Butterflies Count

This Silver-Spotted Skipper was one of many butterfly species that were documented during a July count around Bryn Mawr. | Photo by Jen Britton

Volunteer efforts across the region keep track
of our fine fluttering friends

The flashy colors of butterflies are matched only by their names: red admirals, great spangled fritillaries, tiger swallowtails, painted ladies and summer azures. On July 10, 13 volunteers at the North American Butterfly Association (NABA)’s annual Fourth of July butterfly count spotted all these species in all their regalia. The volunteers, who identified 18 other species too, visited six sites in a 15-mile radius around Bryn Mawr, Pa., to document all the butterflies they could find. More than 400 teams (including one at the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge) participated in NABA’s three seasonal counts to provide snapshots of butterfly populations.

Volunteers included butterfly enthusiasts and parents looking to connect their kids to nature. Butterfly volunteer Jan Clark-Levenson says that walking through fields and forests to see what flutters by is “a child-friendly sort of thing.” Claire Morgan, community garden and volunteer coordinator for the Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education—one of the stops for the Bryn Mawr team—says the butterfly census is an opportunity to engage non-scientists in important research. It is also a chance to promote butterfly-friendly practices. But if Philadelphians want to help, “the biggest thing they can do is plant native plants,” Morgan says. Natives not only offer flowers to adult butterflies but serve as hosts for their caterpillars.

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Engaging Personality

Bartram's Garden volunteer Mary Armstrong says the historic site has "something for everybody." | Photo by Dan Murphy

Mary Armstrong expands Bartram's Garden network

Longtime Bartram’s Garden volunteer Mary Armstrong says she especially loves engaging visitors from the Southwest Philadelphia neighborhoods that surround the garden. “I like the fact that you can get people who just stumble in with their bikes, start talking to them, engaging them,” she says. “It’s a place of refuge. It’s important to keep it here—not just as a piece of history, but as a place for people to go.”

Since volunteering in 2009 at Bartram’s as a community ambassador, Armstrong has inspired many to become members of the 45-acre urban oasis and former home to one of America’s first botanists, John Bartram.

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One Step At a Time

What a sustainability leader learned walking
from Boston to San Diego

Considering a green career? You might research the field by hiking it. In 1978, I crossed the U.S. entirely on foot through forests and desert, along a maze of quiet dirt and gravel roads, by day and at night, in rain, hail and blasting sunshine. Measuring America with my body, I found it grander than any book, movie, statistic or voyage by car, train, plane or bicycle could reveal.

Illustration by James BoyleIntending to reinvent myself as an urban ecologist, I began walking from my home in Boston toward the Pacific Ocean via San Diego. After 199 days and 3,500 miles, I covered a distance greater than the diameter of the moon, or halfway to the center of the earth.

Where did it get me? To new places, exposed to people, animals and storms. To novel encounters daily. Through forests, fields, deserts, mountains and rivers. Having started with $20 and a slim backpack, I worked odd jobs to buy supplies: picked apples in a migrant camp, taught half a day of school, hauled lumber, mopped floors, joined a carnival and built a donkey shed. 

I discovered that the whole world is a bed, finding shelter in apple orchards, barns, pastures, sheds, log cabins, wagons, abandoned homes, haystacks, churches, greenhouses, trailers, picnic tables, porches, gazebos, parks, stables, grandstands, sand dunes and yards. And I rediscovered that people are generous. I appeared from the woods at their doors, shared meals, attended parties, reunions and ice cream socials, and learned much of enduring worth.

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