IamA biologist who just defended my PhD thesis on butterfly life cycles and local climate. Ask me anything!
Hullo, I'm Olle, I'm a biologist/ecologist/entomologist and science communicator, currently working at the Department of Zoology, Stockholm University, Sweden. Last week I defended my PhD thesis, which you can find here, including a .pdf link to the thesis summary.
Briefly, my work for the past five years has focused on the ways in which insects tune their life cycles to the local climate, and the genetic mechanisms that make such adaptation possible. We've been using the speckled wood butterfly as a model system, a widespread species that varies in its life cycle across Europe. In places with long warm seasons it produces several generations per year; where the season is short, it only produces one generation per year. Many insects show this kind of variation, and when they're economically important (like pest insects), it can make a big difference! Results from our lab have connected the variation in life cycles with variation in circadian clock genes, which may be helping the butterflies tell what time of year it is by interpreting the duration of daylight.
My thesis consists of four papers, two of which have been published elsewhere, here and here. (Also, here's a blog post about the second paper.) Proof picture here. Ask away if you're curious about my research, insect science, or anything else!
EDIT: Thanks a lot for all the questions, this was fun! Several people wanted to know about how to attract butterflies to their gardens, which I think is great, and can really help with conservation. There are two parts to this: planting nectar plants to feed the adults, and (most importantly) planting host plants to feed the caterpillars. Different species use different host plants, so look up what butterflies live in your area and garden accordingly. Here's a great guide for a European context; this website has some info for North America. As a general rule of thumb, grow some native plants in your garden; this hugely increases the chances that native insects can make use of them. And if you really want to help local insects, be prepared that some of the leaves will be eaten — this is, after all, how more butterflies are made.