Creekside Science

Creekside Science Tackles Monarch Butterfly Overwintering Habitat Across California

In Monarchs, Research, Restoration, Stewardship on August 23, 2020 at 9:49 am

The Western monarch butterfly population that overwinters in California is in a state of collapse from a panoply of causes, including pesticide use, climate change, land use-change, and deterioration of the overwintering sites along the coast.  Stu has been working with overwintering monarchs since 1990, using hemispherical (fisheye) photography to quantify canopy structure and map wind and sun exposure within the sites.  As of summer 2020, Creekside Science is assessing more than 20 monarch sites from Sonoma to Orange Counties, working with various cities, California State Parks, Resource Conservation Districts, and the Xerces Society to assess the current conditions of groves and to develop long-term management plans.  One fascinating aspect is that conserving monarchs requires thoughtful management of specific non-native eucalyptus forests, which the monarchs have occupied because eucalyptus groves provide the exacting microclimatic conditions sought by the butterflies.

Here is Stu with his venerable fisheye camera rig, while he and Chris were bushwhacking through the dense poison oak understory of a Eucalyptus grove at Andrew Molera State Park in Big Sur.  Stu had worked this site in 2001, and noted densification of the forest that will be captured with the fisheye photos and a novel application of LiDAR (laser mapping from aircraft).

A LiDAR image of Andrew Molera, looking like a 19th Century Japanese woodblock print, provides 3-D structural information.  Note the peaked roof of the Cooper Cabin, built in 1861, and the large trunks of the eucalyptus trees planted around the same time that the cabin was constructed.

Here is a fisheye photo from which canopy openings in different directions can be used to estimate wind and sun penetration.  The cabin is to the upper right, and the Santa Lucia Range can be seen through the large trees surrounding the cabin. 

A Butterfly’s World: A Video by Kirra Swenerton of Root Wisdom

In Bay Checkerspot, Rare species, Restoration on January 22, 2020 at 11:11 am

Kirra Swenerton highlighted the Bay checkerspot butterfly’s return to San Bruno Mountain in a video featuring a number of the butterfly’s life stages. Creekside Science is proud of the success of this project so far, and is looking forward to continued collaboration with Kirra and all other invested partners.

San Bruno Mountain Lupine Seeding Year 2

In Mission Blue Butterfly, Rare species, Research, Restoration, Stewardship on January 7, 2020 at 3:02 pm

In 2018 Creekside Science was awarded a Disney Butterfly Conservation Initiative grant for work with the federally endangered Mission blue butterfly (MBB). This grant covers work with MBB habitat, with a focus on restoration of the butterfly’s host lupine species.

In December 2019 Creekside Science staff and Kirra Swenerton (of Root Wisdom) installed 10 blocks of experimental seed plots on San Bruno Mountain using 50 Lupinus formosus and 50 Lupinus albifrons seeds each. In addition to those experimental plots, 10 operational plots were installed, each containing 50 seeds (25 of each species). Lastly, 3000 seeds (1,700 L. formosus and 1,300 L. albifrons) were set out in expansion plots elsewhere on the hill. These plots join last year’s Lupinus formosus experimental seeding trials to further our understanding of how best to establish lupines in MBB habitat. The seeds were propagated in the Creekside Science Conservation Nursery. This is all part of a regional, interagency conservation effort to support lupine diversification and habitat enhancement for the recovery of the MBB.  In cooperation with multiple agency partners, efforts to address known habitat enhancement challenges through updated host plant mapping, lupine seed amplification and experimental direct seeding strategies are underway.