The EwA Plant Visitor Survey

Field Protocol

Community-based Citizen Science in Massachusetts Parks & Reservations


This program is an Earthwise Aware (EwA) citizen science initiative an adult learning experience paired with a direct participation in scientific research. That is, the program educates the public about citizen science, ecology essential knowledge, while directly helping global science and local scientists with the gathering of ethical science-relevant data about the arthropods (insects, spiders, etc.) of our parks and reserves.

This document describes the program and details the collection protocols for formal communication with various institutions and experts engaged in this program. It also serves the purpose of teaching scientific documentation methods to EwA’s citizen scientists.

EwA is focused on ecological ethics and reducing the human ecological footprint. Consequently we ask our citizen scientists to follow ethics rules that are stronger than those listed in most guides & recommendations. As a result, our citizen science projects have a lower environmental impact than any recreation activity usually taking place in those parks and reservations.

Also important for EwA: Nationally standardized protocols that can be harmonized internationally, open science and global data. That is, we make sure that data are recorded on platforms that are scientifically relevant, providing usable (comparable) data that are accessible to scientists nationally and globally. Data following obscured protocols that can’t be used nationally and globally, or that remain in local spreadsheets are of no relevant use anymore (and are ethically questionable). There is a global effort to improve field study protocols (transparency, ethics, rigor, relevance and comparability), and we support this effort.

To our citizen science leaders: please make sure to have read this document prior to going “in the field” with your group. Thanks.


Project & Protocol Details

Project Description        3

Impact & Deliverables        3

Public Literacy Impact        3

Science Impact & Deliverables        3

Conservation Impact        4

Partners        4

Expert Partners        4

Conservation Partners (& Sites)        4

Project Logistics        5

Project Timeline        5

Collection Protocol        6

Equipment        6

Data Collection Method        6

Daylight Arthropod Photo Survey Method        6

Arthropod Count Method        9

Site Specific Protocols        11

Middlesex Fells Reservation (Long Pond)        12

Transect Details        12

Circles Details        13

Circle 1        13

Circle 2        15

Fresh Pond Reservation (Lusitania Meadow)        17

Transect Details        18

Circles Details        18

Circle 1        18

Circle 2        21

Habitat (Lower and Upper Meadows)        23

Transect Details        23

Circles Details        24

Circle 1        24

Circle 2        26

The Somerville Community Growing Center (Native garden + Paths)        28

Transect & Circles Details        29

Circle 1        30

Circle 2        32

Data Recording & Visualization Platforms        34

Photo Records—Biodiversity Occurrence        34

Caterpillars Count Records—Biodiversity Abundance        35

Accessing & Exploring EwA’s Data        36

Data Sheets, References & Further Reading        37

Data & Field Sheets        37

Logs, Guides & Tools        37

Project Specific (Logs & Add. Documentation)        37

Guides        37

Protocols        39

General        39

Appendix: EwA Sites Data in Brief        40

Appendix: More About Butterflies...        40

Appendix: More About Bees…        42


Project Description

Impact & Deliverables

Public Literacy Impact

This project educates the public about:

Science Impact & Deliverables

Arthropods are an important food source for birds and other wildlife. They also have economic and environmental impacts on our forests and crops. Caterpillars, a type of arthropod, are one of the most important sources of food for many migratory birds, and provide a tasty snack for growing nestlings.

Climate change is affecting the timing of spring leaf out, insect activity, and bird migration and breeding.

But are the plants, insects and birds all responding to the same degree?

If either insects or birds are not keeping up with phenological shifts of the other organisms that they depend on, then further climate change may have negative consequences for their populations.

This project directly helps science and scientists, gathering data for (non-exhaustive list):

Deliverables will be in the form of:

Conservation Impact

2 critical impacts on the advancement of nature conservation:

Partners

Expert Partners

Thanks to Amy who helped with the initial protocol, and Tea who helped with establishing sites initial transects, butterfly ID info sheet, and who runs a few night surveys with EwA.

Conservation Partners (& Sites)

This an Earthwise Aware initiative. Crash courses, lectures, on site + online trainings, data recording on global open platforms, and public events are organized and run by the EwA staff & its citizen scientists in collaboration with our conservation partners, and helped by our expert partners.

The project sites & partners are:

Site

Managed by

Partners

EwA Parent Program

EwA Leaders

Middlesex Fells Reservation

Department of Conservation & Recreation (DCR)

The Friends of the Fells + DCR

EwA at the Fells

Claire + Bill + Kathy + Laura

Fresh Pond Reservoir

Cambridge Water Department

Cambridge Water Department

EwA at Fresh Pond

Claire + Tim + Alexis

(+ Teá on night collections)

Mass Audubon

Mass Audubon's Habitat Wildlife Sanctuary 

Habitat Wildlife Sanctuary

EwA at Habitat

Claire + Roger (+ Teá on night collections)

Somerville Community Growing Center

City of Somerville

Somerville Community Growing Center + Green & Open Somerville

EwA at the Growing Center

Claire + Amy

Project Logistics

  1. Brief chat about Biodiversity & Climate change challenges
  2. Intro to Citizen Science: why, how
  3. Training on the project protocol & tools
  4. Data recording practice

Project Timeline

See: EwA Plant Visitor Survey Timeline 🗓️ for details about the phases of the study.


Collection Protocol

In the context of the Plant Visitor Program, we conduct 2 kinds of arthropod surveys per location (Middlesex Fells Reservation, Fresh Pond reservoir, Habitat Wildlife Sanctuary, Somerville Community Growing Center): (1) An insect photo survey and (2) A caterpillar count.

The first survey is about arthropod species occurrences which vetted records are pulled into an international database consulted by scientists worldwide. The second survey is focused on caterpillars and is about species abundance and phenology (and part of the Pheno Mismatch project funded by the National Science Foundation).

We set up 1 to 3 transects per location to run the photo survey, stopping 3-5 times at random spots along those transects to photo-record observations of arthropods, substantiating with counts when photos can be taken.

Using CC’s terminology, we’ve setup 6 caterpillar count ‘circles’ (2 per location) along those transects. A circle is a mini survey site where we record counts over 5 trees in close vicinity. Both kind of surveys are ecologically important, and it made sense for efficiency and for having a complete view of the site to conduct them at the same time. However, one can choose to focus either one.

Equipment

Day-- time activities: Camera, a ruler, notepad + field data sheet 🗒️ (for side notes), pen & pencils. Field guides and/or common species groups info sheet.  Make sure that what you use to take pictures has its GPS location tracking ‘on’. We’ll show citizen scientists how to do that during our training/field events.

 

Night time activities (under the supervision of Teá Kesting-Handly): Same as above +160W Mercury Vapor lights and several 12W Ultraviolet lights. Teá will supply these as well as some collecting equipment (for dissection and ID) for the parts she helps with. Other than that, people should bring cameras/pencils.

Data Collection Method

If you need clarification or have any difficulty, please do not hesitate to contact us (citizenscience@earthwiseaware.org) and we’ll be glad to help you in any way we can. 

Daylight Arthropod Photo Survey Method

Why?

See Science Impact & Deliveries and Conservation Impact

Notes: At first we’ll run habitat assessments to get familiarized with the sites and to refine the protocol based on what we find. We’ll pair this with what is also referred to as randomized infinite point counts along specific transect lines. We’ll probably move later to strip transect methods (Hill, 2005).

Note that at this time, we’ll annotate iNat observations with count as we are still looking for a good public global platform (GBIF-linked) to record arthropod counts specifically.

More details »  EwA Plant Visitor Survey Timeline 🗓️ for details about the phases of the study.

Recording tools: Our biodiversity occurrence data recording platform will be the iNaturalist platform (a.k.a. iNat). The data will be pulled automatically in the respective iNaturalist site projects (resp. EwA at the Fells, EwA at Fresh Pond and EwA at Habitat, EwA at the Growing Center). Recording can be done directly from a phone & tablet. However, we experience that it’s easier to take pictures (often of better quality than when taken with a phone), and then upload and annotate them directly from a desktop (the iNaturalist desktop User Interface is more detailed and its tools are simpler, faster and more precise). We will train our citizen scientists on both how to take clear, and scientifically relevant visual records, and how to record their data on iNaturalist. It’s fun, it’s social, and of incredible value to science.

Survey Conditions (Ref): Surveys should be done between 8:00 am and 6:00 pm on dry days without excessive wind. Specifically, assessment should not be made when the temperature is below 13°C (55.4°F); from 13°C  to 17°C (62.6°F). There must be a minimum of 60% sunshine; above 17°C, the weather can be cloudy so long as it is not raining. The wind speed should not be above 5 on the Beaufort Scale.

Ideally surveying should be done multiple times per visit. Morning activity for Lepidoptera is usually between 9am-12pm, and afternoon activity is usually in the 2-5pm range.

At the start of the survey, write down the date, time, weather (cloudy, rainy, sunny, windy) and approximate temperature.

Follow the pre-designed transects (see § Site Specific Protocol). If you can, survey them all in one visit. At a minimum, survey a complete transect.

Pick 3-5 random spots along the transect to stop and make observations. Note the duration of your stop (we usually for stops of about 5 minutes length). Make sure to actively observe all flowering plants for flower-visitors. Consider (i.e., snap & count) any arthropod that lands or rest directly on a flower or plant to be of interest. Be sure to check ALL flowers, even “weed” species such as dandelions and clovers.

 Observe only what you can see from one angle, taking photos of any insect, bug, and spider that you might see right nearby. Generally, when you see an arthropod on a flower, take a photo of it on the flower right away. Consider it your “safety” photo in case it flies away before you can get a better one. When you can, try to take more than one picture to increase your chances of getting a closer/better image. Several pictures from different angles might give critical identification keys for that species. If the critter flies off before you can get any photo of it, make a note of what it was to the best of your knowledge (“bee”, “fly”, or even “unknown insect”). If there are multiple individuals of the same species on the same flowering plant (which happens with social bees for example) you can just take an image of one individual but note the count (which will become an annotation in the iNat observation). However, if you see individuals of the same species on two separate plants, take an image of it on both plants, as we need to know which plants insect species are using. If there are several species on a single plant (and captured on a single image), you can copy the image, crop on each species, and record observations separately. We’ll also show you how to duplicate a record and how to annotate your picture so as to focus the reviewer to the species you’re targeting in that record.

Often times insects are flying high, or too far away to get a good photo unless you have a zoom lens. You can use your field guides, our common species groups info sheet, Teá’s Butterfly Info Sheet and record the species you see in the field data sheet 🗒️. If you don’t know the species, it’s fine, just indicate what you think it is (e.g., a bee, a wasp, a moth vs. a butterfly, a spider, a dragonfly vs. a damselfly…)

Tip for ID Photography

Often you only need one picture of each arthropod you surveyed, but there are cases where several pics are better than one, as some key details might be critical to differentiate 2 close species.

Photograph:

For detailed recommendations about how to photograph for identification, please visit The EwA Guide to Getting Good Pictures for Identification.

Here is an example of a good set of pictures of a yellow jacket showing face, side and top/aerial view:

 © Claire O’Neill - Common Aerial Yellowjacket (Dolichovespula arenaria) 🔎 iNat observation Research Grade

For most lepidoptera, a simple dorsal shot (open wings) and ventral shot  (underside of wings) will suffice. If you cannot get both, always get a dorsal shot (open wings). This type of photography will allow you to identify the insect in question almost every time. As stated above, a photo of the wings open is often a lot more valuable than the bottom side of the wings. This is because most of the important markings are found on the top side. Some species do have markings that make it identifiable on the bottom sides of the wings. A few species will very rarely open their wings to show the dorsal portion (sulphurs, whites, coppers, blues), for these a ventral shot is often ok as they are IDable.

Here are examples of good pictures of butterflies (dorsal on the left, ventral on the right):

Great Spangled Fritillary (Speyeria cybele) 

© Teá Kesting-Handly

Spicebush Swallowtail (Papilio troilus)

 © Teá Kesting-Handly

Again, don’t worry if you only take one picture that can lead to identification: one ‘pic’ is still better than none!

Record all your data into iNaturalist. Send us the field data sheet 🗒️, for any other information that you have collected, or leave it at the visitor desk (Habitat and Fresh Pond Reservoir).

Once you complete the survey, you will need to upload the info and photos you took to iNaturalist.

Here is the EwA iNat Essentials to get you started. The platform is very intuitive and fun. And during our training/field events, we’ll also show you all the tricks so that you can upload efficiently (that’s STEM coaching right there). When you upload in bulk, you can also annotate in bulk, which makes it easy to input the common kind of information to all records during a session such as the temperature and weather information recorded at the beginning of each survey. By annotation of your observation, we mean entering a description for the observation (example). You can record any of the information that you wrote for a species, in the iNaturalist description of the observation.

Arthropod Count Method

With this method, we contribute to document geographic and annual variation in the phenology and abundance of arthropods that foliage gleaning birds rely on during the breeding season.

Why? See Science Impact & Deliveries and Conservation Impact

- The timing and synchrony of seasonal events presents real challenges in the natural world.

- Migratory birds coordinate their departure from wintering grounds in Central or South America to arrive at North American breeding grounds at just the right time.

- If birds leave too early, they risk experiencing severe weather from late frosts or blizzards.

- If birds leave too late, they risk missing the peak in early spring insects that they depend on to successfully raise offspring.

- Insects such as butterflies also benefit when their emergence coincides with the springtime flush of new plant growth.

- The timing of spring has been shifting earlier in recent years, and this raises the possibility of mismatches in spring timing between birds, insects, and plants.

- Local-scale studies have documented specific instances of phenological mismatch but fail to inform how mismatch consequences propagate across spatial, temporal, or trophic scales.

- The Pheno Mismatch project examines phenological mismatch across three trophic levels in eastern North America. And it does so using your observations...

The data you collect on the abundance and phenology of caterpillars and other insects during the growing season (spring and summer) is used by researchers to relate trends in arthropod populations to bird population trends in those same areas, and to better understand how changes in climate and land use impact the plants and animals around us.

Research questions your data help answer include:

Ecology:

  • Are caterpillars more abundant on certain tree species over others?
  • Does the peak abundance of caterpillars vary from year to year, and has it been changing with climate?
  • Does the peak abundance of caterpillars coincide with the time when birds are raising their young?

Citizen Science Data Quality:

  • Evaluate the impact of survey methodology on results
  • Compare findings made by citizen scientists to assess the reliability of citizen science data collection and to make recommendations for citizen science coordinators
  • Identify the minimum levels of sampling frequency and intensity required to accurately capture phenological dynamics.

[More…] Caterpillar Counts (University of North Carolina) + Check § General References

Recording tools: For this survey, we are glad to follow the Caterpillar Counts (CC) project protocol (University of North Carolina), who manages this project nationally. This documentation effort is part of the Pheno Mismatch project funded by the National Science Foundation.

Using CC’s terminology, we’ve setup 6 caterpillar count ‘circles’ (2 per location). A circle is a mini survey site where we record counts over 5 trees in close vicinity.

Method Details

  We recommend that you record your caterpillar count observations directly using the CC Data Recording App 📲 It’s much easier this way!

But, if you do not have access to a mobile device, you can record your observations using the CC Foliage Survey Datasheet. After completing your ‘paper’ surveys, enter your data through CC’s website. (You can also take a picture of your datasheet and send it to us at citizenscience@earthwiseaware.org).

The steps below help filling the survey ‘paper’ datasheet if you can't use the app in the field.

  1. Start by filling in all information the top of the datasheet (SITE NAME, DATE, SURVEY TYPE (beat sheet/visual), OBSERVER name, TEMPERATURE and any NOTES about the site (e.g. if it has recently rained and all of the leaves on the survey tree are very wet.).
  2. TIME: Every time you start a new survey, enter the time.
  3. SURVEY CODE: Record the 2- or 3-letter survey location code found on the branch tag.
  4. HERBIVORY: Give your 50-leaf sample an herbivory score based on how much leaf damage there is present. Herbivory scores are as follows: 0 - none, 1 - trace (<5%), 2 - light (5-10%), 3 – moderate (10-25%), 4 - heavy (>25%). If you summed all of the observed leaf holes together and were able to cover 5 average leaves, that would be 10%. If leaf holes only sum to about 2 average leaves worth, that would be 4%, etc.
  5. LEAF COUNT: If using the beat sheet method, estimate the number of leaves on your survey branch and record the leaf count. Leave blank if conducting visual surveys.
  6. LEAF LENGTH: Record the length of a typical leaf for your survey branch. Use the ruler at the bottom of the datasheet to measure.
  7. ARTHROPOD GROUP: When you find an arthropod, record the group or Order to which it belongs (e.g., beetle, caterpillar, fly, etc). Note, you will enter a separate record for each different combination of arthropod group and size you encounter. For example, if you conducted a survey and saw 5 ants, four of which were 3 mm and one of which was 10 mm, you would fill out two separate observation records: 1 for the ants of size 3 mm, and 1 for the ant of size 10 mm. If you are not sure what type of arthropod you observed, or if you are deciding between two orders, you may write "UNIDENTIFIED" and then describe any relevant aspects of its appearance in the NOTES section. Make sure to include key features, so that it may be identified later.
  8. LENGTH: Estimate the body length of the arthropod to the nearest millimeter, not counting antennae or legs that extend out in front or behind.
  9. Record the number of arthropods of that specific type and length that were found.
  10. NOTES: Record any notes about Notes, e.g. caterpillar features: (H)airy, leaf (R)oll, silk (T)ent. If you're not sure how to identify these features, please review CC's Conduct a Survey page.
  11. IMPORTANT! If you searched 50 leaves and did not find a single arthropod, we still want you to record that a survey was done! Write "NONE" under Order. Otherwise, we will never know the difference between a survey that was never conducted, versus a survey with 0 abundance. Write 0 for the Length and Count as well.
  12. REPEAT this method for each survey tree at your site.
  13. After completing your surveys, enter your data through CC’s website. (You can also take a picture of your datasheet and send it to us at citizenscience@earthwiseaware.org).

Site Specific Protocols

Notes: All transects below will be refined/revised over the course of the first full recording cycle.

Common to all transects: For the Arthropod Photo Survey, you should follow the entire path from edge to edge, stopping 3-5 times (per transect) to record data. When surveying a circle (Arthropod Count Survey), the easiest is to use the Caterpillar Counts app, and record directly. Remember that you’ll have to measure the caterpillars (and report lengths), as well as report about the herbivory the state or condition of feeding on plants of the branch (on which the caterpillars are found) that is recorded. For details see the Arthropod Count Method.


Middlesex Fells Reservation (Long Pond) 

Site Topography (Study site denoted in pink)

Aerial Site (Transects + Circles)

Transect Details

Transect 1 entrance | GPS: 42.4547491, -71.1240908

Transect 2 entrance | GPS : 42.4555188, -71.1248235

Transect T1: This transect runs along the upper west side of the pond, starting from our first phenology study site (P1 also referred to as: Long Pond West Low Site), runs through our first caterpillar survey circle (C1) and stops when reaching the top of the pond.

Transect T2: This transect starts when walking down the upper east side of the pond to go to our second phenology survey site (P2 also referred to as: Long Pond East High Site), and that coincides with our second caterpillar survey circle (C2).

Circles Details

Circle 1 | GPS: 42.45567, -71.12448

View from Circle 2 | GPS: 42.45515, -71.12360

Circle C1 & C2: 2 circles C1 and C2 along the upper trail. Each circle comprises of 5 trees, for which a specific survey branch have been marked (Site definition as per Caterpillars Count site protocol).

Circle 1

Where: Just above a pond nook (upper west border) | GPS: 42.45567, -71.12448

Survey Trees:

Code

ID

Label (Pic)

Tree (Pic)

iNat Records

(all time)

EYP

Red oak

EYP

EYQ

Red oak

EYQ

EYR

White oak

EYR

EYS

White pine

EYS

EYT

Paper birch

EYT

 Only accounts for the records that the citizen scientists have tagged in iNaturalist.

Circle 2

Where: Phenology Site #2 | GPS: 42.45515, -71.12360

Survey Trees:

Code

ID

Label (Pic)

Tree (Pic)

iNat Records

(all time)

EYU

Red oak

EYU

EYV

Bur oak

EYV

EYW

Sassafras

EYW

EYX

Witch Hazel

EYX

EYY

Grey birch

EYY

 Only accounts for the records that the citizen scientists have tagged in iNaturalist.


Fresh Pond Reservation (Lusitania Meadow)

Site Topography (Study site denoted in pink)

Aerial Site (Transects + Circles)

Transect Details

Transect 1 (entrance)

Transect 2 (exit view)

Transect 3 (starting from C2)

Transects T1 and T3: These transects follow the edge of the Lusitania meadow. You should follow the entire path from edge to edge, stopping 2-3 times per transect to record data.

About Transect T2 specifically: This transect runs through the middle of the meadow off the path, and might be hard to access in its mature phase. When accessible, you should follow the entire transect, edge to edge, stopping 1-3  times only to record data as it is a small transect.

Circles Details

Circle 1 | GPS: 42.38682, - 71.14621

Circle 2 | GPS: 42.38718, -71.14445

Circle C1 & C2: 2 circles C1 and C2. Each circle comprises of 5 trees, for which a specific survey branch have been marked (Site definition as per Caterpillars Count site protocol).

Circle 1

Where: Lusitania Meadow

Survey Trees

Code

ID

Label (Pic)

Tree (Pic)

iNat Records

(all time)

EYF

Oak (Pin?)

EYF

EYG

Ash sp.

EYG

EYH

American elm

EYH

EYI

Buckthorn

EYI

EYJ

Tupelo

EYJ

 Only accounts for the records that the citizen scientists have tagged in iNaturalist.

Circle 2

Where: Lusitania Meadow

Survey Trees:

Code

ID

Label (Pic)

Tree (Pic)

iNat Records

(all time)

EYK

Boxelder

EYK

EYL

Ash spp.

EYL

EYM

American elm

EYM

EYN

Hawthorn spp.

EYN

EYO

Boxelder

EYO

 Only accounts for the records that the citizen scientists have tagged in iNaturalist.


Habitat (Lower and Upper Meadows)

Site Description (Study site denoted in pink)

Aerial Site (Transects + Circles)

Transect Details

Transect 1 (start view)

Transect 2 (start view)

Transect T1: This transect runs through the middle of the meadow on a path.

Transect T2: This transect runs through the middle of the meadow on a path bisecting T1.

Circles Details

Circle 1 | GPS: 42.40414, - 71.18641

Circle 2 | GPS: 42.40386, - 71.18510

Circle C1 & C2: 2 circles C1 and C2, 1 in each meadow. C1 in the upper meadow. C2 at the entrance of the lower meadow. Each circle comprises of 5 trees, for which a specific survey branch have been marked. (Site definition as per Caterpillars Count site protocol).

Circle 1

Where: Upper right side of the upper meadow | GPS: 42.40414, - 71.18641

Survey Trees:

Code

ID

Label (Pic)

Tree (Pic)

iNat Records

(all time)

EXV

Cherry

EXV

EXW

Rose

EXW

EXX

Red oak

EXX

EXY

Red oak

EXY

EXZ

Red oak

EXZ

 Only accounts for the records that the citizen scientists have tagged in iNaturalist.

Circle 2

Where: entrance to the lower meadow | GPS: 42.40386, - 71.18510

Survey Trees:

Code

ID

Label (Pic)

Tree (Pic)

iNat Records

(all time)

EYA

Beech

EYA

EYB

Ash

EYB

EYC

Witch Hazel

EYC

EYD

Cherry Tree

EYD

EYE

Dogwood

EYE

 Only accounts for the records that the citizen scientists have tagged in iNaturalist.


The Somerville Community Growing Center (Native garden + Paths)

Aerial view (Study site denoted in pink)

Native garden (along photo survey transect)

Transect & Circles Details

Species Occurrence Survey Transect (Pink line)

Species Abundance on Marked Trees (Pink Stars)

Recording on Caterpillars Count

Transect: The photo survey happens along the pink route. It is a small garden and so is the path/transect too! Pick 5 random stops along that path and survey as explained earlier in this document.

Circles: The 2 survey circles are spread in this small garden, all survey trees are located with a pink star. Note that we don’t have much choice of trees. Some of the trees are very young. Others are non-native trees. It is to be noted in our annual report(s). We’ll see what data these trees will bring into the picture (compared to our other sites).

Circle 1

Where: Lower West part of the Garden including 2 Linden trees over the Garden grass circle.

Survey Trees:

Code

ID

Label (Pic)

Tree (Pic)

iNat Records

(all time)

FCN

Littleleaf linden

FCN

FCO

Hornbeam spp. (*)

FCO

FCP

Maple spp.

FCP

FCQ

Dogwood spp.

FCQ

FCR

Littleleaf linden

FCR

(*) It will show as an American Hornbeam on the Caterpillars Count app > we could not find the exact species in their DB, or a spp. category.

Circle 2

Where: Upper part of the Garden.

Survey Trees:

Code

ID

Label (Pic)

Tree (Pic)

iNat Records

(all time)

FCS

Kousa dogwood

FCS

FCT

Hazelnut

FCT

FCU

Crabapple (*)

FCU

FCV

Red Oak

FCV

FCW

Witch-hazel

FCW

(*) It will show as a sweet crabapple on the Caterpillars Count app > we need to check what kind of crabapple it is exactly.

Data Recording & Visualization Platforms

Photo Records—Biodiversity Occurrence

We use the iNaturalist platform both to record visual data for the Arthropod Photo Survey, and for recording the pictures of the caterpillars that we count in the Arthropod Count Survey. iNaturalist is an online social network of people sharing biodiversity observations. It’s also a crowdsourced species identification system and an organism occurrence recording tool. [More...]

Citizen scientists will need to have an iNaturalist account (it’s free and very easy to set up a profile). They will communicate their iNaturalist profile name to us so that we can add them as members of our dedicated data projects (and citizen scientists community).

  We ask volunteers to complete the upload of their visit records (on the iNaturalist platform) shortly after each visit.

To populate our site projects, we ask for the profile name of our citizen scientists and events participants so that their records can be systematically pulled directly into the dedicated projects without the participants having to do anything special other than uploading their pictures and annotations. Contact us and share your profile name with us so that we get your data!

We have dedicated iNaturalist Projects (4 total / 1 per site) under our umbrella project ‘EwA Biodiversity Projects (EwA at the Fells, EwA at Fresh Pond, EwA at Habitat, EwA at the Growing Center). These 4 projects automatically pull the data of our citizen scientists for the 3 specific geographical areas of our study sites. This means that there is nothing to do on your part other than uploading your records on your account.

Why iNaturalist?

  1. Ease of use (to get you started with iNaturalist see EwA iNat Essentials).
  2. Observation record transparency, still with the capability to obscure location (to the public) for protecting species at risk – iNat automatically obscures the geolocation of any vulnerable and endangered species.
  3. Standardized records & centralized data.
  4. International access for the global scientific community: vetted records are uploaded to a global database accessible to scientists worldwide.
  5. Data visualization capabilities: iNaturalist provides tools (APIs) to extract data in a systematic manner, which allows targeted & elaborate user data visualizations.
  6. Great features to create easily high quality targeted Nature guides to help users and our citizen scientists.
  7. An engaging social platform for nature enthusiasts, which offer incredible learning features.

We will train attendees and volunteers, so that they can do it efficiently, and at minimum time-cost.  

As the project progresses and citizen science leaders emerge, we will also add the recording of phenophases using the open science Nature’s Notebook platform that follows a national standardized protocol. This will supply our existing phenology projects in the region.

Caterpillars Count Records—Biodiversity Abundance

  We recommend that you record your caterpillar count observations directly using the Caterpillar Count Data Recording App 📲 It’s much easier this way!

To record your observations, you’ll need to enter a password. Contact us to get it!

For the caterpillar counts, the project is national and managed by the North Carolina University. So, at EwA we record directly caterpillar counts using their data recording app. This is the easiest means of recording, as the app prompts you and help you remember what to record (caterpillar length, herbivory, etc.).

You can also record your observations later directly on the Caterpillar Counts website. It’s more work intensive this way, but you are free to use the methods you prefer! In this case, to help you remember what to observe and note in the field, you can use our data sheet, and then transfer the info later when you upload your observation on their website.

Note that we are also looking for a good global & open science platform for recording counts explicitly (for phases/species other than caterpillars/lepidoptera.

Accessing & Exploring EwA’s Data

All the data that we collected is timely logged and accessible publicly (See our EwA Site Logs). Once a year, we publish a report summarizing our activities, data and findings, including how our data is being used. Our reports invites to raise new questions, creating a culture of innovation and collaboration.

You can explore the data yourself as well. Here’s how to get to all the data:

EwA iNaturalist Data

EwA Caterpillars Count Data

EwA at the Fells Data

Download »

EwA at Fresh Pond Data

Download »

EwA at Habitat Data

Download »

EwA at the Growing Center Data

Download »

Copyright license: We ask our iNat superusers to set their observation, photo and sound licenses to Creative Commons some rights reserved (CC-BY-NC), so that the research grade observations can be pulled into GBIF. Always make sure to only use cc licenced data.

EwA Data: You can download filtering by site (EwA at the Fells, EwA at Fresh Pond, EwA at Habitat, EwA at the Growing Center) / by insect order / by year, etc.

Download » 

Caterpillars Count! data are made available under a Creative Commons CCZero 1.0 License, and are accessible from CC’s Data Download page. Data underlying visualizations on the Maps and Graphs page are also available by clicking the "Download" button associated with each graph.

iNat Visualization tools > Location species maps (filtered on arachnids + insects)

Very intuitive search interface: You can search by taxa, places, tags, date, etc.

If you want to refine the locations and focus the records to the study sites (rather than the parent park), you can pick the iNat places named ‘Lusitania Meadow n Buffer Zone’ (for the Fresh Pond sites) or ‘Habitat Meadows n Buffer Zone’ (for the Habitat sites).

The maps are fairly simple. If you’re a data nerd and want more detailed maps, you can export the iNat records and do your own mapping using geographic information system tools such as QGIS. Or you can wait for our own annual report.

CC Visualisation tools > Site summaries (maps & graphs)

Great visualization (CC Guide): By clicking on the y-axis of either phenology or composition charts, you can toggle between different plotting metrics. For phenology, the default measure is % occurrence (% of all surveys conducted on a given date which contained at least one of the arthropod group of interest), but you can change this to density (average number of arthropods per survey). CC finds that for arthropods that occasionally aggregate (e.g., a single survey branch with 200 caterpillars!), % occurrence is less impacted by such outliers.

 

For the arthropod composition chart, you can choose between % of all arthropods (e.g., beetles make up 20% of all arthropods seen), % occurrence (beetles were seen on 20% of surveys), or density (0.4 beetles were seen per survey).


Data Sheets, References & Further Reading

Data & Field Sheets

🗒️ EwA Field Data Sheet (for both the Insect Photo Survey and the Caterpillar Count Survey) for recording notes and photo-less observations.

EwA iNat Site Projects:

Logs, Guides & Tools

Project Specific (Logs & Add. Documentation)

🗓️ EwA Plant Visitor Survey Timeline 

🗒️ EwA Site Logs:

📗 Fells' Long Pond Fieldwork Journal

📘 Fresh Pond Fieldwork Journal

📙 Habitat Fieldwork Journal

📕 Growing Center Fieldwork Journal

Guides

General / Cross Taxa

EwA Common Species Groups Info Sheet

Arthropod Orders Dichotomous Key

Bugguide.net – Impressive collection of photographs of bugs from the United States and Canada for identification and research. The users’ findings are summarized in guide pages for each order, family, genus, and species.

Insect Identification Org – Another identification site...

Arthropod Identification (American Museum of Natural History)

Caterpillars Count! Arthropod ID Guide

Practice your identification skills! Caterpillars Count has a cool new game to help our identification skills. Try it out: it's fun! Test your ability to find, identify and measure arthropods on virtual test branches. Race the clock as you play three increasingly difficult rounds, trying to locate and identify every arthropod on the page, and measure it correctly.  Points are awarded for accuracy - try to get as many points as you can! Game > https://caterpillarscount.unc.edu/virtualSurvey/

Specific / In-Taxa

Butterflies & Moths

Teá’s Butterfly Info Sheet

Keyed Caterpillar Identification (DiscoverLife.org)

Butterflies and Moths of Middlesex County, Massachusetts, United States

Butterfly and Moth Taxonomy

Sphingidae ID Site – Profiles for about 70 species of common moths in the U.S. A great identification tool and resource.

Bees

Bumble bee > Bumble Bee Watch Species Profiles – Good species profiles

Also check the Beecology project (picture below) > They also have very cool visualization tools, showing population, diversity and bee-floral associations.

 ❓People ask… Why not recording our observations on Beecology too?

The reasons why we are not recording on those 2 cool platforms, is 2-folds:

  1. We are focusing our efforts on recording abundance across taxa (not species-specific), as this is where the data is lacking.
  2. For practical reasons, we need to record on a minimum amount of apps/databases (recording takes time). And we also want to make sure that the repositories we use are are tied to international repositories as opposed to remaining local DB. So that the raw records can be used worldwide.

Apps & Misc.

EwA iNat Essentials – A short presentation to get you started with iNaturalist (and its identification suggestions).

EwA Guide to Getting Good Pictures for Identification – Photographing for identification requires different skills than art photography. An “all-essentials” about how to snap key features of species for later identification.

A Few Good Field Guides

Protocols

EwA Conservation Fieldwork Essentials – this guide shares ethical considerations from the Field that benefit the species, the habitats, the local communities, and the science that we do.

Handbook of Biodiversity Methods: Survey, Evaluation and Monitoring by David Hill (Editor), Matthew Fasham (Editor), Graham Tucker (Editor), Michael Shewry (Editor), Philip Shaw (Editor) 2005 – This Handbook provides standard procedures which will enable practitioners to better monitor the condition of the biodiversity resource, resulting in improved data upon which to base future policy decisions and actions. Organized in three parts, the Handbook first addresses planning, covering method selection, experimental design, sampling strategy, and data analysis/evaluation. Parts 2 and 3 then describe detailed methods of survey, evaluation, and monitoring of habitats and species respectively.

The GEO Handbook on Biodiversity Observation Networks by Michele Walters (Editor), Robert J. Scholes (Editor) 2017  – This handbook provides practical guidance to broadly-defined biodiversity observation networks at all scales, but predominantly the national scale and higher. This is a practical how-to book with substantial policy relevance. It will mostly be used by technical specialists with a responsibility for biodiversity monitoring to establish and refine their systems. It is written at a technical level, but one that is not discipline-bound: it should be intelligible to anyone in the broad field with a tertiary education.

Guidelines for Standardised Global Butterfly Monitoring (2015) GEO BON

General

Stephen J. Mayor, Robert P. Guralnick, Morgan W. Tingley, Javier Otegui, John C. Withey, Sarah C. Elmendorf, Margaret E. Andrew, Stefan Leyk, Ian S. Pearse & David C. Schneider. Increasing Phenological Asynchrony Between Spring Green-up and Arrival of Migratory Birds. In Nature.com/ScientificRepots (2017)                        

 Hurlbert, A, et al. 2019. Caterpillars Count! A Citizen Science Project for Monitoring Foliage Arthropod Abundance and Phenology. Citizen Science: Theory and Practice, 4(1): 1, pp. 1–12. DOI: https://doi.org/10.5334/cstp.148

Parker AJ. 2018. Citizen Scientists Document Geographic Patterns in Pollinator Communities in Journal of Pollination Ecology Vol 23.

Miller JD. 2002. Civic Scientific Literacy: a necessity in the 21st century. FAS Public Interest Report J Fed Am Sci 55: 3–6.

Slobodkin LB. 2003. A Citizen’s Guide to Ecology. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Speth JG. 2004. Red Sky at Morning: America and the Crisis of the Global Environment. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

Berkowitz AR, Ford ME, and Brewer CA. 2005. A Framework for Integrating Ecological Literacy, Civics literacy and Environmental Citizenship in Environmental Education. In: Johnson EA and Mappin MJ (Eds). Environmental education or advocacy: perspectives of ecology and education in environmental education. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

Jordan R, Singer f, Vaughan J, and Berkowitz a. 2008. What Should Every Citizen Know About Ecology? Front Ecol Environ 2009; 7, doi:10.1890/070113


Appendix: EwA Sites Data in Brief

🚧 A few graphs & maps illustrating some of what we’re studying

Last Update: 09/13/2019

A peep to what sort of things we’ll show here…


Appendix: More About Butterflies...

Contrary to most other groups of insects, butterflies are relatively well-documented, easy to recognize and popular with the general public. Butterflies use the landscape at a fine scale and react quickly to changes in management, intensification or abandonment. Furthermore, a sustainable butterfly population relies on a network of breeding habitats scattered over the landscape, where species exist in a metapopulation structure. This makes butterflies especially vulnerable to habitat fragmentation. Moreover, as ectotherm animals, many butterflies are highly sensitive to climate change.

The main objective of butterfly monitoring is to detect changes in population size on an annual basis. For significant trends with good statistical power, this will require the Butterfly Monitoring Scheme to have as many transects counted as possible for as long as possible during the favorable weather conditions.

Monitoring butterflies on transects is only possible when butterflies are active (i.e. during their flight season). Weather is the key factor for deciding on the time of day and the time of the year for monitoring. In general, butterflies are active at temperatures between 13°C (55.4 °F) and 33-35°C (91.4- 95°F), with no rain or strong winds. Between 13°C  (55.4 °F) and 18°C (64.4 °F), sunny conditions are required. When temperatures rise well over 30°C (86 °F) some species will stop their activity, making standardized counts difficult. In very hot weather, counts should preferably be made in the morning before it gets too hot. For a transect count, it is preferable to monitor in good weather (as set out above), while a fruit-bait trap should be set for several days during good weather conditions, where possible. However, the coordinator of a scheme can deviate from these rules according to the optimum situation for their scheme.

The following monitoring techniques can be used to monitor species ranges and species abundances of butterflies:

• Unvalidated, opportunistic data can only be used for coarse distribution maps. Species distribution modeling including habitat and climate variables can be used to refine the species ranges from opportunistic data (Jetz et al. 2012). If the quantity of observations is high enough and the quality of visits can be established, the Frescalo method (Hill 2012) and occupancy modeling can be used to establish distribution trends (Isaac et al. 2014).

• Standardized day-lists can be used for occupancy modeling (van Strien et al. 2011). An advantage of this method is that it can work with covariates (e.g., the Julian date, as butterflies typically have a limited flight period). Occupancy modeling with day-lists also addresses the problem of detection probability. Occupancy modeling can also produce colonization and persistence trends, population parameters that can be very helpful to identify the causes of observed occupancy changes. It is important to note that the statistical methods for occupancy modeling are data and computation intensive.

• Standardized counts* following a protocol is ideal for population abundance monitoring. For instance, although field methods differ to some degree across countries, most counts are conducted along fixed transects of about 1 kilometer, consisting of smaller sections, each with a homogeneous habitat type (van Swaay et al. 2008). Visits are only conducted when weather conditions meet the specified criteria. Site selection varies from random stratified designs (only in a few countries), to grid design, to free observer choice (most countries). Countries often use a software package called TRIM to analyze and supply trend information at the national level. Trend data are then integrated to create population indices for species and multi-species indicators.

(*) Method that we use in the first phase of the survey.

REF: Monitoring Essential Biodiversity Variables at the Species Level in The GEO Handbook on Biodiversity Observation Networks (2017)


Appendix: More About Bees…

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