Home News and Features Vermonters Invited to Help Search for Butterflies

Vermonters Invited to Help Search for Butterflies

A female monarch butterfly nectaring in the morning sun, preparing for a day of migration. Photo by Kent McFarland.
Vermonters now have another excuse to get outside on sunny days: to join a statewide survey of the most angelic insects — butterflies. The Vermont Center for Ecostudies is recruiting volunteers to help search fields and fens, mountains and meadows, and even their own backyards to help document the status of Vermont’s butterflies.

Butterflies were largely a mystery in Vermont before hundreds of volunteer community scientists helped complete the first Vermont Butterfly Atlas (2002–2007), heralding a new era for their conservation. Twenty years later, the second atlas is poised to detect changes in butterfly populations and provide essential information for environmental management and policy. 

The Vermont Butterfly Atlas is a five-year survey completed every 20 years to document the abundance, distribution, and conservation status of butterflies across Vermont with the help of volunteer community scientists. It is part of a network of atlases across the Northeast, spanning the area from Connecticut through the Canadian Maritimes and gives a landscape view of the butterfly fauna that is invaluable for conservation and a priceless snapshot for future comparisons. Vermont is poised to be the first state or province in the region to repeat a butterfly atlas 20 years later.

Most anyone with a sharp eye can contribute. Everyone knows what a butterfly looks like, and many carry a digital camera at all times — their smartphones. With a bit of training, it’s easy to watch butterflies and report results to the Vermont Butterfly Atlas at e-Butterfly.org, a worldwide butterfly reporting system built by the Vermont Center for Ecostudies, the Montreal Space for Life, and other partners. There is even a built-in computer vision system to help users identify the butterflies in their images. 

“We’re excited to offer training sessions for new participants at butterfly hotspots across the state as well as online workshops on butterfly atlasing,” said Nathaniel Sharp, VCE biologist and atlas coordinator. “While there are tons of great field guides and online resources listed on our website, getting outside searching for butterflies is the best way to meet other butterfly lovers, learn how to identify our local species, and get motivated to document the butterflies in your neighborhood and beyond.”

To learn more and join the survey, visit val.vtecostudies.org/projects/vermont-butterfly-atlas

Financial support for the atlas is provided by the Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife – State Wildlife Grant, the Charles E. and Edna T. Brundage Foundation, the Davis Conservation Foundation, the Park Foundation, and individual supporters and donors of the Vermont Center for Ecostudies.