Citizen Science, Butterfly Monitoring & Cyberinfrastructure

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Leslie Ries, SESYNC
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Citizen-scientists throughout North America perform thousands of surveys each year but, unlike their European counterparts, the data from these monitoring programs are little known and less used. A recent workshop at the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC) brought together all major butterfly data producers with representatives from the scientific and technology communities with the goal to develop systems to promote and support expanding public participation in and use of butterfly data and knowledge. By involving the public more closely in knowledge generation, analysis, and education, we can gather data at a spatiotemporal scales to meet our current global challenges for supporting socio-environmental systems and also increase the investment that the general public has in both the data sources and results.

This workshop resulted in the formation of a network of data providers and includes butterfly monitoring groups that currently collect several types of data: transect data based on the European "Pollard" protocols (represented by several states, including Illinois, Ohio, Florida, Iowa, and Michigan, and some organizations hoping to start new programs), checklist data where all species are recorded from organized field trips and include a range of protocols (organized largely by NABA [the North American Butterfly Association] and local chapters such as Massachusetts Butterfly Club), and opportunistic data (through programs like NABA and Butterflies and Moths of America), and finally, a network of organizations focused specifically on one species of butterfly (MonarchNet).

The goals laid out in this workshop were to:

  1. increase recruitment and ease participation in monitoring programs;
  2. standardize protocols, data, and taxonomic standards as much as possible; and
  3. develop systems for data management, sharing, and visualization.

Based on this new network, we look forward to much greater visibility, participation, and use of butterfly monitoring data for scientific research and education.

Paul Allen, Cornell Ornithology Lab
Greg Breed, Harvard Forest
Nathan Brockman, Iowa State Univ.
Astrid Caldas, Defenders of Wildlife
Jaret Daniels, Univ. of Florida
Jeff Glassberg, NABA
Kelly Lotts, BAMONA
Steve McGaffin, Knoxville Zoo
Sarah Moore, Pacific Science Center
Lea Morgan, Museum of Science
Tom Naberhaus, BAMONA
Karen Oberhauser, Univ. of MN
Cyndy Parr, Smithsonian, EOL
Guy Pe'er, UFZ-Helmholz Center
Rick Ruggles, Ohio Lep Soc
Jane Scott, NABA
Lori Scott, NatureServe
Matthew Scott
Jim Springer, NABA
Robert Stevenson, Umass-Boston
Sharon Stichter, Mass Bfly Club
Doug Taron, Chicago Academy of Sciences
Dave Waetjen, UC-Davis
Jerome Wiedmann, Ohio Lep Soc
Karen Wilson, Chicago Academy of Sciences


Resource Title Brief Summary
Tracking climate impacts on the migratory monarch butterfly May 13, 2012

We assess the impacts of spring and summer climate conditions on breeding monarch butterflies, a species that completes its annual migration cycle over several generations. No single, broad-scale climate metric can explain summer breeding phenology or the substantial year-to-year fluctuations observed in population abundances. As such, we built a Poisson regression model to help explain annual arrival times and abundances in the Midwestern United States.

Google Earth Tours: Monarch Butterflies Migration May 10, 2013

As a part their ongoing collaboration with Encyclopedia of Life and a Google Outreach Developer Grant, Atlantic Public Media has produced four Google Earth presentations for their series One Species At A Time: Stories of Bio-Diversity on the Move.

SESYNC researcher Leslie Ries contributed to the Google Earth Tour on monarch butterfly migration.

National valuation of monarch butterflies indicates an untapped potential for incentive-based conservation Oct 28, 2013

Article published October 2013 in Conservation Letters.

Unexpected phenological responses of butterflies to the interaction of urbanization and geographic temperature Mar 04, 2014

Article published in Ecology.

A Citizen Army for Science: Quantifying the Contributions of Citizen Scientists to our Understanding of Monarch Butterfly Biology Apr 07, 2015

Article published in BioScience.

Connecting Eastern Monarch Population Dynamics across their Migratory Cycle Jan 01, 2015

Chapter published in Monarchs in a Changing World.

Contributions to Monarch Biology and Conservation through Citizen Science: Seventy Years and Counting Jan 01, 2015

Chapter published in Monarchs in a Changing World.

Do Growing Degree Days Predict Phenology Across Butterfly Species? Jun 01, 2015

Article published in Ecology.

Evaluating confidence in climate-based predictions of population change in a migratory species May 12, 2016

Article published in Global Ecology and Biogeography.

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