Caumsett State Park Welcomes a New Species

A project conducted in Dr. Grella's research course.

Victoria Leonard

Checkerspot butterfly at Caumsett State Park. (Dr. Grella)

The Baltimore Checkerspot butterfly colonies have created a healthy and safe habitat at Caumsett State Park, located on Long Island. This species was recorded as extinct until its reappearance back in 2009 when it was spotted at Caumsett State Park. As the population of this new species began to rise and fall over the past decade, many questions were asked. Why has this extinct species decided to travel back to Long Island? Where are these colonies navigating from? Why is Caumsett State Park an ideal location for this species’ survival?

This project primarily investigates where the Baltimore Checkerspots originated from and the reason behind Caumsett quickly becoming a welcoming home to this new species. In order to answer these questions, I have analyzed the wind patterns of nearby locations where colonies have been found over the past decade in order to conclude that this species originated from several locations in Connecticut and have landed at Caumsett due to the wind patterns.

Checkerspot chrysallis at Caumsett State Park. (Dr. Grella)

However, I found myself still wondering “Why have these butterfly colonies chosen Caumsett State Park?” Fortunately, I was able to collect plant and sediment samples from Caumsett to be able to come to the realization that these colonies are feeding on the plants at Caumsett, specifically the English Plantain, as a source of nutrition. With all of these details, Caumsett State Park is now capable of pursuing a conservation plan that will not only benefit the park and its tourists, but also this beautiful species.

To learn more about the projects conducted in Dr. Grella’s and Mrs. Medwig’s Research courses, visit http://letssciencethat.org