Conserve Wildlife Blog

Archive for the ‘Invertebrates’ Category

Native Plants Transform Space into Rich Pollinator Habitat

Wednesday, October 19th, 2016

By Kendall Miller, Project Coordinator

 

This fall, Conserve Wildlife Foundation partnered with Firmenich and GZA Environmental to provide pollinator plants to build an entirely new butterfly and rain garden on the Waldorf School campus in Princeton.

 

Firmenich volunteers stationed the plants around the garden and planted them on their annual global volunteer day. Plants include aromatic lavender, bright black-eyed susans and echinacea, shrubs like winterberry holly and spice bush, and trees such as common hackberry and sweet bay magnolia. These plants are all native to the local environment and provide essential nectar sources for pollinators.

 

waldorf-1waldorf-2

From left to right, bee on lavender photo from Andrew Wilkinson through Flickr Creative Commons and eastern blue-tail visiting black-eyed susan Vicki Deloach through Flickr Creative Commons.

 

The space for the new garden was a previously fallow section of the school’s one acre garden. It was overgrown and somewhat sprawling until the project came about. Facilities manager Kevin Jones and gardening teacher Suzanne Cunningham both prepared the space for its transformation into a rich habitat of native plants.

waldorf-3

Left. After planting, an unused and fallow area of the school’s garden is now home to several different types of native plants.

 

“Pollinators are in decline, which is very unfortunate since we rely on them as irreplaceable contributors to our health, our food, our environment, and our economy,” said David Wheeler, CWF Executive Director. “We are so thrilled to partner on this exciting and vital habitat project, particularly where the youngest generation can experience the beauty and vitality of nature first-hand.”

 

The native plants were provided by D&R Greenway Land Trust and Bountiful Gardens.  CWF is working to expand native pollinator habitat across the state with leading corporate sustainability partners such as Firmenich and Atlantic City Electric.

 

The Waldorf School of Princeton has built three butterfly gardens, which serve to create a safe environment for local pollinators, such as monarch and swallowtail butterflies, honeybees, and hummingbirds. To this end, a honeybee colony has made it’s home in one of their trees and has grown to host over 2,000 wild honeybees! The school has been honored by the National Wildlife Federation as a Certified Wildlife Habitat, as well The Bronze Award from Eco-Schools USA program. They are certified from Monarch Watch as a Monarch Waystation.

 

The Waldorf School of Princeton is founded on principles of sustainability, environmental stewardship, and community cooperation. The school’s major green initiatives reflect the needs of their beautiful campus and the ability of their students to participate in the greening process. The Waldorf School of Princeton has the area’s oldest school garden, over 30 years old, which houses crops, herbs, flowers, and fruit trees.

 


LEARN MORE


 

Kendall Miller is a Project Coordinator with Conserve Wildlife Foundation.

 

New Jersey’s Key Role in the Monarch Migration

Tuesday, October 4th, 2016
The Garden State annually hosts swarms of southbound Monarch Butterflies

By: Kendall Miller, Project Coordinator

Monarch butterfly refueling in Cape May as it prepares for fall migration to Mexico. Photo courtesy of Lindsey Brendel.

Monarch butterfly refueling in Cape May as it prepares for fall migration to Mexico. Photo courtesy of Lindsey Brendel.

Monarch has been a conservation buzz-word for the past decade when data revealed that the population had appeared to be on the decline. Then in 2013, the population of wintering monarch butterflies in Mexico reached an all-time low that jolted scientists, environmentalists, and enthusiasts across the nation.

Monarch abundance in wintering grounds is measured as area in hectares. They roost in large colonies in the Transvolcanic Mountains in Mexico. The 2013-2014 overwintering population experienced the lowest recorded area to date, at 0.67 ha. From MonarchWatch.org.

Monarch abundance in wintering grounds is measured as area in hectares. They roost in large colonies in the Transvolcanic Mountains in Mexico. The 2013-2014 overwintering population experienced the lowest recorded area to date, at 0.67 ha. From MonarchWatch.org.

This marvelous and iconic lepidopteran is found throughout the continental United States. Its 3,000 mile long migration is an amazing natural phenomenon. The news of population declines in Mexican wintering sites inflamed concern and incited action. Many groups have since created partnerships, implemented programs, and conducted research to understand more about this widely known yet still mysterious insect.

The location of wintering monarchs was a complete mystery until 1975 when the remote wintering sites were discovered in transvolcanic mountain ranges in Mexico. Much is still to be discovered about the migration pathways even within the United States, and doing so will answer questions which will inform conservation and management of this species which faces multiple threats during every aspect of its expansive journey.

Glider pilots have observed monarch butterflies at an altitude of 1200 meters (Gibo 1981).  Migratory flights at these altitudes can allow insects to disperse against wind directions found at lower altitudes.


But first, a little bit about biology and the annual life cycle

The monarch’s annual lifecycle is a really marvelous and multifaceted journey – it can be thought of as a multigenerational relay race.

From the Xerces Society. Map depicts the known general migration routes of monarch butterflies.

From the Xerces Society. Map depicts the known general migration routes of monarch butterflies.

Monarch butterflies, just like other lepidopterans, metamorphosis from caterpillar to butterfly. The big thing that sets them apart is the migration they make annually. (Although there are many other species of moths and butterflies, and other insects as well that migrate – the monarch is arguably the most well recognized example http://texasento.net/migration.htm).

Temporal cues and an innate determination drive these ambitions fliers to travel as far north as the Canadian border. In the search for milkweed and favorable temperatures – possibly to avoid disease pressures – monarchs fly north to reproduce and recolonize across North America each year.

They leave overwintering grounds in Mexico in early spring. Along their route the monarchs will mate and reproduce. Their lives are lived within a short couple weeks, and their offspring will continue the migration northwards in search of food and milkweed.

When the seasons shift in late summer and early fall, the last generation of monarchs will begin a southbound journey, instinctively traveling to wintering sites in Mexico (there are a few populations that overwinter in California and Florida – but the large majority are thought to return to Mexico). This generation will be responsible for making the longest trek of the migration to wintering grounds. These monarchs enter reproductive diapause – the state where the body will temporarily pause reproduction – until the following spring. These monarchs will spend the winter roosting in trees in Mexico until spring when they will take up the first leg of the relay north.

This last generation from the previous year now makes up the first generation of the present year – and will pass the baton on to their offspring as the cycle starts anew.


The role of the Garden State

So what part does New Jersey play in the grand scheme of this massive population?

The Atlantic coast migration was once characterized as “aberrant”, a fluke of sorts – the result of southbound monarchs being blown off course. Research and monitoring conducted in Cape May and published by Walton and Brower (1996) in The Journal of the Lepidopterist’s Society have supported the hypothesis that a migration along the Atlantic coast is part of the monarch’s normal fall migration.

What does a monarch have in common with a hawk?
Walton and Brower (1996) have proposed the idea that monarch butterflies could display similar flight patterns to that of migrating hawks. Utilizing an elliptical flight path during the fall south-bound migration, the model suggests that these birds take advantage of prevailing winds by first traveling east and then west, thus providing a quicker and more energetically-efficient route. Could monarch do the same?

New Jersey – Southern New Jersey and Cape May in particular – is historically recognized as a concentration area for southbound monarchs during the fall migration to wintering grounds. Hamilton (1885) [expressed his wonder of the] characterized the September 1885 monarch migration at Brigantine, New Jersey as “almost past belief … millions is but feebly expressive … miles of them is no exaggeration.” Reports of trees “more orange than green” is no exaggeration, as monarchs congregate en masse in prime roosting spots to warm and rest.

But why is this important? The monarchs migrating through Cape May seem to be representative of the entire North Eastern population – and therefore it offers the opportunity to collect quantitative data on populations in addition to other annual counts. The fourth of July counts focus on quantitatively monitoring the Northeastern population of monarchs as they arrive in the spring and summer. Therefore this data can be used to analyze population trends.


What part can New Jersey residents play?

Monarchs are traveling across New Jersey May through October. There are plenty of simple ways you can help protect this iconic species.

  • Plant native species of flowering plants – monarchs and other insects (like bees) rely on a healthy diversity of nectar sources. Planting a wildflower garden is a quaint, ecological-friendly way to create habitat, and not to mention, make less work watering and money spent purchasing plants. Check out the Native Plant Society or Jersey Friendly Yards to get started. http://npsnj.org/ http://www.jerseyyards.org/
  • Share this article, talk about environmental issues, and get informed. Show your support and share your concern for the wellbeing of this (and other) species!
  • Rear monarchs. At home or in classrooms, rearing wild monarchs and releasing them is a rewarding and educational way to contribute.
  • Participate in tagging and monitoring projects. Monitoring and tagging projects take place in the summer and fall for New Jersey Monarchs. You can also contribute simply by reporting your sightings on these websites.

LEARN MORE


 

Healthy Marshes, Healthy Beaches

Thursday, July 7th, 2016
NEW JERSEY’S HIDDEN COAST – EPISODE 4

By Emily Hofmann, Assistant Communications Manager

Periodic storms are an unavoidable fact of life when you live along the coast. In rebuilding after Hurricane Sandy, we realized we needed a new way of thinking about beach restoration on New Jersey’s Hidden Coast – the Delaware Bayshore. Storms like Sandy and Katrina have shown us that the most effective way to control storm surge is to follow Mother Nature’s lead. The restoration of tidal wetlands, or marshes, will help absorb the brunt of coastal storms, acting as a buffer between the beaches and the mainland.

 

 

Learn more about marsh restoration – one of the key components to rebuilding coastal beaches – in the fourth episode of our video series.

 

A new episode of our video series “New Jersey’s Hidden Coast” will air every two weeks throughout the summer! Catch a glimpse of the bay, the horseshoe crab at the center of the bay’s system, and the incredible relationship between horseshoe crabs and migratory birds, like the red knot. We will reveal the real value of horseshoe crabs, the challenges to the ecosystem, and the potential for a thriving regional economy along the Bayshore. We will show Hurricane Sandy as a catalyst for decisive action and the work being done to rebuild the area for both people and wildlife.

 

Over the next several weeks, we will explore the use of “living shorelines” instead of bulkheads and the central importance of marshes to the marine ecosystem. We will discover the on-the-ground, grassroots efforts of the community to build oyster reefs alongside veterans. And we will examine the future of the Bay and the work that needs to be done to preserve our conservation successes thus far.

 

Discover Delaware Bay:

 

Emergence of Clinging Jellyfish in New Jersey’s Coastal Waters

Monday, June 27th, 2016
Invasive Species reported in the Shrewsbury and Manasquan Rivers along with Barnegat Bay

by Corrine Henn, Program Coordinator

Clinging Jellyfish photo by Dann Blackwood, U.S. Geologoical Survey, Woods Hole

Clinging Jellyfish photo by Dann Blackwood, U.S. Geologoical Survey, Woods Hole

The presence of the clinging jellyfish off the New Jersey coast has been stirring up quite the commotion lately. Dr. Bologna, a biologist and ecologist at Montclair State University, confirmed the identity of the Gonionemus vertens. Distinguished from other species by the distinctive red, orange or violet X-like marking on their pad, Gonionemus vertens is often no larger than the size of a dime.

 

An invasive species from the Pacific Ocean, there have been reported sightings of the introduced jellyfish in Southern California, Massachusetts, Europe and the Mediterranean Sea for the greater part of the last 100 years.

 

This relatively small species was given the nickname due its ability to, quite literally, cling onto eelgrass and other shallow-water flora when at rest using the pads on their tentacles. Typically harmless, this unique trait keeps the jellyfish away from the sandy beaches of the New Jersey shore, preferring calmer, quieter back bays and rivers.

 

Sightings to date have been reported in the Shrewsbury and Manasquan Rivers along with Barnegat Bay, but the reach of their presence has yet to be determined. Biologists are working diligently to confirm the status of the jellyfish by trawling a number of New Jersey waters over the next 30 days. They also hope to gather vital information regarding their life cycle, including where the polyps are settling.

 

Although the arrival of the Gonionemus vertens should not be ignored, it’s important to keep in mind beachgoers are unlikely to encounter the species. However, if you or someone you know has been stung, there are a number of steps that can be taken for preventative care:

  • Wearing gloves, white vinegar may be used to remove any remaining tentacles.
  • Rinse the area with salt water.
  • Apply a hot compress to the area.
  • Contact your doctor, or seek immediate medical assistance if necessary.

 

Learn More:

 

Corrine Henn is a Program Coordinator for Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey.

 

Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey “2015 Annual Report” Released

Thursday, June 9th, 2016

CWF Releases its Second Annual Report Using a Story Map Format:

2015 Annual Report


Technology has proven to be vital to Conserve Wildlife Foundation’s work protecting rare wildlife species over the years. Our biologists depend greatly on modern technologies to band, track, and share online the journeys of wildlife. Our webcams broadcast the most intimate behaviors of nesting birds and bats across the web. And we seek out ever-evolving communications technologies to spread the word about the inspiring stories of wildlife, from social media and infographs to e-books and Story Maps. These technologies offer newfound abilities to share complex data on multiple levels, while still incorporating the awe-inspiring photography and videos that bring wildlife’s stories to life.

Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey is excited to offer our 2015 Annual Report in a unique format that utilizes one of those technologies – Story Maps. In the past year, we have explored the lives of seals, eagles, and freshwater mussels with Story Maps – and the annual report allows all of our projects to be highlighted in this interactive format as well.

Visit the multiple pages within this Story Map to learn about Conserve Wildlife Foundation’s many projects and partnerships in 2015, and the imperiled wildlife species in need of our help. Find examples of the innovative and dedicated leadership of our biologists and volunteers. And take an online journey across the state to learn how our projects made a difference in all corners of New Jersey in 2015 – a great year for wildlife in the Garden State!