The Cascades Butterfly Project: Citizen Scientists Unite!

August 1st, 2011 | Posted by in Institute News

On July 23rd, a group of volunteer scientists joined biologists from the North Cascades Institute, North Cascades National Park and Western Washington University to say farewell to “the winter that would never end” by kicking off the Cascades Butterfly Project.

The Cascades Butterfly Project is a collaborative effort between biologists and citizen scientists, who will work together to monitor butterfly populations throughout North Cascades National Park, Mount Rainier National Park, and Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. 
After a brief classroom session where we reviewed the basics of butterfly ecology and identification, we headed to Sauk Mountain to test our new skills and learn the field study techniques we’ll use to gather this important data.

Satyr Comma perched on the thumb of photographer, graduate student, and volunteer wildlife biologist, Elise Ehrheart.

Mountain ecosystems are particularly vulnerable to climate change, with alpine meadows expected to shrink dramatically throughout the Cascades Mountain Range. Butterflies make ideal indicator species of alpine ecosystem health because they are particularly sensitive to climatic changes, and are relatively easy to identify in the field by scientists and volunteers alike.

Hiking home after a successful day in the field

If you’re interested in joining in on this exciting (and fun!) research, it’s not too late, and no previous scientific experience is necessary.  There will be another volunteer training at Mount Rainier National Park on August 13. For more information, contact North Cascades Institute’s Science Coordinator, Jeff Anderson, at jeff_anderson@ncascades.org or (206) 526-2574.