Albany Pine Bush News

ALBANY, NY – A new children’s book, written for kids by kids, and featuring the federally-endangered Karner blue butterfly has just been published by the Albany Pine Bush Preserve Commission. The newly released Mister Karner Blue is the result of a unique collaboration between the Albany Pine Bush Preserve Commission and the Farnsworth Middle School in Guilderland, New York and in that regard, presents a story within a story.

This scientifically-accurate, yet fanciful tale for young children was created by students from the school’s Pine Bush Project. According to Christopher Hawver, Executive Director of the Commission, “This is a groundbreaking program in which 6th and 7th graders conduct long-term studies in ecological restoration and work to raise Karner blue butterflies for release in newly-restored Preserve habitat.”

“It’s is a remarkable story.” said Jeffrey Folmer, the Commission’s Discovery Center Director. “For the last 15 years, these young kids have been assisting our conservation efforts through a cutting-edge, nationally-innovative program. The book stems from one special year when a student scrapbook project grew into a collaboration with teachers, volunteers and Commission staff to create this truly magical little picture-story book. It took a couple of years to bring it to print, but it was worth the wait and we plan to celebrate here at the Discovery Center on March 9th.”

Each year, in partnership with the Commission and under the guidance of the school project’s founder Dr. Alan Fiero, the students participate in authentic scientific research including a captive rearing program for the Karner blue butterfly. In 2012, of the 600 captive-reared butterfly chrysalises the Commission had to work with, 400 were reared in partnership with the New Hampshire Department of Fish and Game, while 200 were reared at the Farnsworth Middle School.

According to the Preserve’s Conservation Director, Neil Gifford, “The Albany Pine Bush Preserve is a globally-rare ecosystem hosting over 1,000 known species of butterflies and moths. New York State has the largest variety of butterflies and moths in the U.S., with the Preserve providing habitat for more species that any other place in the state.” Gifford has been leading the Commission’s recovery efforts for this federally-endangered species within the Preserve for more than 16 years. This insect – first studied by and also named by zoologist and renowned author Vladimir Nabokov in 1944 – can now be found at 40 sites covering more than 100 acres.

Although the book was a group effort, the primary author is a student named Natasha Permaul. Natasha, now a sophomore in high-school, was a seventh grader at Farnsworth Middle School when she submitted a scrapbook presentation on the life cycle of the Karner blue butterfly for Dr. Fiero’s final assignment. The production of the book was a team effort of fellow students, her teachers, adult volunteers, and Commission staff. The book tells the story of Mr. Karner Blue and his dependence on the complex and rare habitat of inland pine barrens. It features artwork by the children and their teacher as well as photos by adult volunteers from the Preserve.

Folmer notes, “I think part of its appeal is its sheer simplicity – along the lines of Eric Carle’s masterful work The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Yet it touches on the scientific complexities. These butterflies are rare, diminutive, hard to spot, live only three to five days, and are difficult to distinguish from other similar non-endangered butterflies. And as caterpillars, they can only eat wild blue lupine which in turn requires the sandy open areas produced by the Preserve’s fire-dependent habitat.”

The Commission will celebrate with a book signing party from 1:00pm-4:00pm on Saturday, March 9, 2013 at the Albany Pine Bush Discovery Center, 195 New Karner Road in Albany. The free event will include a book signing and reading by the young author, a StoryWalk® of the book on the Discovery Trail led by Discovery Center educators, crafts and refreshments. The book retails for $11.95 and is available at the Discovery Center Shop and selected retailers. Proceeds from the sale support the conservation of the Albany Pine Bush, Mr. Karner blue’s home.

Located within the Capital District Region, the Albany Pine Bush’s gently rolling sand plain is home to a variety of rare plants and animals, including the federally-endangered Karner blue butterfly. The 3,200-acre Albany Pine Bush Preserve also creates a special habitat for a number of other rare and unique plants and animals, while providing visitors with an assortment of non-motorized recreational opportunities including hiking, jogging, nature study, cross-country skiing, horseback riding, mountain biking, hunting, fishing and canoeing.

The Albany Pine Bush Discovery Center transforms this globally unique destination into an exciting adventure where learning comes naturally through hands-on activities. As the gateway to the Pine Bush, the Discovery Center introduces visitors to everything that makes the Preserve rare and adventurous. Admission to the Discovery Center is free (there is a small fee for programs). The Center is open DAILY weekdays 9AM-4PM, weekends 10AM-4PM (closed Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day). For more information, visit  or call 518-456-0655. For information on Farnsworth Middle School, please visit


For interviews with Discovery Center Director Jeffrey Folmer, Conservation Director Neil Gifford, or author Natasha Permaul please contact Wendy Craney, Communications and Outreach Director at 518-456-0655 ext. 1211 or