Butterflies, Scientists, and Rattlesnakes. Oh my!
I have to admit, as the head of my own department I don’t get out as often as I would like to shoot photographs. Don’t get me wrong, I still take pictures, but oftentimes my day-to-day activities are taken up by meetings, planning, instructing students, and returning emails. So when the opportunity arises to shoot a feature story for the magazine, and I have a bit a free time, I jump on the chance. That is how I found myself in a Luther fleet vehicle, driving with one of my videographers out to a hill prairie to meet a research team.
Kirk Larsen is a Biology professor here at Luther College. He and a couple of his students were working on a research project this summer tracking butterflies in hill prairies of northeast Iowa. You see, hill prairies are a slowly dying eco system. Due to an invasion of red cedar, the loss of natural prairie fires and grazing, the hill prairies of northeast Iowa are slowly disappearing. Just when you thought that was bad enough a new threat is on the horizon: frac sand mining.
The loss of these prairies however is not just a loss of a pretty landscape. These prairies are home to a wide range of plant and animal life and what Larsen and his team are interested in tracking is a very rare butterfly that calls this topography home: the ottoe skipper.
In fact, the ottoe skipper is so rare we weren’t really even sure it was in Iowa until a few years ago. Now, in a select few regions, Larsen and his team are finding them. I have to say, they aren’t the most attractive looking butterfly out there but they do seem to be pretty darn fast.
For those of you who did not know we had rattlesnakes in Iowa, I can confirm that we do. They are called Timber Rattlesnakes and they are as every bit as large and as scary as you may you may suspect rattlesnakes to be.
Hey Canon, do you need a new ad for your cameras? I have a photo here you can use.
I know I tell many people this, but I have to reiterate this fact. Working for a college is one of the coolest, most interesting things a person could ask for. Every day you are working around a variety of experts in a vast variety of topics. You get to listen to pretty awesome people talk about great stuff, and you get to go on wild adventures with passionate people. What more could you ask for?