Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units Program: North Carolina
Education, Research and Technical Assistance for Managing Our Natural Resources

North Carolina Project

Connectivity for a Complex Life Cycle: Conserving the Crystal Skipper Butterfly in a Coastal Urban Environment

May 2023 - April 2026


Participating Agencies

  • National Science Foundation

Understanding of how organisms with complex life cycles interact with fragmented habitats and changing environments has important climate mitigation implications. The Crystal skipper (Atrytonopsis quinteri Burns) is a small butterfly that was described as a new species in 2015 and occurs only on a 50 km stretch of barrier islands on the North Carolina coast that is subject to numerous risks from climate change and urbanization. Our project will: (1) Develop a rigorous, sustainable, and unbiased survey methodology to document skipper population sizes and monitor trends, (2) Evaluate the role of landscape-scale nectar connectivity in limiting skipper populations, (3) Assess whether management can increase Crystal skipper populations and offset effects of climate change, and (4) Implement adaptive, robust, and strategic improvements to the existing conservation plan. The project is a collaboration of researchers across multiple agencies and includes North Carolina State University, USGS North Carolina Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, and the North Carolina Aquarium.