Citizen Science Project on Salt Spring: Good for People and Butterflies!

This month, participants are flocking to a free training in butterfly citizen science led by entomologist Linda Gilkeson, PhD, and hosted by the Salt Spring Island Conservancy. Trainees will learn how to identify and count butterflies from Linda and how to take photos of butterflies from Simon Henson, as a way to aid in identification. There is still space for trainees.

This project seeks to increase the number of citizen scientists trained to identify butterflies on Salt Spring Island and to collect records that can be used to show long-term trends in butterfly numbers. Records of butterfly counts are a way to measure the health of local ecosystems, and for the last 2 years, the Conservancy has been establishing a group of volunteers to identify and record butterfly sightings. The data collected by citizen scientists during the monthly counts will contribute to a growing body of data that could supplement (or stimulate) research by scientists.

Citizen science is good for species, for scientists, but also for the citizen scientists themselves. In his guest article, "The Importance of Citizen Scientists," David Suzuki wrote that "spending time in nature makes us feel better — helping with depression, attention deficit disorder, recall and memory, problem-solving and creativity."

He added, "Enter citizen science — using the same technologies that separate us from nature to help us understand and enjoy it. Smartphones, the Internet and accessible research technologies deinstitutionalize science and get the inner scientist in all of us outside to contribute to a broader understanding of a variety of topics, from backyard birds to flower-blooming times."

The training is March 24 at Blackburn Lake Nature Reserve, from 1 to 4pm. There is still space for people who want to participate. Participation in the training is free! After receiving the training, participants will ideally agree to a commitment of 1 to 2 hours of field work every month from April to September. Field work consists of a leisurely walk in the same route each month and can be done in teams of two people. Participants must be or become a member of the Conservancy.

If interested, please call the Conservancy office at 250-538-0318.

(All photos by Simon Henson, except butterfly on purple thistle, by Laura Matthias.)

By Coreen Boucher

Staff Writer, Salt Spring Exchange News

March 7, 2019 5:26 PM