Subject Area



In the Northeastern US, one result of climate change is decreased snowfall and earlier snowmelt. Such changes can alter the relationship between climate and the timing of cyclical biological phenomena— the phenology of organisms. This is especially concerning for species that interact with one another such as butterflies and their host plants. For this study, I focused on the host plant of the rare frosted elfin butterfly. The frosted elfin is a species of concern in RI, MA, and CT, among 8 other states, and they are a host plant specialist only laying eggs on yellow wild indigo (Baptisia tinctoria) and wild lupine (Lupinus perennis). If these plants do not emerge and develop leaves when the butterflies lay eggs, the effect would be catastrophic on successive populations. In addition to possible mismatched emergence of the butterfly and its host plant, these phenological changes could also affect host plant nutritional quality, directly impacting the caterpillars’ only food source. I focused on plots of indigo at Gavins Pond in Foxboro, MA, which were set up before Winter 2021-2022. Following Winter 2021-2022 and Winter 2022-2023, I measured plant growth and sampled plants for elemental analysis. I predict wild indigo growth in Summer 2023 will be expedited after the minimal snowfall during the Winter 2022-2023 compared to the growth following Winter 2021-2022. I anticipate this expedited growth will result in lower nutritional quality of the host plant during frosted elfin oviposition (egg-laying). Summer research funded by the Southeastern New England Educational and Charitable Foundation, presented at the RI Summer Undergraduate Research Symposium.


Providence College


Summer 7-31-2023









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