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Schultz Research Group Conservation Biology

The Role of Behavior in Conservation Ecology


Habitat loss and fragmentation is a leading cause of species endangerment. To structure reserves so that they effectively protect threatened species, we must understand the behavioral response of these species to various aspects of landscape structure. Our work with Fender’s blue butterfly, an endangered Oregon butterfly, indicates that these butterflies are unlikely to use narrow corridors but they are likely to use stepping stones (Schultz 1998). Such corridors have become a popular tool in conservation biology intended to connect isolated habitat patches. These behavioral observations indicate that, unlike many models of dispersal, which assume that habitat characteristics are homogeneous, Fender’s blue butterflies vary their behavior according to habitat type, a behavior that is mediated by patch edges (Schultz & Crone 2001; Crone & Schultz 2008). Combining these behavioral observations with population viability models, we estimated minimum patch sizes needed for butterfly population persistence (Crone & Schultz 2003) and evaluated reserve designs (Schultz & Crone 2005; McIntire, Schultz & Crone 2007). In addition, we address the generality of our ecological findings across butterfly taxa by looking at patterns across a suite of two dozen Israeli butterflies (Schultz et al. 2017).

img_0969Our initial work focused on open prairies. We expanded this to include woodlands to encompass a wider suite of landscape structure that Fender’s blue, and many other butterflies, encounter and influence their movement behavior (Schultz, Franco & Crone 2012; Severns, McIntire & Schultz 2013). Current work includes response of butterflies to recently burned habitat (Warchola et al. 2017), spatially explicit individual-based models (SEIBMs) to incorporate these disturbance-dependent dynamics into spatial population models (Smokey et al., in prep) and spatial models to infer Taylor’s checkerspot dynamics based on studies of Baltimore checkerspot behavior and demography (Himes Boor et al., in press).


Crone, E. E. and C. B. Schultz. 2003. Movement behavior and minimum patch size for butterfly population persistence. In Butterflies as Model Systems: Ecology and Evolution Taking Flight, pp. 561-576. University of Chicago Press, Chicago.

Crone, E. E. and C. B. Schultz. 2008. Old models explain new observations of butterfly movement at patch edges. Ecology 89:2061-2067.

Himes Boor, G. T., C. B. Schultz, E. E. Crone, and W. F. Morris. 2017. Mechanism matters: the cause of fluctuations in boom-bust populations governs optimal habitat restoration strategy. Ecological Applications.

McIntire, E. J. B., C. B. Schultz, and E. E. Crone. 2007. Designing a network for butterfly habitat restoration: where individuals, populations and landscapes interact. Journal of Applied Ecology 44:725-736.

Schultz, C. B. 1998. Dispersal behavior and its implications for reserve design in a rare Oregon butterfly. Conservation Biology 12:284-292.

Schultz, C. B. and E. E. Crone. 2001. Edge-mediated dispersal behavior in a prairie butterfly. Ecology 82:1879-1892.

Schultz, C. B. and E. E. Crone. 2005. Patch size and connectivity thresholds for butterfly habitat restoration. Conservation Biology 19:887-896.

Schultz, C. B., A. M. A. Franco, and E. E. Crone. 2012. Response of butterflies to structural and resource boundaries. Journal of Animal Ecology 81:724-734.

Schultz, C. B., G. Pe’er, C. Damiani, L. Brown, and E. E. Crone. 2017. Does movement behavior predict population densities? A test of 25 butterfly species. Journal of Animal Ecology 86:384-393.

Severns, P. M., E. J. B. McIntire, and C. B. Schultz. 2013. Evaluating functional connectivity with matrix behavior uncertainty for an endangered butterfly. Landscape Ecology 28:559-569.

Warchola, N., E. E. Crone, and C. B. Schultz. 2017. Balancing costs and benefits of fire for population viability of endangered butterflies. Journal of Applied EcologyIn press.