Submitted by amywatts on Thu, 08/11/2016

An ecologist at the University of Georgia will announce an “almost unheard of” discovery in the Tallassee Forest area of Athens-Clarke County that demonstrates the benefits of land conservation.

James W. Porter, the Meigs Professor of Ecology, will speak Aug. 25 at the Richard B. Russell Building Special Collections Libraries at 5:30 p.m. Porter’s talk, open free to the public, is held in conjunction with the exhibit “John Abbot: Early Georgia’s Naturalist Artist” in the Hargrett Rare Book and Manuscript Library. In addition to the rare watercolors on display in the exhibit, Porter will have more than 1,000 specimens of butterflies and moths from ACC available. The event is open free to the public; a reception will follow. The Russell Building is located at 300 S. Hull St. and parking is available in the Hull Street Parking Deck.

Porter’s research has revealed the presence of three lookalike species of Pearly Eye butterflies in the Tallassee Forest.

“The presence of three virtually indistinguishable, but genetically distinct, species at the same time and in the same place is almost unheard of outside the tropics.  Illustrations  of Pearly Eye butterflies in the Hargrett‘s copy of The Rarer Lepidopterous Insects of Georgia (1791) by Georgia naturalist John Abbott, show that more than 100 years before the scientific description of these species, the artist was clearly aware of the slight variations that were later used to distinguish them,” Porter said.  “Mature and diverse forests and wetlands, like those at Tallassee, can provide niches for diverse species. Tallassee Forest can also be a refuge for species with ranges shifted by development, such as that in downtown Athens, and by changing climate.”

Porter will also show how the holdings of both the Hargrett Library and the Georgia Museum of Natural History can inform us, not just about our past, but also about our future.

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