Students' Quest presentation looks at human impact on habitats

fixing trapsStudents Noelle Dor and Jeremy Lombardo will discuss “Butterflies as Bio-Indicators of Disturbed Habitats” as part of the college’s Quest activities Wednesday, April 18.

The presentation, at 11:45 a.m. in Room 105 of Lanigan Hall, is part of SUNY Oswego’s annual daylong symposium dedicated to sharing the scholarly and creative pursuits of faculty, staff and students.

Dor said their presentation will convey the devastating effects human encroachment on natural habitats has on the survival of a diverse range of species.

Dor and Lombardo visited Central America last year to examine butterfly habitats. Costa Rica is home to 1,000 of the 20,000 butterfly species that exist in the world today. Some of the butterflies mimic the appearance of a bird feather or rose petals, and one species is almost identical to a tree mushroom.

Tropical forests may harbor more than half the species on earth, and these habitats are subjected to severe disturbances as a result of human activity, Dor said. The study uses native butterfly species as indicators of disturbance in eight habitats.

Dor said the trip to Costa Rica was part of a study-abroad program offered through SUNY Binghamton. “It sounded interesting,” she said. “I had already gained interest in ecology and thus found the program to be a perfect way to get hands-on experience.”

A group that also included three interns from Warren Wilson College, three students from Binghamton, one from Texas and a native Costa Rican intern, Luis Ricardo Murillo from Universidad Nacional, conducted a field study on different topics relevant to the course. Murillo, a graduate student and lifelong butterfly enthusiast, led the group on a study of the local butterflies of Tres Piedras, a rural area in a valley on the Pacific coast.

While stationed at the Tropical Forestry Initiative, the group repaired old butterfly traps and set one trap in each of eight designated microhabitats. The bait, which attracted fruit-foraging butterflies, consisted of a mixture of rotting fruit (including bananas, starfruit and guava), sugar and water. They checked traps daily for 16 days, identifying and recording each specimen before releasing it.

At the end of the project, the distribution of the various butterfly species among the microhabitats was calculated, and microhabitats were assessed into degree categories of disturbance: relatively undisturbed, moderately disturbed and highly disturbed.

Dor and Lombardo will present those findings at Quest and put them in the context of human impact on biodiversity.

For more information on Quest activities, vist

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PHOTO CAPTION: Butterfly effect—SUNY Oswego zoology major Noelle Dor watches as Luis Ricardo Murillo repairs a butterfly bait trap during a research project in Costa Rica last year. Dor and fellow Oswego student Jeremy Lombardo will present findings from the field project on how human activity can impact nature in a Quest presentation titled “Butterflies as Bio-Indicators of Disturbed Habitats” at 11:45 a.m. April 18 in Room 105 of Lanigan Hall.

(Posted: Apr 05, 2007)