Surveying Butterflies with the National Zoo

The National Zoo is looking for a few good volunteers to participate in butterfly surveys in the DC area this summer; surveys start next week!  Here’s the call for volunteers:

Biodiversity From the Mountains to the Bay:
How You Can Help Survey Butterflies

Have you ever wondered at the diversity of butterflies in your backyard or neighborhood park? Did you know that some yards and parks are visited by half of the 40 butterfly species seen in the Washington, D.C., area? If you enjoy watching butterflies and live in the D.C. area, the National Zoo invites you to participate in a butterfly survey this summer.

zebra swallowtailWe will provide training, a butterfly guide to help volunteers identify species, and an observation sheet. Volunteers will record information about the butterflies they see in their backyard, local park, or similar area for one hour on six days during July and August. Volunteers’ observations will help us learn about the impact of land-use patterns on biodiversity.

Want to Help?

If you live in the D.C. area and are able to complete six one-hour surveys in the same place next summer, please complete this form, and someone will contact you with the details. For more information, email Tamie DeWitt, Biologist at the Invertebrate Exhibit at the National Zoo, at

Our Study Sites

zabulon skipperWe have expanded this citizen-science project to monitor the populations of common butterflies in the D.C. Metro area and Rappahannock and Loudoun counties in Virginia. We are also monitoring butterflies that visit a Butterfly Garden outside the Invertebrate Exhibit and other select spots at the Zoo. Clarke County, Virginia, residents also participate in the survey. Over time, the data that everyone collects will show how increasing urbanization and land-use change affect populations. As an added bonus, survey participants will learn about the biodiversity in their backyards.

2006 Survey Observations
Find out where surveys were conducted and what butterflies our participants saw. click formore

About Citizen Science

Citizen science is a great way to involve the public in collecting scientific data about our natural resources. A similar Smithsonian program, Neighborhood Nestwatch, has shown that, as people collect data on flora and fauna, they increase their ecological and environmental awareness of their land and the surrounding ecosystem, use this information in their land-use/management decisions, and are inspired to take conservation action.

Our primary goal for the butterfly survey is to monitor key butterfly populations across an urban-rural gradient to help understand the impacts of increasing urbanization and land-use change within the D.C. region. Our second goal is to educate citizens about ecological science and the biodiversity, and butterflies in particular, within their property and nearby surroundings. Conservation is only made complete when awe and information are used to move people to action. This is one more step closer to producing positive changes in environmental attitudes and behavior.

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