Title: Identifying Movement Patterns and Habitat Preferences of Migratory Butterflies Along the Atlantic Flyway in Coastal Georgia
Presenters: Jordan Hamby, Brandi Houser, and Daniel Staab
C. Tate Holbrook, Ph.D.
Community Partner: St. Simons Land Trust
Abstract: The Butterflies of the Atlantic Flyway Alliance (BAFA) is a collaboration between land management entities and citizen scientists in coastal Georgia concerned with understanding and safeguarding natural resources critical to sustaining healthy populations of migratory butterflies. The project initially seeks to document the movement patterns of fall-migrating butterfly species, identify habitats and native nectar plants utilized by fall-migrating butterflies, identify overnight roosting sites, and engage citizen scientists in butterfly conservation. In fall 2019, 10 survey sites were established across eight barrier islands and two mainland sites. Across the sites, migration survey points and habitat-nectar transects are situated in different habitats: beach, dune, grassland, shrubland, salt marsh, forest, freshwater wetland, and developed land. Through a service-learning partnership between BIOL 4020 Conservation Biology and the St. Simons Land Trust, we are conducting biweekly BAFA surveys at Cannon’s Point Preserve, located on the north end of St. Simons Island. At three migration survey points, we count the number of individuals and flight direction of three focal butterfly species: the Gulf fritillary (Agraulis vanillae), cloudless sulfur (Phoebis sennae), and monarch (Danaus plexippus). It is too early in the fall migration season to present a quantitative summary of results. However, each of the aforementioned species has been observed flying past the migration survey points and nectaring on flowering plants—frogfruit (Phyla nodiflora), Nuttall’s thistle (Cirsium nuttallii), and sage (Salvia coccinea)—along the habitat-nectar transects. Ultimately, BAFA findings will be used to guide conservation and management of migratory butterfly habitat on the Georgia coast.