Seeley-Swan Project, Montana

Project Synopsis
We will install two insectary corrals on existing stands of Spotted Knapweed.  Cyphocleonus achates (root-boring weevils) will be released in one corral, and the other corral will be used as an experimental control.  Plant surveys will be taken in the spring and fall.  Also, Cyphocleonus will be released on nearby existing stands of knapweed and populations will be monitored.

This project has been funded by the Montana Department of Transportation (MDT) with a two-year grant.  Twenty-five hundred dollars was awarded for fiscal year 2005 – 2006, and an additional twenty-five hundred dollars is earmarked for fiscal year 2006 – 2007.  The funds are released to Missoula County Public Schools as invoices are received by MDT from Seeley-Swan High School.

Site Selection
The insectaries are located just east of Salmon Lake, approximately 3 miles off of Montana Highway 83.  The land is currently owned by The Nature Conservancy, and is scheduled to be transferred to the Forest Service in the fall of 2006.  The installation of the insectaries and the release of biological controls for Spotted Knapweed have been approved by both agencies. 

Construction of the insectaries is slated for the week of July 17.  Materials and supplies have been purchased to install one 50’ x 50’ corral and one 25’ x 25’.  Student and community volunteers, along with Morgan Valient and Marjika Wassen from the Missoula County Weed District, will install the insectaries.  

Plant Surveys
A plot survey of the plant communities within the insectaries will be taken immediately upon completion.  Follow-up surveys will be conducted every September and May.  Students will monitor changes in the weed and native plant populations, making note of when changes in specific plant populations occur.   

Cyphocleonus achates Release
Cyphocleonus achates will be released in the large corral in August, 2006.  At this time, the release of 75 weevils is planned.  In addition to releasing Cyphoclonus within the large corral, we plan to release 75 weevils at each of three locations within one mile of the insectaries.  We will monitor and map these release sites, using GPS and ArcView.  The Forest Service has offered their support and assistance with ArcView, although it is my hope that students will be able to take on this task.

These sites will also serve as collection sites in future years as the population of Spotted Knapweed declines at those sites. The collected weevils will be made available to the Seeley-Lake branch of the Montana Department of Transportation for release on their property or to local landowners with property adjacent to MDT property.

Population of Cyphocleonus achates and Spotted Knapweed within the insectary will be carefully monitored.  As Spotted Knapweed populations fall, the insectary will be turned  or relocated to insure a food source for the Cyphocleonus. 

Instructional Support
Academic support for this project will include discussion of population dynamics, biological controls, plant defenses, native vs. non-native species, classification, evolution, and competition.  Several labs and field experiences are planned with the support of Morgan Valient and Marijka Wassen.

Students in grades 10 through 12 will be involved in the project.  They are enrolled in either Biology or Current Issues in Science.  All classes will be expected to use the scientific method to design related field or classroom labs.

Mary Johnson HOME