Butterfly Conservation's European Marsh Award 2018 Winner - Constanti Stefanescu.
Constanti Stefanescu is that rare scientist - someone who combines a powerful intellect with a human touch that inspires and informs everyone around him. Although he started his career studying oceanography, he soon turned his attentions to butterflies, which were his great passion since childhood. He subsequently devoted much of his professional career to co-ordinating the Catalonian Butterfly Monitoring Scheme which he has been running since its inception in 1994; a remarkable 24 years of hard work and dedication. As a result of his infectious enthusiasm he has successfully engaged many hundreds of volunteers and generated invaluable data on this very diverse part of Europe. During this time, he has overcome huge geographical challenges and identification issues to make this one of the best run schemes in the world. Single handedly, he produces beautiful and instructive annual reports on the scheme results that are available on the scheme website. Needless to say, the results have been used widely to look at critical factors such as climate change and pollution.
During his time running the Catalonian scheme, Constanti became fascinated with the migration of the Painted Lady. Using data from monitoring schemes across Europe, he tracked its migration across the continent and back-tracked it using weather data to its likely origin in the Atlas mountains of North Africa. Not satisfied with that, he spent several winters in Africa, trying to find the exact source leading us at last to unravel the mystery of this great butterfly migration. When the BBC made a 1.5 hour programme on the migration, Constanti became the star of the show, clearly explaining why the butterflies have to migrate from their African home, then to breed in waves up across Europe. He also worked with colleagues at Rothamsted Research to examine the secretive return migration which was shown to be made at high elevations using warm air currents.
Constanti has many other research interests on butterflies, including ecological studies of several species, the incidence of parasitism and the evolution of host-plant specialisation
In 2009, he co-authored the first thorough review of parasitism of European butterflies in the book Ecology of European butterflies. He has also investigated patterns of butterfly species richness and the responses of Mediterranean butterflies to global change. He is a fervent conservationist and has used his knowledge to inform conservation activities in Catalonia and throughout Spain. He is a regular contributor at Butterfly Conservation Symposia and is in great demand as a speaker at conferences around the world.
Constanti has given considerable efforts to bring butterfly knowledge to the public. Constanti’s annual reports of the Catalan BMS always include information on new scientific findings and guidance for identification of species in a way that is easy to understand for a wider public. Constanti is also co-author of the recent guide of Catalonian Butterflies, which is not just one more guide, but offers a remarkable contribution to the knowledge of the biology and distribution of the region’s butterflies.
Constanti also has the ability to collaborate with the leading authors for each topic in Europe. This has resulted in a remarkable number of papers, most of them published on top journals of ecology and global change disciplines. Because of this he is indeed a reference for scientists not only in Spain, but also at an international scale.
Constanti has made an enormous contribution to our understanding of European butterflies and how they are responding to rapidly changing environmental pressures.
He is a great collaborator and scientist, and is a worthy recipient of the 2018 European Marsh Award.