Citizen science on the wing

Butterfly-watchers don’t need a net to be part of a new citizen science project led by researchers at The Australian National University (ANU).

The Butterflies Australia project, which has developed an innovative app, aims to create a national database of butterfly sightings. Information gathered will enable the building of data-driven range maps for butterfly species to assist with conservation.

The butterfly app provides everything you need to get out and watch butterflies. The field guide provides the basics on how to look for and identify types of butterflies found in Australia, and, where available, it has photos of the different forms and life history stages of each species.

The data submission facility lets you send your butterfly sightings to an expert panel for verification, where they will contribute to research and conservation on butterflies.

ANU Research Officer Chris Sanderson says while butterflies are one of our best-known insect species, there’s a serious lack of scientific data about them.

“Everyone loves butterflies, but there is still so much to learn about them,” he said.

There are currently eight types of butterfly listed as threatened with extinction, but experts believe as many as 38 species are potentially under threat.

Butterfly expert and ANU Associate Professor Michael Braby said the project was hugely important for the future of butterfly research in Australia.

“There is critical need to get accurate information on the distribution of butterflies. Such data will assist in conservation planning and decision-making regarding land use,” he said.

The Butterflies Australia mobile app is available on iOS and Android: