I am honored to announce that my colleague Michele Wood and I are the recipients of the Association of Communication Excellence International Bronze Award in the Graphic Design Posters category for the Atala Steppingstone Infographic. Michele provided her graphic artistry skills to expertly interpret the strategy used to conserve rare atala butterflies while I provided insight on atala biology and conservation. Michele is with UF/IFAS Communications and I represent the UF/IFAS Extension St. Lucie County.
About the Atala Steppingstone Project
The Atala Steppingstone Project was created to increase public awareness of the precarious plight of the rare Florida Atala butterfly (Eumaeus Atala Poey) and to use research-based information to help residents make “Atala-friendly” landscaping decisions. The goal is to teach Floridians how to expand the population of rare Atala butterflies in their native range in Florida. This butterfly was once thought to be extinct. It was rediscovered and is now primarily limited to ephemeral and cyclical scattered populations in coastal central and southeast Florida. Unfortunately, these rare butterflies are still perilously close to extinction. The Atala Steppingstone concept involves teaching residents how to establish and monitor Atala refugia within relative proximity to pre-existing populations. These refugia will feature Atala butterfly caterpillar’s sole native food source, Zamia integrifolia (a.k.a. coontie), adult nectar sources, and modified use of insecticides. By adopting these practices, people can take steps to protect rare Atala butterflies from extinction. The Atala Steppingstone Project team conducted outreach (1) to teach participants about the rarity of Atala butterflies and their unique conservation needs and (2) to teach landscaping practices that could be adopted to aid in Atala butterfly conservation efforts. Learn more about atala butterflies HERE.
Acknowledgements – The Atala Steppingstone Project Team
Ken Gioeli is the UF/IFAS Extension Agent IV/Natural Resources and Environment for St. Lucie County. He is the overall team lead of the development of the Atala Steppingstone Project. Ken has been conducting Atala butterfly research and extension outreach activities in St. Lucie County, FL since the mid-1990’s. He conducts field demonstrations, public presentations, and written documents in support of Atala conservation. Ken provided technical research-based information and was co-lead on this Atala Steppingstone Infographic project in collaboration with Michele Wood.
Sandy Koi is a Ph.D. student at Florida International University and has conducted extensive research and outreach on the Florida Atala butterfly. Sandy is the co-developer of the Atala Steppingstone Project concepts. She served on the Atala Steppingstone Infographic development review team. It should be noted that Atala butterfly biology is atypical and complex, and this is an area of on-going research.
Kate Rotindo is the UF/IFAS Extension Agent I/Urban Horticulture for St. Lucie County, and she was on the Atala Steppingstone Infographic development review team. She develops capacity within the UF/IFAS Master Gardener Volunteer Program in St. Lucie County. She provided horticulture expertise to this project. Her volunteers served as butterfly experts and engaged the public at the Manatee Observation and Education Center and Heathcote Botanical Gardens where Atala populations have thrived. Volunteers also adopted Atala steppingstone concepts to attract the butterfly to their individual yards.
Michele Wood is the UF/IFAS Graphic Designer responsible for interpreting the project objectives and information provided by the Extension Agent. She is co-leader of the development of the Atala Steppingstone Infographic. Michele has the expertise to transform the technical information and project objectives into a format the elicits engagement.
Rachel Tennant was the Manager of the Manatee Observation and Education Center (the Manatee Center) in downtown Fort Pierce, FL. She served on the Atala Steppingstone Infographic development review team. When a population of Atala butterflies was identified in the Manatee Center gardens, she worked with Extension Agent Ken Gioeli to develop an Atala Butterfly Conservation Proclamation which was adopted in 2021 by the Fort Pierce Utility Authority – the elected governing body that provides oversight to the Manatee Center.
Alisia Kifer is the Lead Horticulturalist at Heathcote Botanical Gardens in Fort Pierce, FL. She served on the Atala Steppingstone Infographic development review team and provided horticultural expertise to the project. When a population of Atala was identified at Heathcote Botanical Gardens, she worked with Extension Agent Ken Gioeli to develop an Atala Butterfly Conservation Proclamation, which was adopted in 2021 by the garden director.
Erick Gill is the St. Lucie County Public Information Director. He distributed the Atala Steppingstone Program press release and posted/reposted ten Twitter posts on the Atala Steppingstone Program in 2021.
Dr. Shelly Johnson is the UF/IFAS State Specialized Extension Agent for Natural Resources. She is the host of the Nature Nurture webinar series and hosted Extension Agent Ken Gioeli as guest presenter on Atala butterfly conservation.
The mission of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) is to develop knowledge relevant to agricultural, human and natural resources and to make that knowledge available to sustain and enhance the quality of human life. With offices in each of Florida’s 67 counties, UF/IFAS Extension works to bring science-based solutions to the state’s agricultural and natural resources industries, and all Florida residents.
UF/IFAS Extension programs are open to all persons without regard to race, color, sexual orientation, sex, age, disability, religion, or national origin.