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Scientific symposia

Butterfly monitoring, trends and indicators: towards a global network

Chaired by: 
Monika Böhm, IUCN SSC Butterfly Specialist Group, Gland, Switzerland
Chris van Swaay, De Vlinderstichting, Wageningen, Netherlands
Holly Mynott, Butterfly Conservation, Dorset, UK
Sam Ellis, Butterfly Conservation Europe, Wageningen, Netherlands
David Roy, UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, Wallingford, UK

There is mounting evidence of widespread declines in the diversity and abundance of insects across the globe. This gives a stark warning of the precarious state of biodiversity, and demonstrates that addressing knowledge gaps on the status of insects is vital. Insects are estimated to comprise more than half of all described species and are a dominant component of biodiversity in most ecosystems. However, assessing the status of most insect groups is hampered by the lack of standardised monitoring methods and/or challenges of identifying species. Enhanced efforts to monitor butterflies, as a representative indicator of many other insect groups, can make an important contribution to tackling the global biodiversity crisis. Butterflies are suitable biological indicators as they are well-documented, measurable, sensitive to environmental change, occur in a wide range of habitat types, and are popular with the public because of their beauty. Indicators based on butterfly monitoring data are valuable to understand the state of the environment and help evaluate policy and implementation. Through citizen science approaches, trained volunteers are a cost-effective way of gathering robust data on butterflies, more so when supported by informative materials and efficient online recording.

This symposium will bring together experts developing and analysing monitoring programs across the world to assess trends and develop indicators. The symposium will provide an introduction on efforts underway to compile monitoring data from around the globe, give an overview of the state of the art in how to develop monitoring programmes and assess the status of insects to set and evaluate conservation targets. We will have presentations with a national, regional or global focus including examples from established monitoring schemes and exciting new developments to monitor butterflies across the globe. Through this symposium, we seek to also increase the number of participants in our global butterfly monitoring network, which ultimately aims to produce a global butterfly indicator.

Keynote talks:
Krushnamegh Kunte:
 Envisioning the Indian Butterfly Monitoring Scheme: Harnessing the power of a billion citizen scientists for tropical biodiversity monitoring and conservation
Chris van Swaay: From national to continental to global butterfly monitoring

Vision and signalling in butterflies

Chaired by:
Gregor Belušič, University of Ljubljana, Slovenia
Kentaro Arikawa, Research Center for Integrative Evolutionary Science, SOKENDAI, Japan

Butterflies are highly visual insects with sophisticated compound eyes that endow them with true colour vision and colourful bodies that create rich visual signals. The diverse combinations of photoreceptors in their retinae form the discrete optical sampling units, the ommatidia, which are organized into sensory arrays, called the retinal mosaics. Butterfly retinal mosaics are highly anisotropic (regionalized), species- and sex-specific, indicating their remarkable evolutionary plasticity and tuning under the selective pressures exerted by the various visual environments of different species. On the other hand, excellent vision has made possible the evolution of patterns on the wings and bodies, where the scales interact with light with pigments that absorb light and structured chitin that refracts light. Scales with pigmentary and structural colours are iridescent and their appearance varies with angle of illumination and observation, thus creating highly complex visual signals. We will address the two central questions driving contemporary research in butterfly vision: how has evolution shaped the retinal mosaics and fine-tuned butterfly vision, and how have been the visual signals tuned to facilitate the visual signalling in different butterfly clades.

Keynote talks:
Gregor Belušič: 
Design, function and evolutionary patterns of red receptors in nymphalid butterflies
Nicola Nadeau: The genetic basis of structural colour variation in mimetic Heliconius butterflies

Butterfly communities: Evolutionary assembly, ecological dynamics, and multi-trophic interactions

Chaired by:
Krushnamegh Kunte, National Centre for Biological Sciences, Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, India.
Marianne Elias, Institut de Systématique, Évolution, Biodiversité, Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle, France.

The global biodiversity is shaped by abiotic conditions, ecological selection, evolutionary and biogeographic contingency, and species interactions. As a result, species exist not as isolated entities but as components of local communities of coevolving species. Evolutionary assembly and ecological dynamics of communities are influenced by factors such as habitat and climatic conditions, biogeographic stochasticity and regional species filtering, biotic interactions, and traits that underlie functional components of communities. Thus, the evolution of biological communities forms a critical interface between ecological and evolutionary processes. Community ecology has recently undergone exciting transitions by incorporating theoretical models, new methods of community phylogenetics and ecological genetics, and concerns for diversity and stability of communities in face of ongoing climate change and extinction events. Study of butterfly communities has a lot to contribute to these fields. The past two decades have seen notable growth in this field. Several high-profile papers on lepidopteran communities in Papua New Guinea, latitudinal gradients and impacts of climate change in Europe, mimetic communities in South America and India, and altitudinal diversity in Africa, have already made their mark. However, potential for future growth in this field is even more staggering. A species-level phylogeny of the whole global butterfly fauna is in sight, trait data are being generated at an unprecedented rate, standardized methods to sample communities are being widely applied, and a global community of butterfly biologists is also emerging. 

The symposium will bring together evolutionary and community ecologists from around the world to synthesize current understanding of the diversity, ecology, evolution and conservation of butterfly communities in diverse ecosystems. Another outcome of this symposium may be a perspective piece for a research journal that highlights recent progress and future directions, which will be very timely.


Population, landscape, and conservation genetics of butterflies

Chaired by:
Alena Sucháčková, Biology Centre CAS, Institute of Entomology, Ceske Budejovice, Czech Republic
Caroline Kebaïli, French National Centre for Scientific Research, Université Grenoble Alpes, France

Population genetics aims to disentangle the diversity, relationships, and differences among and within populations. Human impact on ecosystems is enormous, ranging from habitat loss, alteration, and fragmentation, homogenization of landscapes, to climate change, which signatures can be traced in genes. This symposium aims at presenting the butterfly population genetic and genomic studies, across both natural and human-altered landscapes, revealing population connectivity in space and the barriers to dispersal using landscape genetics, documenting the changes of genetic patterns through time, and estimating local adaptation. A goal of this symposium is also to show examples of assessing the impact of habitat restoration on butterfly population genetics. We expect that this symposium will bring together the diverse concepts, methodologies, tools, visions, and practical applications of butterfly population genetics.

Keynote talk:
Jérémy Gauthier: Museomics to retrace the decline of butterfly populations throughout the 20th century

Eco-evo-devo of lepidopteran color patterns

Chaired by:
Patrícia Beldade, cE3c-CHANGE, Faculty of Sciences, University of Lisbon, Portugal
Antónia Monteiro, National University of Singapore, Singapore
Jocelyn Wee, National University of Singapore, Singapore

Butterflies are increasingly becoming models for addressing how complex color patterns are produced and evolve at the developmental level, and how they are used in nature to help attracts mates or avoid predators. Research on this includes questions about the genetic basis of variation and diversification, the environmental regulation of development, the origin and modification of novelty, the adaptive significance of color variation, evolutionary and developmental modularity of color pattern elements. We welcome research into any of these aspects, as well as research that integrates them.


Systematics and biogeography of Lepidoptera: pattern and process

Chaired by:
David J. Lohman, City College of New York, United States, & National Museum of Natural History, Philippines
Pedro G. Ribeiro, University of South Bohemia, & Biology Center CAS, Institute of Entomolgy, České Budějovice, Czechia

Explaining extant species diversity through systematic studies of speciation, extinction, and biogeography is a primary goal of evolutionary biology. Butterflies and moths (Lepidoptera) are one of the four “mega-diverse” insect orders and probably the most-studied insect group in terms of life histories, alpha taxonomy, and distributions. This symposium will present recent studies on the systematics, phylogenomics, and biogeography of moths and butterflies from all corners of the world employing a variety of newly developed sequencing and analytical techniques to elucidate evolutionary pattern and process at local, regional, and global scales.  Talks will integrate data from morphological systematics, genomics, and museomics for a holistic picture of lepidopteran evolution in the age of big data. 

Keynote talks:
Pável Matos-Maraví: 
Bridging macro- and microevolutionary studies in Neotropical butterflies
Nick Grishin: Insights from large-scale butterfly genomics

Migration in butterflies: movement, physiology, interactions, and genes

Chaired by:
Gerard Talavera, Institut Botànic de Barcelona (IBB, CSIC), Spain
Daria Shipilina, Uppsala University, Sweden

Migration and dispersal in butterflies have long fascinated lepidopterists, but their study has often been hindered by methodological challenges. New technological advances are stimulating new avenues of research, at different biological scales and for a variety of model systems. As a complex phenomenon, the study of movement benefits from integrative approaches and from input from multiple disciplines. The proposed symposium aims at gathering lepidopterists interested in butterfly migratory biology from a broad perspective: ecology, population dynamics, movement, navigation, distributions, physiology, behavior, evolution, genetics, and conservation. The symposium will represent an opportunity to discuss recent advances in these fields, and how these can be applied to collectively advance on our knowledge of the migratory phenomenon in butterflies. It should also be an opportunity to generally discuss the concept of migration as a trait and the role of movement behavior in the evolutionary history of butterflies.

Keynote talks:
Gerard Talavera: Migratory ecology and population dynamics of the Painted Lady butterfly, Vanessa cardui
Jacobus de Roode: Monarch butterfly migration: genomes, gene expression and parasites

Butterfly diversity under climate change

Chaired by:
Valentina Todisco, University of Oulu, Finland
Joseph Williamson, University College London, UK

Current environmental changes are modifying the distribution of species and consequently their biotic interaction. Insects are particularly severely influenced by climate. Studies have shown that, under future climate scenarios, the species distributions are shifting in higher elevations and northwards and shrinking considerably. This can alter the gene flow between populations and even cause extinctions. Butterflies are among the most important pollinators and constitute one of the best model systems for evolutionary and ecological studies. They often rely on specific habitats and resources and thus suffer particularly under environmental changes at large spatial and temporal scales, as well as at the microhabitat level. Thus, butterflies provide an excellent model to test for responses to environmental changes. Climate change forms a serious threat for many butterflies. Delayed flowering periods for various plants may cause temporal and spatial mismatches with key pollinators. The loss of a single pollinator can disrupt an entire pollination network by affecting patterns of specialization and floral fidelity. Furthermore, the shifts in species’ distributions may generate spatial mismatches of interacting organisms, such as host plants and herbivores, host-parasites, causing local extinctions. A better understanding of the processes underlying butterfly diversity is thus important in predicting the responses of this focal group to environmental changes.

The goal of this of this symposium is bringing together experts working in the field of how climatic changes affected butterfly diversity. It will enable predicting short term population trends and distributional shifts in a rapidly changing world.

Keynote talk:
Jan Christian Habel: Range shifts of butterflies from past to future

Genome structure and evolution

Chaired by:
Petr Nguyen, University of South Bohemia, Czechia 
James R. Walters, University of Kansas, USA

This symposium focuses on the evolutionary patterns and processes associated with structural variation in the genomes of moths and butterflies. We use a broad definition of "structural variation", which includes differences between chromosomes, polymorphisms within species, and macroevolutionary divergence between species. Along with such variation in genome sequence, we also include functional alterations in genome structure, such as nuclear organization, chromatin remodeling, or epigenetic modifications. We aim to catalyze discussion and synergy among lepidopteran researchers investigating structural variation in genomes who represent a range of methods and perspectives, including population genetics, molecular evolution, comparative genomics, cytogenetics, and functional approaches.


Conservation of butterflies and their habitats

Chaired by:
Piotr Skorka, Institute of Nature Conservation, Polish Academy of Sciences, Kraków, Poland
Federico Riva, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, the Netherlands

Butterflies rank high among organisms with most apparent decline across ecosystems and regions. To prevent such declines, butterfly conservation involves a range of strategies, including habitat conservation and restoration, captive breeding and reintroduction programs, and public education and outreach. Research of habitat management focuses on revealing tools to protect and restore the natural habitats, such as grasslands, forests, and wetlands, with all resources crucial for butterfly species. Such efforts can involve establishment of protected areas, removal of invasive species, enhancement of existing habitats, or restoration of degraded ecosystems. Captive breeding and reintroduction programs are used to bolster or re-establishing the populations of endangered butterfly species. Finally, public education and outreach play an important role in conservation efforts by increasing awareness of the importance of butterflies and their habitats, encouraging people to take actions to protect them.

This symposium will collect research aiming to reveal the most efficient management and conservation of butterfly populations and diversity. From disentangling drivers of the threatened butterflies’ decline, management of habitats to support butterfly diversity, reintroductions of extinct populations, to public involvement into butterfly conservation projects, we will explore how conservation is progressing in the urgent task of reversing of the unfavourable trends in many butterfly populations.


Phenotypic plasticity in butterflies: from traits to their mechanisms and everything in between

Chaired by:
Erica Westerman, University of Arkansas, USA
Madeleine Carruthers, Queen Mary University of London, UK
Océane Seudre, Queen Mary University of London, UK

This symposium will cover the diverse aspects of phenotypic plasticity and the role plasticity plays in promoting the diversity we see within and across species of butterflies. Phenotypic plasticity is a widespread phenomenon in butterflies and acts across multiple axes of the phenotype, including traits such as behaviour, morphology, colour patterns and life history strategies, as well as “hidden” phenotypes we find at the molecular level. Understanding how these phenotypes are shaped by their environment and how such shifts are facilitated - such as through changes in gene expression and regulation or epigenetic modifications - is of major interest and holds valuable insights into how species adapt to new or changing environments and the evolution of trait diversity. The goal of this symposium is to bring together researchers who work across different aspects of plasticity, from behavioural plasticity to seasonal shifts in wing patterns, down to the molecular architecture that underpins such a phenomenon. We welcome research into any of these aspects, as well as research that integrates across them, with the overall aim to facilitate new connections and collaborations between researchers working across different axes of plasticity.

Keynote talks:
Delbert A. Greene II:;Long distance migration as a driver of sensory plasticity and evolution in Monarch butterflies
Ullasa Kodandaramaiah:;Pupal colour plasticity in tropical butterflies

Colorful genetics of life history traits in Lepidoptera

Chaired by:
Joe Hanly, Smithsonian Institution / The George Washington University, USA
Melanie Brien, University of Helsinki, Finland

Butterflies and moths have proven incredibly useful in advancing our understanding of evolutionary processes that shape ecologically relevant traits such as life history and behaviour. In particular, associations between colour and life history polymorphisms have long been studied due to the tractable nature of colour as a visual marker. Recent developments in genomics and genome editing have provided exciting opportunities to identify the genetic loci responsible for such traits, yet many questions remain unanswered. We invite submissions that address these questions, including the origins and maintenance of genetic coupling between different phenotypic features and their potential contribution to speciation and diversification.

Keynote talk:
Christopher Wheat: On the costs and benefits of pteridine co-option into Pieridae wings

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