Steve Woodhall to talk about impacts of environmental change and citizen science on butterflies at Crocworld Monthly Talk

Steve Woodhall to talk about impacts of environmental change and citizen science on butterflies at Crocworld Monthly Talk:

For Steve Woodhall, a simple boyhood fascination of moths and butterflies developed into a lifelong career in lepidopterology, with many years dedicated to unearthing the behavioural patterns and discovering the many intricacies of these vibrant flying insects. A leading expert on the subject, Steve Woodhall will give the Crocworld Conservation Centre monthly talk on ‘Significant changes in the range of local butterflies’ on Saturday, 10 August.

“It is always such an honour and a privilege to have Steve Woodhall talk at Crocworld Conservation Centre,” said Martin Rodrigues, Manager of Crocworld Conservation Centre. “He has such unique way of communicating his significant subject knowledge to the audience – from the young novice to avid butterfly enthusiast. His passion for moths and butterflies is always evident and I’m sure visitors will gain so much from this particular topic choice.”

Born in the United Kingdom, Woodhall recalls developing an interest in butterflies at the age of five, when his dad showed him some exotic Emperor Moths.

“The bug truly bit when I started school and one of my teachers was a ‘proper’ lepidopterist,” recalled Woodhall. “My closest childhood friend then moved to Tanzania and started sending me ‘Mills Special’ ciggie tins full of butterflies – very like the ones we find in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN). I simply had to come here!”

A totally self-taught lepidopterist – with qualifications in Chemistry and Marketing – Steve emigrated to South Africa in 1980 where he lived in Johannesburg until relocating to Gillitts in KZN in 2005. He joined the Lepidopterists’ Society of Africa in 1986 where he held the position of president from 2008 to 2016.

Steve has authored and co-authored a number of books over the years, including ‘Field Guide to Butterflies and Moths of South Africa’, ‘What’s that Butterfly?’ and ‘Gardening for Butterflies’ (with Lindsay Gray). Most recently he developed the ‘Butterflies of South Africa’ app in 2017.

Steve also formed part of the team that worked with the Animal Demography Unit (ADU) of the University of Cape Town – alongside Prof Les Underhill – on the SA Butterfly Conservation Atlas (SABCA) project and, more recently, its update, SALCA.

“This led to the database that has given us so much insight into population changes over the years, and a landmark publication of the Atlas,” he explained.

The ADU instigated the now-famous Bird Atlas, and pioneered the ‘Citizen Science’ movement that has now spread worldwide. The LepMAP site – which many local butterfly and moth lovers use – is an example of this.

“Citizen Science, and the contributions of amateur nature lovers, are a vital force in tracking the changes in the environment that we are all so worried about,” said Steve. “It has grown from small beginnings in South Africa to a global movement, which means that butterfly photos you take in your garden or local nature reserve can contribute to evidence that climate change is a threat.”

During his talk, Steve will touch on some examples of local butterflies (from KZN and South Africa) whose range has changed recently, as well as the data evidence that has been used to track those changes. He will discuss whether the evidence supports climate change as the cause, or whether there are other factors at play.

“One example I’ll discuss is a butterfly, native to the subtropical/tropical East African coast, which has spread as far as Cape Town – but the evidence shows it’s probably not climate change related,” said Steve. “Come to the talk to find out why!”

Audiences will also be treated to an Early Bird Breakfast with coffee or tea – inclusive of the price of the talk – which will be supplied by the onsite restaurant, Fish Eagle Café. The cost of the tickets is R50 per person. For more information or to make a booking, contact Morne van Zyl at the Fish Eagle Café on 083 658 7073 or email mvanzyl@cbl.co.za. Alternatively, contact Martin Rodrigues on 078 484 1859 or Crocworld Conservation Centre on 039 976 1103.

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