Track: Field Trip
Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, IL, USA
Join the recovery team of the Federally Endangered Uncompahgre fritillary butterfly (Clossiana improba acrocnema) on a field trip into the alpine tundra of the San Juan Mountains in southwest Colorado. Climb above tree line to elevations 13,000ft above sea level to the habitats of the Uncompahgre fritillary to the study sites of the second longest consecutive invertebrate study in the world. U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, and Western Colorado University have visited study sites each summer since 2003 to better understand why this alpine pollinator is considered on the "brink of extinction". Threats of biodiversity loss due to climate change are predicted to especially impact the alpine tundra ecosystems including the well-adapted flora and fauna. The concern for this endangered species connects with the worldwide concerns of climate change impacts to ecosystem structures and functions from altered temperature and precipitation patterns. Participants will be taken along rocky terrain to the popular 14er hikes of Uncompahgre Peak and Redcloud Peak that comprise the known range of this rare, endemic species. They will follow a normal field crew work day learning about the history of this project, how population sizes are estimated, and the importance of preserving this indicator species and its connection to the health of alpine tundra ecosystems.