Notice anything strange about the weather recently? Species living near you certainly have. Recent warming has caused dramatic northward expansion and earlier appearance among many Canadian species, including butterflies. Can we help them survive these changes? To help answer the question, biologists at the University of Ottawa have developed eButterfly, a new electronic monitoring tool.
eButterfly allows anyone to help keep track of Canada's amazing diversity of butterflies. Citizen scientists can record, map, track and share their butterfly observations. They can even upload digital photos of butterflies, keep life lists of species and build dynamic maps of where and when butterflies are found.
This is a magnificent tool for naturalists, says Doug Hyde, executive director for NatureServe Canada. And the technology for recording butterfly sightings can be readily adapted for any plant or animal group to eventually build vast, citizen-driven databases for the biodiversity Canadians have inherited.
This flexibility is built into eButterfly technology and represents a major step in making Canada a world leader in natural-history monitoring and conservation. eButterfly will engage Canadians in measuring the impact of climate change and habitat loss on butterflies.
The need to discover how butterflies will respond to rapid climate change and the impact of development in wilderness areas motivated our decision to construct eButterfly, says Professor Jeremy Kerr, who leads the Canadian Facility for Ecoinformatics Research based at the University of Ottawa in the Department of Biology. eButterfly mobilizes Canada's best asset its citizens to give biodiversity research a shot in the arm. Butterflies are like canaries in a coal mine, our early warning device for how other species might respond to climate and habitat changes.
eButterfly will make it even more rewarding to join the grassroots community of citizens who love to understand Canada or who care about how it is changing. Butterfly watchers have never had these capabilities before now, says Peter Hall, co-author of Butterflies of Canada. I am particularly pleased that Canada's top butterfly experts and organizations are solidly behind eButterfly.
eButterfly was developed by Max Larrivée as part of the Canada Global Change Research Transect, a project funded through and Early Researcher Award to Professor Jeremy T. Kerr in Biology at the University of Ottawa.". The project was also funded by the Ontario Ministry of Economic Development and Innovation. NatureServe Canada provided additional support and expertise, as did Agriculture Agri-Food Canada. eButterfly is now live at www.ebutterfly.ca.