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EHS students contribute to research of new butterfly species

New butterfly species Nov. 28, 2018 – Nineteen Edina High School (EHS) seniors embarked on a two-week expedition to Fiji this past summer and worked alongside a butterfly scientist to aid in the research of a new swallowtail species.

Operation Wallacea scientist Greg Kerr first spotted and photographed the butterfly during a 2017 summer expedition. The photograph prompted fellow Operation Wallacea scientist John Tennent to be the entomologist for the 2018 expedition. Students worked with Tennent to seek out and catch the new species of butterfly.

Lindsey Smaka, an EHS science teacher, coordinated the Fiji trip. “The information known about the butterfly was very limited at the time, so any specimen observed and/or collected became part of the data collection,” Smaka said. Students were able to catch a glimpse of the new species through Tennent’s suggestion to take a different path in the forest.

The butterfly discovery was not the only educational experience. Students also quantified the amount of carbon stored in the primary and secondary forests, learned about the invasive mongoose species on the Natewa Peninsula, and helped locate a nest of the rare Natewa silktail bird. Students caught, measured, banded, and released the bird.

Smaka believes the trip had a profound impact on students and allowed them to broaden their science education. “This experience gave students insight into new scientific concepts and techniques to be used in their science classes at EHS,” said Smaka. “They were exposed to new career possibilities, such as marine biology, and came back with an enhanced passion and appreciation for wildlife.”

Anna McDonald, senior at EHS, appreciated the experience she had working with scientists. “I hope to take all of the knowledge that I gained on this trip into my future educational experiences,” McDonald said.

(Photo from Operation Wallacea scientist Greg Kerr)