Distribution and Phenology

The large-scale distribution of organisms is a fundamental question of ecology. We explore how species distributions change in space and time with a special focus on phenology, climate, and using thermal tolerance models to predict how species’ distributions and year-to-year dynamics.

Experimental Thermal Ecology

This is a new research area for the Ries Lab. We will be rearing caterpillars at different temperatures to determine how thermal conditions impact growth rates and mortality. We are starting with two species: the silver-spotted skipper and the Baltimore Checkerspot.

Trait-based Research

We are interested in how ecological traits can account for differences in how species respond to ecological drivers. This is especially important when grappling with multi-species research where different species invariably respond to the same pressures differently. There are two aspects of our trait work: 1) developing trait databases and 2) using those trait data to explore multi-species responses or look for patterns in the traits themselves.

Monarch Ecology and Conservation

In 2014, President Obama declared that halting the decline of monarchs and other pollinators is a national priority. We work with a network of collaborators to explore topics related to the monarch. So far, we have been focused on the connection between monarch population dynamics across their migratory cycle and also the role of citizen science in supporting monarch research and education.

Butterfly Informatics and Citizen Science

We work with a wide range of collaborators to build distribution data and trait resources for butterfly research and work on the best methods to extract information, especially from citizen science data. We are currently working on two projects to support data management and sharing: PollardBase and WeButterfly. We also explore the impacts of citizen science and monitoring, especially the impact on scholarship, but we are increasingly interested in the impacts on citizens themselves. We are also working on quantifying traits, with a current focus on quantifying color.

We helped build and support the following projects:

  • The North American Butterfly Monitoring Network
  • MonarchNet (a collaboration with the Monarch Joint Venture)
  • PollardBase (a collaboration with Butterflies and Moths of North America)
  • We help support the North American Butterfly Association’s WeButterfly Project
  • We are part of a new project to build a global data platform for butterfly traits, distribution and phylogeny called “Butterflynet”. The webpage is forthcoming, but here is the NSF’s project description (DEB: 1541557).