Butterflies Through Time: Researcher’s stories

The Butterflies Through Time Project aims to link historical museum collections with contemporary conservation, bringing people closer to the natural world in the process.

To celebrate the launch of the Butterflies Through Time exhibition, we have invited some of the researchers featured in the exhibition to speak more about their research. Our ‘researcher’s stories’ series will be a set of talks from six different butterfly researchers via Zoom. The talks will take place every Wednesday at 7pm for six weeks starting on May 4th. The series offers the chance to hear more about butterfly research first hand from the people at the forefront of conservation, as well as giving our audience the opportunity to ask the researchers their own questions.

In this post you can find out about each researcher and their talk in more detail. To book your place and receive the Zoom link, follow the link beneath each description.

All talks will be free of charge and will be made available on our website and YouTube platform.

Using wildlife of the past to guide conservation of the future

Matt Hayes, PhD student  

Matt Hayes, a PhD student at Cambridge University

Matt is a PhD student at Cambridge studying the effects of temperature on butterfly populations and examining how museum collections can be used in conservation.

Over the last two years the Butterflies Through Time Project has aimed to engage people with the natural world and environmental change, both past and present, by linking historical museum collections with contemporary conservation initiatives. Join Matt Hayes as he gives an overview of the project; from museum specimens and modern wildlife conservation, to public engagement events and adapting to a global pandemic.

You can find a link to Matt’s talk on the 4th of May here:

The extinction and reintroduction of the chequered skipper butterfly: 220 years of history and mystery in England

Jamie Wildman, PhD student

Jamie Wildman, a PhD student at the University of Northampton

Jamie is a PhD student in Environmental Science at the University of Northampton, researching the chequered skipper butterfly in collaboration with Butterfly Conservation.

From being declared extinct in 1976, to its successful reintroduction to its historical stronghold -Rockingham Forest- in 2018, the chequered skipper butterfly has undergone a remarkable journey. Jamie Wildman discusses the chequered skippers amazing 220-year story and the power of reintroducing butterflies to the English landscape.

You can find a link to Jamie’s talk on the 11th of May here:

Pinning down the butterfly effect

Galina Jönsson, PhD student

Galina Jönsson, a PhD student at Imperial College London

‘Many insect species are declining at alarming rates while others are booming, but we do not know precisely why. I am seeking answers to these questions in museums’ preserved butterfly collections. My research extends past population trends back to include earlier periods of accelerating human pressures like climate change and habitat loss.’ 

We are in the midst of a climate emergency, and incomplete knowledge of historical biodiversity change is limiting our understanding of the separate and interacting effects of climate change, land-use change and other human pressures on wildlife. Galina Jönsson discusses the process of digitalising the Natural History Museum’s collection and the benefits this resource can bring to butterfly conservation.

You can find a link to Galina’s talk on the 18th of May here:

How do butterflies help us understand climate change?

Professor Jane Hill, Professor of Ecology at the University of York

Professor Jane Hill, Professor of Ecology at the University of York

‘Many species are shifting their ranges to track climate changes but are hindered by increasing levels of habitat fragmentation. My research uses long-term citizen science data to study changes in species’ distributions to highlight these challenges and help species respond and adapt.’

The climate is changing and these changes are having huge impacts on biodiversity. Through her research on butterflies, Professor Jane Hill will discuss the importance of understanding these impacts, and how we can help species respond, adapt and survive climate change.

You can find a link to Jane’s talk on the 25th of May here:

Cool as a caterpillar: the challenges and opportunities of researching across the life cycle

Esme Ashe-Jepson, PhD student

Esme Ashe-Jepson, a PhD student at Cambridge University

‘I am a PhD student in the Insect Ecology Group at the University of Cambridge, working in close collaboration with the Wildlife Trust of Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire. My research focuses on the effect of temperature on butterflies, with the goal of better understanding their response to climate change.’

Climate change is threatening many ecosystems worldwide. In order to manage and conserve species, we need to understand the effects of temperature on wildlife. However, conservation is challenged by knowledge gaps in how this will affect species across different stages in their life cycle. Esme Ashe-Jepson discusses temperature’s role in the small blue’s egg distribution and how this can help inform management in nature reserves.

You can find a link to Esme’s talk on the 1st of June here:

Extinction and re-establishment of the large blue butterfly in Britain

Professor Jeremy A Thomas OBE, Emeritus Professor of Ecology, University of Oxford; Chair of the Royal Entomological Society’s Conservation Committee

Professor Jeremy Thomas, Emeritus Professor of Ecology at the University of Oxford holds a large blue butterfly on his finger

‘My research involves identifying the drivers of butterfly declines and using long-term experiments to study the restoration of endangered species. I have studied the large blue butterfly since 1972, pinpointing the factors that led to its extinction in the UK, and using this knowledge to inform its successful reintroduction and spread to around 40 sites so far.’

The Large blue has long been an iconic species among British wildlife. However, despite many unsuccessful attempts at conservation, UK populations had been in decline for 150 years. Still, this all changed with a successful re-introduction programme guided by research from Professor Jeremy A Thomas. Here, he discusses identifying the specialisations that led to the large blue’s extinction, and how these key insights were applied to generate its successful re-introduction.

You can find a link to Jeremy’s talk on the 8th of June here:

Won’t have the opportunity to see the talks Iive? Don’t worry all our talks will be recorded and made available on our website and YouTube platform.

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