Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly — Charismatic Species/Preservation
Butterfly Survey Networks have been established in many U.S. states to watch and count butterfly populations. Harmful changes in an ecosystem can be first detected by counting these easy to identify and fragile insect species.
“Creating an Iowa Butterfly Survey Network,” by Nathan Brockman.
From the Iowa Native Plant Society Newsletter, Vol. 13, Issue 1, March 2007. Pg. 6.
Iowa Butterfly Survey Network
The Iowa Butterfly Survey Network (IBSN) is located at Reiman Gardens at Iowa State University and conducts research using volunteer citizen scientists of all skill levels to collect data for yearly population surveys of butterfly species in the state of Iowa. In order to conduct research, volunteers use a survey method specifically for butterflies known as a “Pollard Walk” that originated in Europe, and is now used in states such as Illinois, Ohio, Florida, and Iowa.
In 2002, a DNR report listed butterfly species that were endangered, threatened, and under special concern in Iowa. Two species of butterflies were endangered, five threatened, and 25 special concern species. With that information, of the 122 species of butterflies believed to live in Iowa, more than one-fourth of those butterfly species’ long-term survival is questionable in Iowa.
In Iowa, conservation resources and funding is spread across a wide range of animals, making it hard for experts to keep up with the needs of the most threatened animals while they monitor the less threatened animals at the same time. This is especially the case for butterflies. However, there is a larger problem than the issue of adequate monitoring and that is the lack of data on Iowa butterflies; there is no annual standardized data available to determine the current population, density, and distribution of Iowa butterflies.
The IBSN hopes to fill this need by using both citizen scientists and conservation professionals to monitor and survey habitat areas for butterfly populations. The IBSN wants to progress with ideas that will benefit this research: they will give a baseline data for researchers on existing populations and their range, identify potential threats, identify beneficial or potentially harmful land management practices, show effectiveness of habitat restoration efforts, and give an annual snapshot of the health of all butterfly populations in Iowa. Due to their short life span and multiple generations in a year, butterflies are an excellent indicator for population trends or habitat suitability of all animals.
The ultimate goal of the IBSN is to educate Iowans about butterflies, while at the same time encourage people to take an active role in conservation. Participants in the IBSN will not only learn about native butterflies, but will also be able to take pride in generating much needed data critical for researchers, land managers, and conservation professionals.
Data is submitted in the form of observations (counts of specific butterflies) along specified routes, during specified environmental conditions (no precipitation, etc.) and certain times, within a narrow temperature range: 60-90f. Different habitats are identified: upland forests, bottomland forests, savannas, evergreen forests, prairies, edge, and farms. Records include date, location, start and stop time, monitor, recorder, sky conditions, wind conditions, and temperature.