Posts Tagged: Art Shapiro
It's what I've always wanted to see on Christmas Day.
On Dec. 25, we rarely see any insects--probably because we aren't looking for them. But a butterfly? And a butterfly laying an egg?
I took an image of a Gulf Fritillary butterfly (Agraulis vanillae) laying an egg in west Vacaville (Solano County) on Christmas Day. She fluttered around a frost-bitten, caterpillar-eaten passionflower vine (Passiflora) as the temperature held steady at 65 degrees.
Then the butterfly dropped down, extended her abdomen, and laid an egg. A tiny yellowish egg, right in the middle of dozens of caterpillars and chrysalids. Somehow or another, these immature stages managed to survive our extended frost, when the mercury dipped to 22 degrees.
I told butterfly expert Art Shapiro, distinguished professor of evolution and ecology at UC Davis, about the egg-laying butterfly. Not so coincidentally, he was searching for adult butterflies in Vacaville today (temperature, 70 degrees), but didn't see any.
Shapiro, who monitors the butterflies of Central California and posts information on his website, sounded the alarm about the comeback of these spectacular orange-red butterflies several ago. It was in September 2009 that he excitedly announced the re-appearance of the Gulf Frit after its four-decade absence in the Sacramento metropolitan area, and its three-decade absence in the Davis area.
The larvae or caterpillars of the Agraulis vanillae feed on the leaves of the passion flower vine; they eat "many but not all species of the genus Passiflora," Shapiro says. "There are no native members of this genus in the state of California, but several are widely cultivated in gardens."
It's a tropical and subtropical butterfly with a range that extends from the southern United States all the way to central Argentina. No one knows exactly when the first Gulf Frit first arrived in California, but "it was already in the San Diego area by about 1875," Shapiro said. It was first recorded in the San Francisco Bay Area around 1908.
The showy butterfly colonized both south Sacramento and the Winding Way/Auburn Boulevard area in the 1960s but by 1971 it "apparently became extinct or nearly so," recalled Shapiro, a Davis resident since 1971.
Now we know that at least some Gulf Frits survived the freezing temperatures--just when a setback threatened the comeback.
Gulf Fritillary butterfly laying an egg on Christmas Day in west Vacaville. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Gulf Fritillary spreading her wings. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
It's rather troubling trying to rear subtropical butterflies, Gulf Fritillaries (Agraulis vanillae), in late autumn.
The string of warm sunny days in late November meant plenty of days for Gulf Frits to mate and reproduce. From eggs to larvae to chrysalids to adults--we watched the life cycle unfold on our passion flower vines (Passiflora).
Now it's freezing cold, with morning temperature dipping below 23 degrees.
No Gulf Frits flying outside.
But there is one Gulf Frit flying inside. It emerged from its chrysalis Friday. It is the sole occupant of our butterfly habitat.
"That butterfly could not have picked a worse time to come out," commented naturalist Greg Kareofelas, a Bohart Museum of Entomology volunteer who rears butterflies, including Gulf Frits.
He's so right. Freezing cold and pouring rain are not conducive to releasing butterflies back into the wild--the wild meaning the Passiflora.
On Sunday afternoon as the mercury rose a bit, I contemplated releasing my Gulf Frit. I asked Siri "How COLD is it in Vacaville, California?"
She answered "It is 49 degrees in Vacaville and I don't find that particularly cold."
What? So, now we're getting editorial comment when we ask a question about the weather?
Siri, as you know, is that "intelligent personal assistant and knowledge navigator" (thanks, Wikipedia) that responds to questions you ask on your iphone. Siri is Norwegian for "beautiful woman who leads you to victory."
Beautiful woman or not, Siri is neither leading ME to victory nor my boy butterfly.
Yes, my Gulf Frit is a male, according to butterfly expert Art Shapiro, distinguished professor of evolution and ecology at the University of California, Davis.
Like many other lepidopterists, Shapiro is concerned about the high pressure from the Arctic, resulting in freezing temperatures here. "The low temperatures we have experienced may be enough to extirpate the Gulf Fritillary butterfly regionally," he said. "This subtropical invader has become very popular with local residents (Yolo, Sacrameno and Solano counties, for instance), and if it is indeed wiped out, many will be sad to see it go."
Today Shapiro visited some of the warm pockets on the UC Davis campus but saw no "Leps" (Lepidoptera) of any kind.
There is, however, one restless male Lep in my butterfly habitat. His release date depends on the outside temperatures.
It does not depend on what Siri says.
Newly emerged Gulf Fritillary butterfly. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A brief bit of sunlight, and the newly emerged Gulf Frit fluttered its wings. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
You’re in luck. Butterfly expert Art Shapiro, professor of evolution and ecology at UC Davis, will speak on “Butterflies in Illuminated Manuscripts and Renaissance Art--Homage to Vladimir Nabokov" at the LASER-UC Davis event from 7:25 to 7:50 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 2 in Room 3001, Plant and Environmental Sciences Building.
What’s LASER? The acronym stands for Leonard Art Science Evening Rendezvous. Basically, as the name implies, it integrates art and science.
The event begins at 6:30 p.m. with socializing and networking, continues with four speakers, and ends with a discussion and networking from 9 to 9:30. Organized and moderated by Anna Davidson, a doctoral candidate in the UC Davis Department of Plant Sciences, it is is free and open to all interested persons.
Vladimir Nabokov (1899-1977) was a Russian-born novelist best known for Lolita (1955) but he also made "serious contributions as a lepidopterist and chess composer," according to Wikipedia.
6:30-7 p.m.: Socializing/networking
7-7:25: Amy Franceschini, San Francisco area-based artist, speaking on “Excursions through Domains of Familiarity and Surprise”
7:25-7:50: Arthur Shapiro, professor, UC Davis Department of Evolution and Ecology, “Butterflies in Illuminated Manuscripts and Renaissance Art--Homage to Vladimir Nabokov"
7:50-8:10: BREAK. (During the break anyone in the audience currently working within the intersections of art and science will have 30 seconds to share their work).
8:10-8:35: Justin Schuetz, San Francisco Art Institute faculty member and director of conservation science for National Audubon Society, “Approximating Equations: Visual and Statistical Explorations of Truth”
8:35-9: Mary Anne Kluth, interdisciplinary artist based in San Francisco, “Narratives of Inquiry in a Contemporary Art Practice”
Amy Franceschini is an artist and founder of the San Francisco-based art and design collective, Futurefarmers. Her work is highly collaborative and usually involves a diverse group of practitioners who come together to make work that responds to a particular time and space. Franceschini creates tactile frameworks for exchange where the logic of a situation can disappear -- where moments of surprise and wonder open the possibility for unexpected encounters and new perspectives on a particular situation. This situational approach emerges as temporary architectural interventions, public programs, choreography, radical journalism and museum exhibitions. Franceschini received her masters of fine arts degree from Stanford University. She is a Guggenheim Fellow and has exhibited at the New York Museum of Modern Art, New York Hall of Sciences and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum.
Art Shapiro, distinguished professor of evoluation and ecology at UC Davis, monitors the butterfly population of Central California and posts on his website at http://butterfly.ucdavis.edu/. He works on butterfly biogeography, evolution, and ecology and also does research in Argentina. Shapiro received his bachelor of arts degree in biology from the University of Pennslvania in 1966, and his doctorate in entomology from Cornell University in 1970. Shapiro joined the UC Davis faculty in 1971. He is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, California Academy of Sciences, Royal Entomological Society (U.K.) and Explorers Club. He also was selected a Fellow of the Davis Humanities Institute. His credits also include 300 scientific publications (one book, Field Guide to Butterflies of the San Francisco Bay and Sacramento Valley Regions, University of California Press, 2007); and 16 completed doctoral and 15 masters students under his direction. He works on butterfly biogeography, evolution, and ecology.
Justin Schuetz is a visiting faculty member at San Francisco Art Institute; he co-teaches a class on scientific and artistic exploration of biological systems. “Recently I have been using images and text to explore the ideas of a Japanese mathematician whose work has changed how biologists construct statistical models of the world,” Schuetz said. He received his bachelor’s degree in biology and studio art from Bowdoin College, Brunswick, Maine; his doctorate in ecology and evolutionary biology from Cornell University; and his master’s degree in fine arts (photography) from the San Francisco Art Institute. As the director of conservation science for National Audubon Society, he leads a team “that aims to describe relationships between birds, people, and places so that we can better shape conservation outcomes. Much of our recent work has focused on reconstructing responses of birds to historical climate change and forecasting responses to future climate change."
Mary Anne Kluth is an interdisciplinary artist who received her master’s degree in fine arts from the San Francisco Art Institute in 2008 and a bachelor’s of fine arts from California College of Arts in 2005. She says her work explores the nexus of landscape imagery, narrative, and information, and her most recent body of work deals with descriptions of landscape from the 1860s, and contemporary theme park simulations. Kluth recently completed a residence at the Kala Art Institute and exhibited at the Museum of Art and History, Santa Cruz, and the Contemporary Art Center, Las Vegas. Her work has been featured in ARTnews, Beautiful Decay, and Harper's, among other publications. Kluth has written catalog essays, reviews and contributed to various publications, including Art Practical, Artweek, Art Ltd. and Stretcher. She is represented by Gallery Wendi Norris in San Francisco.
For directions to the Plant and Environmental Sciences building, see map. See you there!
Butterfly expert Art Shapiro of UC Davis. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Gulf Fritillary butterfly on passion flower blossom. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
As fall fades and winter beckons, we're still seeing skipper butterflies foraging in cosmos, lantana and other flowers.
Lepidopterans study 'em but we just admire 'em.
Distinguishing characteristics of skippers include "clubs" on the tips of their antennae, and those huge, compound eyes.
The skippers (family Hesperiidae) "are a worldwide family of about 3500 species that appear to be 'sister' to the rest of the 'true butterflies,'" says butterfly expert Arthur Shapiro, professor of evolution and ecology at the University of California, Davis, on his website. "The clubs on the tips of the antennae are usually hooked. Our California skippers fall into two or three subfamilies: the spread-wing skippers (Pyrginae), the folded-wing skippers (Hesperiinae), and the Heteropterinae."
The butterfly is one of the most popular of tattoes. Odds are, however, you'll see a graceful monarch or a striking western tiger swallowtail inked on someone's skin, not a common skipper.
Ask.com, when asked "What is the meaning of a butterfly tattoo?", replied (British version): "The butterfly tattoo symbolises grace and beauty. The beautiful patterns and colours on the wings of the butterflies are undeniably attractive. The connotation and symbolism of butterfly tattoo designs is as well related to psych and spirituality."
"Butterfly" means "psyche" or "soul" in Greek.
Next time you see a skipper, think of it as a "soul" on a flower. A clubbed soul.
A skipper on a cosmos. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Close-up of a skipper. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
If you think people don't care about monarch butterflies, think again.
A recent survey published in Conservation Letters showed that Americans are willing to spend at least $4.78 billion to help conserve monarchs (Danaus plexippus), one of the most recognizable of all insects. Indeed, what is more spectacular than the multigenerational migration of monarchs heading from their breeding grounds in northern United States and southern Canada to their wintering grounds in central Mexico and coastal California?
The study of 2,289 U.S. households, led by Jay Diffendorfer of the U.S. Geological Survey, Geosciences and Environmental Change Science Center, Denver, found that we Americans love monarchs so much that we're more than willing to plant milkweed, their larval host plant, to save them.
The article, published Oct. 28 and titled National Valuation of Monarch Butterflies Indicates an Untapped Potential for Incentive-Based Conservation, calls attention to the destruction of the monarch's habitat and the importance of conservation.
"Since 1999, the size of the overwintering colonies in Mexico and California have declined, and the 2012 survey in Mexico showed the lowest colony size yet recorded, which prompted wide-scale media reports," the authors wrote. "Habitat loss in the overwintering sites in Mexico and California is well-documented, although no direct empirical link between declining overwintering habitat and monarch numbers exists. In addition, the growing use of glyphosate-tolerant genetically modified crops has reduced larval host plant (milkweed, Asclepias spp) abundances in farm fields across United States and Canada. Increasing acreage of glyphosate-tolerant corn and soybeans are negatively correlated to monarch numbers, with the area of milkweed in farm fields in the United States declining from an estimated 213,000 to 40,300 ha."
Biologist Hugh Dingle, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis, is among those studying their migration. (Read his quotes in the National Geographic cover story, "Mysteries of Great Migrations," published in November 2010. Dingle is now working on a much-anticipated book on migration from his headquarters in the Sharon Lawler lab, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.
Butterfly expert Art Shapiro, distinguished professor of evolution and ecology at UC Davis, monitors butterflies in Central California. Here's what he has to say about monarchs on his website, Art's Butterfly World.
Meanwhile, a day before Conservation Letters published the survey, a lone monarch butterfly fluttered into our backyard to sip nectar from lantana. It lingered for 10 minutes.
What a treat to see!
A monarch butterfly on lantana last week in Vacaville, Calif. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Monarch taking flight. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)