Trio of Data Management Champions Working to Save Oregon Silverspot Butterflies

By Bill Kirchner, biologist, Pacific Region of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Oregon silverspot butterfly (Speyeria zerene var. hippolyta). USFWS photo: Peter Pearsall
Oregon silverspot butterfly (Speyeria zerene var. hippolyta). USFWS photo: Peter Pearsall

Zach Cravens, Elyse Sachs and Khem So recently received the 2022 Data Management Champion award during the Pacific Region’s Science of the Service conference. Cravens is a geographic information system (GIS) analyst for the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Office, Sachs is a biologist with the Pacific Islands Fish and Wildlife Office, and So is an inventory and monitoring data manager for Refuges.

This award recognized the team for its innovative tools to track management actions data from 20 conservation partners, federal, state, and nonprofit organizations responsible for the recovery of the federally listed Oregon silverspot butterfly.

Using a standardized data schema along with GIS and global positioning systems (GPS), the team created a cohesive and complete picture of habitat management actions being conducted across multiple sites for the butterfly. With these data management tools, land managers and conservation partners are now able to more effectively plan recovery activities and biologists can better monitor the effectiveness of those efforts.

Habitat management of salt spray meadows is essential to the survival of the butterfly, particularly considering many of these meadows have been lost or degraded over time. The Service and partners are managing these coastal meadows using a variety of techniques, including prescribed burns, invasive species removal, and mowing. This made it extremely difficult to determine the cumulative management work conducted across coastal sites in the Pacific Northwest.

Zach Cravens (left(, Elyse Sachs (center) and Khem So (right) recently received the 2022 Data Management Champion award during the Pacific Region’s Science of the Service conference. USFWS photos

“Once we have a better understanding of the biology of the Oregon silverspot butterfly, the Service and our partners will eventually be able to use the app to track how our management techniques are directly impacting populations,” said Sam Derrenbacher, Service biologist and one of the Oregon silverspot butterfly recovery leads. “With such clear and concise measurements, everyone will be poised to do the very best we can for the recovery of the species by pinpointing where we should manage the land and the best action to apply there.”

Thus, effective data management plays a pivotal role in the recovery of this species.

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USFWS Columbia Pacific Northwest Region

USFWS Columbia Pacific Northwest Region

Conservation stories from one of the world’s most ecologically diverse regions.