18 June 2021

Learning How to Protect a Small Butterly From Extinction

Written by: Damayanti Valle

When I applied to the Fish and Wildlife Service Directorate Fellows Program, I had no idea what was in store for me. I thought it was an excellent opportunity to get a feel for working in wildlife conservation, gain experience, and maybe even contribute to protecting a species (all things I am very passionate about). I did know, though, that I wanted to be a part of the movement to diversify the field of Wildlife, which is one of the reasons I applied for the fellowship through the Hispanic Access Foundation. Their mission to help Latinxs connect with partners and create more opportunities for us stood out and is very important to me. 

When I was younger, I noticed that wildlife biologists on TV or authors of books on animal cognition were mainly white men. So seeing Jane Goodall as a leader in the field was a beacon of hope for me. But, even then, I had a hard time seeing where I, a woman of color, fit in the world of science and academia. 

That's why when I heard back about my fellowship acceptance, I was excited and grateful. As a result, I'm working on a project focused on gathering and evaluating a Mormon metalmark, Apodemia mormo, butterfly dataset. The hope is that the findings will help conservation efforts for Lange's metalmark butterfly (endemic to the Antioch Dunes National Wildlife Refuge) in California and create a species distribution model for Mormon metalmark in North America. 

I'm currently working remotely in Arcata, California, due to the pandemic, but my home office is the San Francisco Bay-Delta Fish and Wildlife Office, where everyone has been beyond helpful and welcoming. Most of my days require me to be on my laptop georeferencing Mormon metalmark datasets and doing literature searches. However, thanks to the nudge from my project manager, who would like me to gain field experience, I get to go out once a week and practice my Pollard walk (a technique to monitor, count, and sample butterflies). 

As of now, I will continue to lend my assistance in the vital work to keep Lange's metalmark butterfly from extinction. Unfortunately, biologists counted only a handful of them last year, and it's believed that their numbers are declining. With that said, the SF Bay-Delta Fish and Wildlife Office is doing critical work, and I'm honored to be a part of it. I'm looking forward to the coming weeks and eager to use my voice to promote diversity in the field of wildlife management and conservation.

Agency: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Program: US Fish & Wildlife Service - DFP

Location: San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge Complex

About Us

Hispanic Access Foundation connects Latinos and others with partners and opportunities to improve lives and create an equitable society.

Contact Us