WSW: Tracking Butterflies And Why It's Important

Mar 6, 2017

Monarch Butterfly
Credit Ekabhishek, Wikimedia Commons

The director of the Michigan Butterfly Network says that butterflies can be an indicator of the overall health of an ecosystem. Ashley Wick says that’s why they are seeking citizen scientists to track butterflies in the Kalamazoo area and statewide. 


Wick, who is Biological Research Director for the Kalamazoo Nature Center, says the Michigan Butterfly Network’s goals are to get people outside and assess the changing status of butterfly species. Training sessions for new monitors are being held in March and April. 

The Michigan Butterfly Network is a project started by the Nature Center. Wick says with climate change some species are becoming more rare and some habitats are changing. She says once a species is listed as federally or state endangered it’s almost too late. Wick says the network wants to look at the trends by recruiting volunteers to get lots of data points.

Wick says citizen scientists are taught everything they need to know, she says their motto is “No PhD, no problem.” Wick says some citizen science monitors are parents with children. Others are elderly who walk for short periods of time. She says the idea of the monitoring is to get a snap shot of that space at that time.

Once the data is collected, Wick says it’s shared with scientists at several universities. She says the Michigan Butterfly Network works with several other states across United States to collect data and assess the health of butterflies.