Saving the Karner Blue — AUNE Grad Helps Bring Back a Butterfly

Lindsay Webb (MS ‘08), Photo Credit -  New Hampshire Fish and Game DepartmentLindsay Webb (MS ‘08), an alumna of Antioch University New England (AUNE), is one of three wildlife biologists with the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department (NHFG) receiving the 2010 Recovery Champion award from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. They were honored for their work in restoring Karner blue butterflies and their New Hampshire habitat.

When biologists went looking for Karner blues in New Hampshire in 2000, they found only one in the wild. Now, thanks to Webb and colleagues Heidi Holman and Steve Fuller, the butterflies number in the thousands and are considered restored in the wild.

The Recovery Champion award recognizes employees of the federal agency and their partners who conserve threatened and endangered species in the United States. Webb, Holman and Fuller participated in the Karner recovery program while working for the NHFG’s Nongame and Endangered Wildlife Program. (Webb and Holman continue to work for the NHFG, while Fuller is now an employee of the Wildlife Management Institute.) They received their awards on March 18.

When the program began working to bring back the Karner blue in 2001, the last place the butterfly had been spotted was in a power line corridor in Concord, New Hampshire. To reestablish the butterfly, eggs were transported from New York State to the Concord Pine Barrens. Later, butterfly eggs were reared in captivity in New Hampshire for release into the pine barrens. The NHFG is also restoring the pine barrens, whose sandy soils are ideal habitat for the wild lupine, the only food the Karner blue caterpillar feeds on.

Webb started working as a seasonal biological aide on the Karner project in 2005, just before she began attending AUNE. Working summers and part time during the winters while in school, she helped with surveys and habitat management and in the captive rearing lab. “Everything I was learning at Antioch I was able to bring back to the department, and vice versa,” she said.

Joining NHFG full time in 2007, Webb has led the effort to translocate and propagate the butterfly, and compiled and published a propagation handbook. She has also recruited many volunteers to help with captive rearing, habitat plantings and surveys. Several other AUNE students and interns have worked on the project.

“We’ve reached a milestone,” Webb said. “We’ve been working on this for ten years, and now we consistently see the Karner making it through the life cycle on their own—we’re seeing them in all the life stages. So we’re heading in the right direction.”

Learn more about the Karner blue restoration project.

Read more about the New Hampshire Fish and Game award winners.