Understanding Interactions Between Butterflies and their Floral Resources in Iowa Grasslands

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Proescholdt, Toni
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Symposium on Undergraduate Research and Creative Expression
Iowa State University Conferences and Symposia

The Symposium provides undergraduates from all academic disciplines with an opportunity to share their research with the university community and other guests through conference-style oral presentations. The Symposium represents part of a larger effort of Iowa State University to enhance, support, and celebrate undergraduate research activity.

Though coordinated by the University Honors Program, all undergraduate students are eligible and encouraged to participate in the Symposium. Undergraduates conducting research but not yet ready to present their work are encouraged to attend the Symposium to learn about the presentation process and students not currently involved in research are encouraged to attend the Symposium to learn about the broad range of undergraduate research activities that are taking place at ISU.

The first Symposium was held in April 2007. The 39 students who presented research and their mentors collectively represented all of ISU's Colleges: Agriculture and Life Sciences, Business, Design, Engineering, Human Sciences, Liberal Arts and Sciences, Veterinary Medicine, and the Graduate College. The event has grown to regularly include more than 100 students presenting on topics that span the broad range of disciplines studied at ISU.

Ecology, Evolution and Organismal Biology

Grasslands provide habitat for many animal species and serve to improve soil and water quality. These ecosystem services have an impact on humans through economic, health, and aesthetic avenues. Given historic and ongoing losses of grasslands to row crop agriculture and development, it is essential to better understand the complex relationships between grassland animals and their environment in order to conserve and restore grassland habitat. This research focused on improving the understanding of interactions between grassland butterflies and their environment. Topics explored include landscape history and management (with an emphasis on the effect of fire as a management tool), nectar production, flower diversity, and butterfly abundance patterns and behavior. We analyzed butterfly activity in grassland plots as a function of floral resources (nectar volume and concentration). This research was conducted in three grassland types: 1) remnant prairies, 2) reconstructed prairies, and 3) moderately grazed cattle pastures. Within these grasslands, plant diversity and management varied. Flower diversity appears to affect butterfly abundance and behavior, and fire as maintenance is having an effect on nectar resources. This work will provide an improved understanding of the interactions between butterflies and their resources, and it will inform decision-makers interested in managing grasslands for pollinators.

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