On Sunday, July 15, nearly 40 volunteers gathered in Sedro-Woolley for the North Cascades National Park and Mount Rainer National Park Cascades Butterfly Project. Volunteer Coordinator Jeff Anderson of the North Cascade Institute, and Michelle Toshack, Field Survey Lead at North Cascades National Park led the training.
Michelle and Jeff presented a short slideshow explaining how fragile mountain ecosystems are to the effects of climate change. By the end of the century, sub-alpine meadows could shrink up to 27 percent at Mt. Rainier and disappear entirely at North Cascades National Park. To understand the effects of climate change on pollinators and protect our sub-alpine meadows, the Cascades butterfly project will be monitoring three sites in the North Cascades National Park Complex, two in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, and four at Mount Rainier.
"Why monitor butterflies?" one volunteer asked. Dr. John McLaughlin of Western Washington University simply answered, "Because we can." Butterflies are extremely sensitive to climate change and they are easy to find and identify. And, most butterflies don't migrate. Butterflies are monitored in many areas around the world so findings can be compared with other areas from around the world. Toshack continued to go over the slideshow and taught volunteers the five butterfly families and helpful hints in identifying the differences between the 14 species the project will be monitoring.
Unfortunately, butterflies hide in windy, cloudy weather and the Cascades Butterfly Project team wasn't able to have their planned training on Sauk Mountain due to weather. Following the slideshow and a brief discussion, the volunteers and NOCA staff headed for the parking lot of the NOCA information center for training. The project will continue to lead weekly trips to the nine different transect sites throughout the NOCA and MORA parks to monitor the population and species of butterflies until the end of the summer.