Species Spotlight: Karner Blue Butterfly

Karner blue butterfly

Photo: Marilyn Keigley

By Eugene Kutz, MNA Intern

Butterflies embody the transcendent journey of nature. Fascinated with their metamorphic abilities, many harbor a love for the butterfly’s diverse incarnations. Sadly, there are ongoing threats to the habitats of many of these butterfly species. One such species is the Karner blue butterfly (Lycaeides melissa samuelis), which according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has declined by 99% over the past 100 years, 90% of which occurred in the past 15 years.

karner-blue-butterfly-1

Photo: Animals Time

Found near the Great Lakes and the northeast United States, this subspecies of the Melissa blue butterfly have a wingspan of about one inch. Individual adults usually live only five days or so, with females living up to two weeks. They are identified as male and female from telling characteristics. Males have a silvery or dark blue topside with narrow black margins—whereas female wings are gray-brown with a blue topside, featuring orange bands inside a black border. Both males and females sport the same gray underside with beautiful orange crescents along the edge of the wings, with scattered black spots circled with white.

In Michigan, Karner blues have historically lived in the western and southern Lower Peninsula. The amount of available habitat for Karners has reduced, causing a significant population decline. The Karner blue suffered extreme habitat loss and degradation, causing a massive population drop from 1970 to 1980, becoming federally listed as endangered by 1992. It has since been listed as a Michigan threatened species (plants and animals likely to become endangered). The species is currently surviving in at least 10 southern Michigan counties.

Karners prefer to live in oak savannas and pine barrens, and are found inhabiting areas that are partially shady with sandy soil. Previously living in a range from Maine to Minnesota, the Karner blue butterfly now exists only in smaller populations in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Wisconsin, New York and Minnesota and is believed to have disappeared permanently in Illinois, Iowa, Pennsylvania, Maine, New Hampshire and Ontario.

Lupine By USFWS Joel Trick

Lupine By USFWS; Joel Trick

The wild blue lupine (Lupinus perennis) is the only food source for the Karner caterpillar larvae, and adults feed on the flowering plant nectar. Yet the habitats do not completely overlap, the Karner population range occupying only the north-most growth extent of the lupine. These factors greatly restrict where the Karner can live, endangering the species. Habitats are also lost when plants like the lupine lose in competition with other vegetation in these habitat ranges, like pine and oak trees.

Other primary causes of Karner blue habitat destruction are land development and a lack of natural disturbance, such as wildfire and grazing by large mammals. Without fire, the kind of open-canopy habitats lupine plants require become overgrown into closed-canopies. These events maintain their habitat by keeping forests from encroaching and adding in the growth of plants like the lupine. Now the Karner blue mostly survives in degraded openings, old fields, and utility and highway rights-of-way.

Researchers continue to search for the best way to manage their population. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have created and implanted a Recover Plan for protecting and restoring the Karner blue. Many butterfly collectors may wish to have a Karner blue for its rarity, but due to their low numbers even collecting a few individuals could harm their survival, and to legally collect one must obtain a permit from the FWS. In some places, the butterfly’s habitats are managed and protected. Wisconsin has implemented a statewide Habitat Conservation Plan that permits human activities in areas that support the species and its habitat. Zoos have reintroduced Karner blues by propagating them in new suitable habitats in Ohio, Indiana and New Hampshire in areas where the Karner has previously been extirpated.

At MNA sanctuaries, visitors can observe these beautiful butterflies. MNA is fighting for the conservation of the Karner blue butterfly, restoring critical habitat in several counties. MNA is protecting these “conservation-reliant” species through active restoration and stewardship, using techniques like prescribed fire, to maintain their habitat.

There are many ways people can play a critical role in protecting the future of this species by supporting local conservation efforts. In addition, help protect the Karner blue butterfly by conserving or managing your property for Karner blue and other rare species, contacting local Landowner Incentives Program (LIP) Biologists, learning more about federal programs available to landowners, supporting the use of prescribed fire to maintain prairies and savannas, and limiting or avoiding the use of pesticides near Karner blue butterfly habitats.

Learn more about this unique endangered butterfly at the Michigan Nature Association’s third annual Karner Blue Butterfly Family Fun Run & 5K on May 20 at Millennium Park in Grand Rapids. This event will help to raise awareness for endangered species and habitat conservation efforts. Sign up at https://runsignup.com/Race/MI/Walker/KarnerBlueButterflyRun.

13245286_10153850391677909_1475145391302726101_n

Karner Blue Butterfly Run in Grand Rapids. Photo: Pamela Ferris

 

2016 Year in Review

2016 was an incredibly important and successful year for MNA! We are excited to provide this 2016 Year in Review, a snapshot of a remarkable year and a powerful testament to the tremendous work made possible by our members, volunteers, and donors. There are may stories to celebrate as we take a look back at a busy year. Here are just a few highlights:

  • We completed nine land acquisition projects adding more than 800 acres to our statewide network of nature sanctuaries.
  • We restored critical habitat for endangered species including the eastern prairie fringed orchid, Karner blue butterfly, Blanchard’s cricket frog and the eastern massasauga rattlesnake.
  • We worked with teachers and schools, and reached out to families and communities, to help connect children with nature.

Our founders envisioned an organization that would connect people with nature and leave a lasting legacy by protecting Michigan’s unique natural heritage. We can say with confidence that our 2016 accomplishments uphold that bold vision while preparing us for the difficult work ahead.

Thank you to our members, donors, and volunteers for making 2016 a great success and a year to remember! If you would like to support MNA, you can become a member or make a tax-deductible contribution.

2016 Year in Review Cover

 

Summer Stewardship Internships Open!

Stewardship Assistant
Volunteer Internship
Michigan Nature Association

Location: Variable by day – work will take place at numerous MNA sanctuaries across southeast Michigan.

Duration: Negotiable, May–September is preferred

Time Commitment:  Applicants should be available a minimum of one full day – can be up to 10 hours (including drive time) – per week and arrange for their own transportation to the day’s meeting location. Options to carpool with staff or other interns may be available.  Internship will be considered fulfilled when the Stewardship Assistant has completed 18 full days of volunteer service with MNA.

Required Experience: Some previous experience in the environmental field – can be through education, volunteering, past internships or jobs, etc.  Ability to perform physically demanding work outside, in a wide range of weather conditions, while maintaining a positive attitude.  Ability to communicate professionally and politely is a must as there is a high level of interaction involved with staff, stewards, and volunteers.

Responsibilities:  The Stewardship Assistant’s primary responsibility will be to assist MNA staff, stewards, and volunteers in the management of sanctuaries through various forms of field activity, which may include: removal of invasive species, trail and boundary maintenance, participating in controlled burns, conducting species surveys, site monitoring, etc.

This volunteer internship will include opportunities to:

  • Gain valuable insight into the diverse and often hidden natural environment of Michigan.  With 170+ sanctuaries that are spread across both peninsulas, interns will be exposed to a wide variety of Michigan’s animals and plants, some that are exclusive to the state.
  • Work outdoors in an academic setting that also involves getting one’s hands dirty.  You will learn basic plant identification skills, become familiar with high quality examples of many of the natural communities that occur in southeast Michigan, and gain experience with a range of common management techniques used in the restoration field.
  • Work with experts in the various fields that share a common goal in protecting and preserving our environment.  Botanists, wildlife biologists, ecologists, etc. are working directly at MNA or are closely affiliated with our organization.
  • Learn how to deal with multiple parties across different levels of involvement in the organization, along with gaining excellent communication skills.
  • Become part of an energetic and highly motivated non-profit land protection organization.

*Please Note: This is an unpaid volunteer internship.

Background Information on MNA:

The Michigan Nature Association (MNA), the state’s first land preservation organization, manages and maintains over 170 nature sanctuaries across the state, totaling over 11,000 acres, through ownership and conservation easement.  Most of the sanctuaries house rare habitats and species and are managed to protect their viability.

For More Information or to Apply:

For more information on this position or to apply, please contact MNA Regional Stewardship Organizer, Rachel Maranto, at rmaranto@michigannature.org or 517-525-2627.  Application materials should include resume, cover letter, and contact information for 3 references.  For more information on MNA, please see our web site at www.michigannature.org.

Students and Volunteers Build a Boardwalk at Twin Waterfalls

By Adrienne Bozic, Regional Stewardship Organizer – Eastern Upper Peninsula

On a brisk Saturday morning, a group of intrepid young adults converged upon MNA’s Twin Waterfalls Memorial Plant Preserve in Munising to celebrate All Saint’s Day in the most hallowed of ways: volunteering in the name of community service and ecological restoration. Regional Stewardship Organizers Adrienne Bozic and John Bagley led a crew of ten in construction of a new boardwalk over a wet section of trail. Twin Waterfalls is one MNA’s most visited sanctuaries, so these improvements were much needed and will provide a better trail system and visitor experience for years to come.

Our lumber was delivered, already cut to length, to the construction site at 8:30, thanks to 41 Lumber – who also extended a significant discount on all of the project materials. The enthusiastic group of students from Northern Michigan University and Grand Valley State University, all the more dedicated for having foregone Halloween festivities for this endeavor (maybe we should have had a belated costume contest?), carried the lumber from the road up the trail to the job site.

Nicole Mathiasz carrying lumber

Nicole Mathiasz carries more than her weight in lumber! Photo: Kathryn Lund Johnson

After moving all of the lumber down the trail to the construction site, we set to work clearing the area and constructing the framework for the walkway.  At this point, the trail was still relatively dry.

But… our work site quickly turned into a wet, muddy quagmire which would have soured most; but expectations were realistic and spirits were high. One noted that “I never expected to have warm, dry feet anyway!”  Good thing!

Yikes! Photo: Adrienne Bozic

Yikes! Photo: Adrienne Bozic

The project slowly came together over the course of the morning. Everybody took part in all tasks, including cutting, drilling, digging, and most importantly, keeping spirits and energy high. I would welcome this good-natured crew on any of my projects!  David Buth of the Grand Rapids-based experiential education non-profit, Summer Journeys, brought several of his current and former students and leaders.  He noted that this service project was a perfect fit for his organization’s goal to “transform adolescents through experiential learning so they become stewards of their communities and selves”. Though the Twin Waterfalls project was not officially part of his curriculum, we agree that participation in activities like MNA work days help people acquire knowledge, skills, and confidence.  Working on service projects enables people to better appreciate and act ethically in the places they visit and call home.  We hope to work more with Summer Journeys in the future!

John Bagley and David Buth set the first screw. Photo: Kathryn Lund Johnson

John Bagley and David Buth set the first screw. Photo: Kathryn Lund Johnson

Everyone lent a hand, and while some present may not necessarily agree that “many hands make light work”, it certainly made it more enjoyable! One student was even overheard exclaiming, “I love volunteering!”

Photo: Adrienne Bozic

Photo: Adrienne Bozic

Four hours of heavy labor in the cold really works up an appetite, so we broke for lunch at noon to enjoy hearty and delicious sandwiches and sides generously donated by the Falling Rock Café in downtown Munising.

Alas, the end of a long work day came before we could complete the project.  But we got a significant portion built and a great foundation to add to in the future. Besides…we had hot pizza and cold drinks awaiting us at Main Street Pizza in Munising, who offered to donate all the pizza we could eat and then some!  And we all had a long drive awaiting us: some back to Marquette, and some an all-day drive back home to Grand Rapids.  What a commitment by these dedicated volunteers! You can see the keen sense of satisfaction on the faces of these well-fed volunteers at the end of a long, tough day.

Ready for some pizza! Photo: Adrienne Bozic

Ready for some pizza! Photo: Adrienne Bozic

More improvements are yet needed, and additional segments of boardwalk have yet to be built.  Keep your eye out for future opportunities to help improve this fantastic natural area! Volunteer Days will be posted on the MNA website.

We made great progress on the boardwalk in just one day thanks to our fantastic volunteers and local sponsors! Photo: Adrienne Bozic

We made great progress on the boardwalk in just one day thanks to our fantastic volunteers and local sponsors! Photo: Adrienne Bozic

Thanks to all of the participants who showed up on Saturday to lend a much-needed hand; and without whom this project would not have happened: David Buth, Sky Curie, Tyler Lenderink, Peter Donnelly, Nicole Mathiasz, Kelly Radius, Nathan Sherman, Kathryn Lund Johnson, Maddie Tencate.

Special thanks to the generous local business donors who made this project possible: 41 Lumber, Falling Rock Café, Main Street Pizza, the Munising Chamber of Commerce, and the Magnusson Hotel

MNA to recognize volunteers and conservationists at October 17 ceremony

By Kary Askew Garcia, MNA Intern

Don’t miss out on MNA’s annual Volunteer and Donor Recognition Dinner on Oct. 17 at the Kellogg Hotel and Conference Center.

Guests will enjoy a delicious meal, jazz music and the presentation of awards to hard-working, dedicated individuals who do so much to protect Michigan’s natural heritage.

Tickets are $30. You can purchase tickets online through the MNA website or by contacting Danielle Cooke at dcooke@michigannature.org or 866-223-2231.

The following awards will be presented during the celebration:

Continue reading

Uprooting invasive knapweed

By Kary Askew Garcia, MNA Intern

A moth rests atop a knapweed flower. Photo courtesy of MNA archives.

A moth rests atop a knapweed flower. Photo courtesy of MNA archives

MNA is hosting several stewardship events this summer to remove the invasive knapweed plant from various sanctuaries.

The invasion of knapweed poses a danger to native plant life and must be uprooted. The knapweed’s origins are traced back to southeastern Europe. The plant begins to grow as a rosette of leaves in its first year of life and then later on grows a flower stalk ranging from six to 36 inches in height. The flower is usually pink or purple in color with a spotted head underneath, as knapweed is also referred to as “spotted knapweed.”

Knapweed can be found in well-drained soils, dry prairies and dunes. Knapweed is especially harmful to oak barrens, which are endangered worldwide.

The weed’s invasion has caused a decline in native plant species, which is threatening to the ecosystem. It can also alter water quality by causing an increase in soil runoff and erosion.

Spotted knapweed growing on dry terrain. MNA archives.

Spotted knapweed growing on dry terrain. Photo courtesy of MNA archives

Two common ways of eliminating knapweed are simply pulling the plants or mowing them down. There are also herbicides and chemicals that can also be used for removal but have several regulations and must be used carefully as to not upset any other plant or wildlife.

Two different insects have also been introduced to inhibit the knapweed from spreading seeds: flower weevils and seedhead flies. These insects introduced to the knapweed are a form of biological control of the invasive species.

Of these methods, MNA has most commonly uprooted the weed. Uprooting sounds much easier than it is, involving tools to help pull as many of the knapweed’s roots out of the soil as possible. If left behind, the roots could help the weed grow again and damage native plant life.

The knapweed has a tendency to knock out all other vegetation surrounding it, making many ecosystems bare if it isn’t removed.

MNA has also used prescribed burns and herbicide to remove larger amounts of knapweed in sanctuaries. Simply pulling knapweed when it is extremely abundant wouldn’t prove effective; burns and chemicals have helped to reduce the occurrence of the plant.

For more information on spotted knapweed, see Michigan State University’s Agriculture and Natural Resources website here.

Volunteers and stewards help pick knapweed at an MNA nature sanctuary. Photo courtesy of MNA archives

Volunteers and stewards help pick knapweed at an MNA nature sanctuary. Photo courtesy of MNA archives

MNA is calling for volunteers to help pull spotted knapweed from different sanctuaries. The next pull will be hosted at the Calla Burr Nature Sanctuary in Oakland County on July 10 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

More upcoming knapweed removal events:

  •  July 22: Volunteer Day: Lefglen Nature Sanctuary in Jackson County. 9 a.m. – 1 p.m.
  • July 25: Spotted Knapweed Pull at Calla Burr in Oakland County. Begins 9 a.m.
  • July 26: Spotted Knapweed Pull at Keweenaw Shores II Plant Preserve in Keweenaw County with Nancy Leonard. Begins 11 a.m.
  • August 9: Hike & Volunteer day: Redwyn’s Dunes in Keweenaw County. Begins 11 a.m.

Please contact the MNA office for more information about volunteering and preserving Michigan’s nature.

Meet the MNA Staff: Adrienne Bozic

By Annie Perry, MNA Intern

MNA’s staff is full of people committed to protecting Michigan’s natural habitats. In addition to stewards and volunteers that help manage the sanctuaries, MNA has a group of regional stewardship organizers that oversee the volunteers and organize stewardship projects. Our three regional stewardship organizers are Adrienne Bozic, Katherine Hollins and Matt Schultz.

MNA's Regional Stewardship Organizer for the Eastern Upper Peninsula

Adrienne Bozic, MNA’s Regional Stewardship Organizer for the Eastern Upper Peninsula

Adrienne has been on the MNA staff for two years and first worked as a contractor. She was a volunteer and steward for some time before joining the staff. Adrienne oversees all of the Upper Peninsula sanctuaries from Baraga County to Chippewa County, where she coordinates and conducts sanctuary maintenance and monitoring, writes and executes management plans for each sanctuary, performs plant and animal surveys, organizes and recruits volunteers, collaborates with partner organizations, and acts as an ambassador for MNA throughout the Upper Peninsula.

Adrienne comes from a long line of outdoors people and found her interest in the environment while leading nature walks for children in her neighborhood. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in environmental interpretation and worked for 15 years in a number of field jobs in environmental science and conservation. She eventually conducted plant surveys at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore and completed her master’s degree in biology.

We sent Adrienne a few questions to learn a little more about her experiences at MNA. Check out her responses below!

Q: What is your favorite part about being a regional stewardship organizer?

A: Getting to work in all of the U.P.’s varied landscapes and habitats, the opportunity to spend time with some of Michigan’s most rare and threatened species, and the relationships I’ve developed with many of MNA’s outstanding volunteers and members. And believing that I am making a direct contribution to the conservation of native landscapes and biodiversity.

Q: What is your favorite Michigan species (flora or fauna) and why?

A: I don’t tend to think that way, so I don’t have an answer to that question! I love them all. Except the noxious non-native ones that threaten native ecosystems. I did my master’s research on some of Michigan’s rare native orchids, so I do have a special affinity for them.

Q: If you could be any species (Michigan native or not), what would you be and why?

A: Um, maybe a wood duck? I could walk, swim and fly, and live in a tree. Then again, maybe I’d prefer to be a non-game species.