Citizens Science, Butterfly Monitoring, & Cyberinfrastructure

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May 12, 2012

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.

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