouse over the illustration to reveal more about McManus and the artists) }

What’s the Catch? :: The rainbow trout has evolved over millions of years to survive in varied but particular circumstances in the wild. The hatchery rainbow flourishes in its relatively new, artificial surroundings, but its acquired skill set compromises its evolution. The rainbow has so straddled the worlds of nature and nurture, says biologist Gary Thorgaard, that it has become “a world fish.” by Eric Sorensen

{ WEB EXCLUSIVE–Map: Trout fishing in Washington :: 2011 rainbow trout stocks in Washington lakes by the Department of Fish and Wildlife }

{ WEB EXCLUSIVE–Gallery: Rainbow trout :: Illustrations by Joseph Tomelleri }

The Things We Do for Our Dogs—and what they do for us :: In 1974 between 15 and 18 million dogs and cats were killed in animal control centers. To address what he perceived as “wide-spread irresponsible animal ownership,” Leo Bustad ’49 DVM created the People-Pet Partnership and promoted research into the human-animal bond. Although it is impossible to assess the total impact of his work, the number of animals killed today is down to four million. And the pet-people bond manifests itself in ways beyond his comprehension. by Hannelore Sudermann

{ WEB EXCLUSIVE–Gallery: Cougs and their dogs WSU alums, faculty, staff, and family with their dogs...send in your own}


{ WEB EXCLUSIVE–Gallery: Vintage clothes :: Apparel from WSU's collection }

{ WEB EXCLUSIVE–Video: Interview with Al Jazeera English correspondent Ayman Mohyeldin :: With Lawrence Pintak on Northwest Public Television's The Murrow Interview }


:: FIRST WORDS: Somewhere in France

:: SHORT SUBJECT: Business is blooming

:: SPORTS: From Burma to the Blazers


:: IN SEASON: Carrots

:: LAST WORDS, ER...LAUGH: The Perfect Hunt

{ WEB EXCLUSIVE–Video: Build a bouquet of local flowers }


{ WEB EXCLUSIVE–Story: Food and drink pairings with fudge :: by Kristine Vannoy ’87 }

New media

:: Fishes of the Columbia Basin: A guide to their natural history and identification by Dennis Dauble ’78

:: A Home for Every Child by Patricia Susan Hart ’91 MA, ’97 PhD

:: Murder at Foxbluff Lake by Jesse E. Freels ’99

:: Hard Water by Massy Ferguson

Fender's blue butterflies

Fender's blue butterflies

Cheryl Schultz with a Fender's blue. <em>Courtesy Cheryl Schultz</em>


Cheryl Schultz with a Fender's blue.. Courtesy Cheryl Schultz

The fate of a blue butterfly

by | © Washington State University

A century or so ago, late spring in Oregon’s Willamette Valley saw waves of delicate blue and brown butterflies across a million acres of prairie, lighting on equally delicate lupines to lay their eggs. 

At least we can imagine it that way. The region has long since been settled and farmed, and the prairies were the first to go. With them went the vast number of Fender’s blue butterflies and their host plant, the Kincaid’s lupine. The butterfly appeared to the eye of science only briefly, first in 1929, and occasionally until 1937. Then it vanished. Scientists assumed it was extinct.

In 1988, Paul Severns, age 12, collected three males and three females. The next year, Oregon entomologist Paul Hammond spotted a Fender’s blue while hiking outside Corvallis. Severns’s discovery went unnoticed; his reference book didn’t say the species was extinct. Hammond’s sighting made The New York Times.

Over the following years, scientists, conservationists, and land managers set to salvaging pieces of the original prairie, less than half a percent of which remains. In 2000, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service put the butterfly in the “endangered” column of the endangered species list, meaning it is at risk of going extinct. The Kincaid’s lupine was listed as “threatened.”

Cheryl Schultz, an associate professor in the School of Biological Sciences at WSU Vancouver, has now spent almost two decades following the Fender’s blue, mostly in five-minute spurts. She started out watching them with no known pattern in mind. But over time she has found ways to describe their flight with a mathematical formula, using it to come up with a way of helping make the most of their shrunken range.

 “By understanding the mechanisms of how they move across the landscape,” she says, “we can ask questions like, ‘Well, what are they going to do if we restore it like this? What are they going to do if we restore it like that?’” 

Schultz arrived in the Willamette Valley in 1993 as a University of Washington doctoral student. She had witnessed the spotted owl debate while in college and was intrigued by the potential of science to explore “the gray areas” overlooked in the good-vs.-bad, black-vs.-white portrayals of environmental issues. 

“It’s a question of finding balance,” she says. “When are the species declining and how? What’s impacting them? How do we work within the system to say, ‘What kind of changes can we do so we can protect the species, but also work with the human populations that are there?’”

Schultz concentrated on the math of conservation biology and learned about population viability modeling—which populations can sustain themselves, which might crash. She was interested in corridors linking areas of habitat when she came upon the story of the Fender’s blue butterfly and realized it offered a specific, narrow set of questions.

As you might imagine, she spent a lot of time simply looking at the butterflies. One thing making that possible is they’re weak flyers. If you don’t confuse it with the similar-looking silvery blue butterfly, you can spend a day tracking one as it flies about at eye height, oblivious to the observer. You might even spend a butterfly’s lifetime—9.5 days, on average—following one. Typically, Schultz would spend five minutes on one’s trail, dropping small flags every time it landed or every 20 seconds on the wing to get a flight path. 

Schultz and her students saw that at the edge of a Kincaid’s lupine patch the butterflies seemed to notice they were leaving their habitat. Sometimes they would come back, displaying a bias to return that could be described in a mathematical formula.

One thing became clear: The Fender’s blue would not profit by having corridors to link larger sections of habitat. The corridor under consideration, a six- to eight-foot-wide lupine-strewn stretch along Amazon Creek near Eugene, would not work. 

“What we found was, no, they won’t stay in a corridor,” says Schultz. “They won’t stay in an area that narrow.”

But an analysis of settlement records in the valley showed it used to have patches of prairie, and often many of them, and they were frequently less than half a kilometer apart. 

Measurements by Schultz and her students found butterflies could fly half a kilometer in a lifetime if they were in lupine habitat, and almost two kilometers if they got outside of it. 

She suggested “stepping stones” of habitat linking larger refuges. Over several generations, butterflies from different populations could intermingle. They could mix their genes and prevent interbreeding. If one population went extinct, its habitat could be recolonized by individuals from another population. 

“It makes it more feasible that the butterflies will be able to fly back and forth,” says Ed Alverson, stewardship ecologist for The Nature Conservancy, which has ten sites in the valley with the butterfly, the Kincaid’s lupine, or both. “That’s an example of how the research feeds into the conservation process.”

Several of the areas Schultz identified as stepping stones are now designated critical habitat. They’re being restored under a management plan she helped design. But the butterflies aren’t yet out of the woods, so to speak. In 2003, she said only one of 16 populations had a better than 90 percent chance of making it through the century. Now, she says, their odds have probably improved, “but we haven’t done the analysis yet.”

Meanwhile, Paul Severns, whose 1988 discovery of Fender’s blues is largely unacknowledged, has received an Oregon State University PhD in the genetics of Kincaid’s lupine. He’s now a postdoc in Schultz’s lab working on another imperiled butterfly, the Taylor’s checkerspot.

Categories: Biological sciences, Environmental studies | Tags: Butterflies, Endangered species

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