Jaret Daniels, a butterfly researcher with the UF department of entomology and nematology and Florida Museum of Natural History, describes a two-year study funded by Duke Energy to research the impact of removing woody plants from rights of ways. Daniels and his team are researching how managing various rights of way affects the floral resources upon which butterflies and other pollinators depend.
Interview and videos produced by Olivia Doyle for Explore Research at the University of Florida.
Jaret Daniels: So we received two years of funding from the Duke Energy Foundation to investigate the role of vegetation management in Duke Energy’s rights-of-way. We’re looking at how various removal of woody plants affects the flora resources that pollinators depend on, as well as the insect community in those rights-of-way.
So we selected three different types of rights-of-way: those that are heavily encroached by woody plants, those that have received more excessive management and have some woody plants but not an excessive amount, and then those that are really optimal. And we’re comparing those three different types with the pollinator community that they harbor as well as the floral resources that are present.
The overall goal of the research is to develop best management practices for the rights-of-way, those that will serve to manage the woody plants within those rights-of-way to deliver safe and secure transmission of power, and also enhance the pollinator community and the resources on those properties. I’ve always been interested in insects and particularly in conservation, so being able to work on insect conservation, to kind of marry those two areas, was really a natural and obviously right now we need help with pollinator conservation, and I also work on at-risk butterfly species, so these are kind of two larger charismatic groups of insects that both are appreciated by the public, but also deliver really important ecosystem services such as pollination.
I think it’s important to consider all types of landscapes when it comes to conservation. We’re typically assuming that large wild lands are the most critical, and realistically they are, but as we continue to develop and urbanize and population grows, we have to be more cognizant that other non-traditional landscapes such as roadsides and utility easements may serve equally important roles in the conservation of species, particularly insects.
Learn more about the McGuire Center for Lepidoptera and Biodiversity at the Florida Museum.
Learn more about the Daniels Lab at the Florida Museum.