The Hellmann lab at the Department of Biological Sciences, University of Notre Dame, Indiana focuses on the impacts of habitat loss and fragmentation, invasive species, and climate change on the distribution and abundance of insects and their host plants.
Jessica Hellmann and four graduate students are pursuing studies on the geographic range boundaries of several Garry oak species, their genetic structure through British Columbia and North America, and their potential for spread in a future climate.
Jessica Hellmann is currently researching differences in local adaptation of two species of butterflies, Papilio zelicaon and Erynnis propertius at their northern range margins. Travis Marsico, a graduate student in the lab, is studying the factors limiting plant species range shift. He is looking at three native species of Lomatium (desert-parsley), food plants for anise swallowtails, at their northern range limits. Kirsten Prior, another graduate student in the lab, is examining the effects of the jumping gall wasp on native insect herbivore community structure.
See GOERT’s Garry Oak Gardener’s Handbook for tips on providing food plants for butterflies.
Update June 2008
University of Notre Dame Ph.D. student, Derrick Parker, and his advisor, Dr. Jessica Hellmann, are studying the response of two native butterflies to climates that occur within their historic distribution and outside their range to the north of their current occupancy. The two species, Propertius duskywing and Anise swallowtail, both find their coastal northern range limit on southeast Vancouver Island.
Parker and Hellmann are answering the question: If host plants were available further north of the species’ range, could they colonize and live there? Using larvae reared experimentally on potted plants placed at the Cowichan Preserve and other sites across Vancouver Island, their preliminary data suggest that larvae grow well under summertime conditions outside the species’ ranges but their overwinter survival may be low and their springtime emergence may be delayed relative to sites within their range. This information on the factors that set species’ range boundaries will help us understand the potential for native butterfly species to move northward as the climate warms in western North America.