Vermont scientist contributes to butterfly tracking site

Screenshot of the e-Butterfly.org website.

Screenshot of the e-Butterfly.org website.

The net to catch butterfly data just got bigger.

Biologists from Canada and the U.S. on Monday launched an online butterfly tracking tool, e-Butterfly.org. The website aggregates crowd-sourced information gathered across North America into its free website.

“It’s one-stop shopping for both recreational butterfly watchers and scientists,” said Kent McFarland, a conservation biologist at the Vermont Center for Ecostudies, who worked on the project.

McFarland said the online tool, which was modeled on a similar online bird-monitoring platform, relies on citizen scientists to do work that would otherwise be impossible for scientists.

Canadian tiger swallowtail. Photo by Bryan Pfeiffer

Canadian tiger swallowtail. Photo by Bryan Pfeiffer

“It relies on crowd-sourced data over a huge landscape,” he said.

The tool can be used for casual butterfly watching, but researchers also can use the mapping tool to study the early warnings of habitat degradation and the impacts of climate change.

The site was launched in Canada when scientists sought to understand the impacts of growth and climate change on butterfly populations.

University of Ottawa postdoctoral fellow Maxim Larrivée, now an entomologist at the Montreal Insectarium, and lab biologist Jeremy Kerr teamed up to develop the first iteration of the online database.

“e-Butterfly is the tool for any lepidopterist,” Larrivée said. “From beginners looking for help with butterfly identification to experts who may want to plan their outings based on what species are active on any date at any particular location.”

The website was relaunched Monday to cover the United States with the help of Oregon State University and other scientists.

“This will be an essential and wonderful opportunity for people to get involved in science, appreciate nature, and interact with and enjoy biodiversity,” said Kathleen Prudic, a research scientist at Oregon State, who collaborated on the project.

John Herrick

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