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Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU)


Auctavia Grant (2007)- The effects of grazing on Konza Prairie butterflies. (Mentor: Jodi Whittier)

Our study examined the grassland butterfly communities found in grazed and ungrazed areas on the Konza Prairie biological station. Bison (Bison bison) was the large ungulate in the grazed units. We suspected that we would find more adult butterflies using the grazed units because grazing tends to promote increased prevalence of forbs. We aimed to establish the species richness of the butterfly community was higher in the grazed area rather than in an ungrazed area. We established study sites in grazed and ungrazed sites that were all burned on a 4-year cycle. Each site had 4 transects in the uplands and 4 in the lowlands to examine the breadth of species using each treatment. Transects were sampled 3 times over a period of 5 weeks. Along each transects the percent cover of flowering plants was estimated. As expected the total number of butterflies was higher on the grazed sites compared to the ungrazed sites. We saw a similar result for the flowering fords with nearly three times the coverage on the grazed transects. Our results suggest that vertebrate grazing may increase, in cover of flowering plants, and increase species richness of butterflies, as well as a higher taxon diversity in the ecosystem.