Special Projects

Since our innaugural workshop in May 2012, we have initiated several projects to support the goals of this network. Since most of these initiatives are new, we list them below with brief descriptions of objectives and progress. As we make progress, we will update this site, but feel free to contact Leslie Ries (lries "at" umd.edu) if you have questions or would like to get involved.

Monitor Tracker

We are keeping track of all the monitoring programs focused on butterflies and hope to include all those in North America in our network. This effort includes keeping track of all the protocols used by the various monitoring programs. We will use this information to encourage programs to standardize as much as possible, identify best practices, and develop resources so new programs can implement best practice protocols from the start.

Data Entry and Management Support

A major goal of the Butterfly Network is to make sure that ALL butterfly monitoring programs have the data entry and management support they need so they can focus their energy on the reason they started these projects - working with the public to help collect butterfly data! In our inaugural meeting in 2012, we identified supporting the regional butterfly monitoring programs (e.g., Illinois, MIchigan, etc.) as having the greatest data management needs. As a group, we decided to create a shared portal for data entry and management and, ultimately, visualization and sharing tools. The regional programs decided to work with BAMONA (Butterflies and Moths of America) - and we are launching this tool, PollardBase, in April 2014.

We are also working with NABA to develop a data management and download tool so its easier to curate and share NABA data.  That project is currently underway.

Detectability Data Gathering

Using detectability modeling (estimating the probability of observing a species assuming it is present) has greatly improved models of monitoring data, but butterfly detectability is highly influenced by weather, and we have very little information about the factors that impact detectability. Monitoring transects can tweak their protocols to gather invaluable data that can be used to model detectability. Currently, the Cascades Monitoring Network and the Illinois Monitoring Network are working to collect detectability data for use in our models (see below).

Resources for Scientific Exploration

In addition to our goals relative to supporting monitoring programs by developing data systems and promoting data sharing and visualization, we have two main programs that are intended to further scientific research.

The first is building a "knowledgebase" that will include trait data (such as morphological, ecological, and behavioral traits) and also parameter estimates from the published literature (such as lifespan, population size and trajectory, or other ecologically-relevant parameters). Both types of knowledge data can be used in scientific explorations that include multiple species. This project is led by Leslie Ries and Dana Campbell and began in 2016.

The second project is developing the best statistical models to extract information from different types of butterfly monitoring data sets. There have been great advancements in the use of volunteer monitoring data, but most models have been built for vertebrate systems. Therefore, they do not account for high individual turnover within seasons, extreme inter-annual variability, or substantial differences in detectability due to weather. This project is led by Leslie Ries and post-doc Elise Larsen (started in winter 2013). Advisors on this project include John Sauer and Bill Fagan.

Visualization and Download Tools

Our initial efforts are focused on developing systems so programs can enter and manage current data, clean and upload historical data, and make sure that program managers can easily access their data for reporting and sharing. In 2017, we will be focused more on developing public-facing visualization and download tools. We have two programs currently underway. One to help NABA display and share their monitoring data and a separate program for regional monitoring groups. Those tools will be launched under a shared system led by Leslie Ries and the University of Maryland and BAMONA.
NABA's Count program is the oldest and largest (in terms of geographic extent) butterfly monitoring program in the world. There is a high demand to be able to easily visualize patterns in that 40 year data set and get access to individual count reports. Easier access to the data for scientific exploration is also a high priority. We are working with NABA to create a data access and visualization tool that will be housed at the main NABA website. We anticipate this feature will be available in early 2015.

Climate Modeling Platform

Climate data that is relevant to the modeling of the distribution and abundance of butterflies in now available on both continental and global scales. We are particularly interested in daily climate data because these are often required for many of the most relevant questions about butterfly dynamics. We are working with the Oak Ridge National Lab and their new Daymet dataset to build an interactive platform to be able to integrate butterfly and climate data across spatiotemporal scales.