Two grants will allow a Thibodaux-based environmental organization to improve habitat for butterflies and research on migratory birds.

The Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary Program will use its one grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to purchase and plant native milkweed to restore habitat for monarch butterflies, which are at risk. It will also plant other flowering plants that will assist more pollinator insects.

“Pollinators are a keystone species group; the survival of a large number of species depends upon them. Approximately one in three mouthfuls of food and drink require the presence of a pollinator,” said Natalie Waters, BTNEP bird conservation coordinator.

BTNEP plans to install pollinator gardens next year throughout the estuary and offer outreach activities.

The other grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will help BTNEP conduct a census of threatened shorebirds, the Red Knots.

“BTNEP continues to enjoy a strong partnership with the USFWS. In addition to providing funds for the project USFWS allows their scientific staff to actively participate in the ongoing research and conservation efforts here in our estuary. We are honored by that collaboration,” said BTNEP Director Susan Testroet-Bergeron.

The Red Knots grow to be 9- to 11-inches long and migrate from their breeding grounds in the Canadian arctic to areas between the southeastern United States and the southern tip of South America.

The grant allows BTNEP to expand on the research it started in 2014 to mark Red Knots that land in Louisiana and tag some with geolocater devices to better understand migratory patterns and staging areas used by the birds.

“Conducting this research helps answer important questions that will help us move towards a recovery plan for this species, and I am proud to be a part of it,” said BTNEP migratory birds coordinator Delaina LeBlanc.

--Staff Writer Halle Parker can be reached at hparker@houmatoday.com or 857-2204. Follow her on Twitter, @_thehalparker.