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Endangered insect in state found in new locations

Joe Giersch

The Western Glacier Stonefly is only the length of a pencil eraser. It's the only endangered insect in the state. Until just recently, it was only found in Grand Teton and Glacier National Parks.

Lusha Tronstad is head of the invertebrate zoology program at University of Wyoming and a part of a research team that studies these insects. She said over the last two summers the research team found the flies in new remote parts of the wilderness.

“Usually glaciers, either surface glaciers or rock glaciers in very cold water. So we've tried to target those habitats. And we discovered them in eight streams, in the Beartooths, Absarokas, and Wind River Range in Wyoming,” she said.

Because the stonefly pupa are so small, samples had to be sent for DNA sequencing to confirm they were of the Western Glacier Stonefly.

Tronstad received a U.S. Forest Service grant to study the stone fly for the Wyoming Natural Diversity Database, a digital reference guide to inform better wildlife management decisions. She said that we can learn a lot from our friend the stone fly.

“Why care about these stoneflies? Well, glaciers and these high elevation, water storage like permanent snowfields, whatnot. They are really vital water sources for all of us, humans and other wildlife that live at lower elevations,” she said.

Tronstad said it is unclear if the stone fly will remain on the endangered species list in the future because of their discovery.

Taylar Dawn Stagner is a central Wyoming rural and tribal reporter for Wyoming Public Radio. She has degrees in American Studies, a discipline that interrogates the history and culture of America. She was a Native American Journalist Association Fellow in 2019, and won an Edward R. Murrow Award for her Modern West podcast episode about drag queens in rural spaces in 2021. Stagner is Arapaho and Shoshone.

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