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Catawba student spends summer in Panama researching butterflies

A Catawba student's recent trip to Panama has led to extensive research and surveys on the country's exotic butterflies. Joel Schlaudt spent three weeks this summer at La Mica Biological Research Station, exploring the Omar Torrijos National Park for the many different species of butterflies and their behaviour.

Catawba student spends summer in Panama researching butterflies

A student from Catawba has spent three weeks this summer in Panama researching some of the world's most beautiful butterflies.

Joel Schlaudt embarked on a research internship at La Mica Biological Research Station in Panama, working alongside Dr. Julie Ray, who does snake research and operates the research station in the Cocle province.

Schlaudt's first encounter with the butterflies occurred when he hiked through a dense forest to an open clearing near a river. A group of butterflies made up of Apricot Sulfurs (Phoebis argante), Cloudless Sulfurs (Phoebis sennae), and many other species were imbibing minerals from a damp spot. Once alerted, the butterflies scattered into flight in a colourful swirl for several hours.

The student's aim was to identify new and existing butterflies in the region. He spent time in the Omar Torrijos National Park, a park in a tropical cloud forest, and soon discovered several species that were new to him, including Insignis Tigerwing Butterflies (Olyras insignis), and Diasia Clearwing Butterflies (Ithomia diasia).

Since returning to college, Schlaudt has continued his research and identified the species of butterflies he found in Panama and the Cocle region, as well as receiving a course credit.

Panama is a country in Central America that is home to the famous Panama Canal which is more than 100 years old.

The country's capital Panama City is a vibrant hub with the historic Casco Viejo neighbourhood that was founded in1671, following the dismissal of the original Spanish settlement by the British pirate, Henry Morgan. While the modern side of Panama City boasts a skyline similar to Dubai, the historic neighbour today is a blend of Old Havana and the French Quarter in New Orleans, plus a splash of Art Deco.

The 77-kilometre-long Panama Canal connects the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean. The locks at each end of the canal lift the ships to the Lake Gatun, an artificial lake that was created to reduce the amount of excavation work required for the canal. The lake acts a reservoir of water for the operation of the locks and it carries ships for 33 kilometres along the canal.

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