“Prioritizing California Native Plants for Butterfly and Moth Conservation”

Guest Speaker: Christopher Cosma, PhD candidate UCR and developer of web app The_Butterfly_Net

 7:30 p.m. – Online Zoom Presentation
preregister HERE

The migratory monarch butterfly was recently declared endangered by the IUCN. Conservation efforts reveal that planting milkweed—the monarch’s obligate host plant—is critical to protect the species from extinction in the face of climate change and other threats. However, hundreds of other Western US butterfly species are declining, including some even more at risk of extinction than the monarch. Although butterflies get most of the attention, moths—which are ten times more diverse than butterflies—are also at risk. Like the monarch, each threatened butterfly and moth species depends on specific native plant species throughout its life cycle: host plants for caterpillars, and nectar plants for adults. While we may not be able to provide every single insect species with its specific host and nectar plants, I’ve found that some “keystone” plant species can stabilize entire insect communities. However, I’ve also found that the identity of those keystone plant species varies across California, complicating the selection of native plants for insect conservation. To simplify things, I’ve built a web application called The Butterfly Net: just plug in your address, and the tool will show you which native plant species best support butterfly and moth populations in your area. Under the hood, the tool analyzes the complex networks of interactions between native plants and insects at each location to identify local keystone plant species. In this talk, I’ll explain the science behind The Butterfly Net, and how to use the tool to help protect butterflies, moths, and the important services they provide.

 The Butterfly Net Christopher CosmaCosma Portrait








Chris is a PhD candidate in Dr. Nicole Rafferty’s lab in the Evolution, Ecology, and Organismal Biology Department at UC Riverside. His research focuses on how climate change is affecting moths and their interactions with native plants in California. Alongside his research, Chris has developed a web application called The Butterfly Net that helps people find the best native host and nectar plants for butterflies and moths anywhere in California. Before arriving at UC Riverside, Chris received his Bachelor’s degree in Ecology and Evolution from UC Santa Barbara, and worked with The Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal, Virginia. When he’s not out surveying moths, Chris enjoys pyrography and practicing home-scale permaculture.

Monarch Butterfly Christopher Cosma

Hyles lineata Christopher Cosma

Monarch Caterpillar Christopher Cosma