Florida Butterfly Monitoring Network
Nowhere is the need more evident than in the state of Florida. It is estimated that at any given time 167-187 butterfly species make their home in Florida. Ever-increasing human pressures put an elevated strain on the state’s remaining natural resources, particularly in rapidly growing urban landscapes such as Jacksonville. Impact from land use practices such as agriculture, logging, and urban sprawl continue to degrade and fragment the remaining pockets of suitable natural habitat as well as disrupt access to critical food resources and hinder gene flow. As a result, Florida’s butterfly populations have dwindled from habitat loss, pollution, and the introduction of exotic invasive plants that crowd out their natural host plants.
The Florida Butterfly Monitoring Network (FBMN) is dedicated to promoting biodiversity by surveying the health of butterfly populations throughout Florida.
The FBMN is a statewide citizen scientist program targeting butterflies that trains public volunteers and directly engages university scientists, zoological institution staff members, and conservation land managers in field-based conservation and education. Established in 2003 by the McGuire Center for Lepidoptera and Biodiversity at the University of Florida in cooperation with Disney’s Animal Programs, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) and the Butterfly Conservation Initiative (BFCI), the FBMN provides a collaborative vehicle to help protect Florida’s dwindling butterfly populations.
FBMN participants such as the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens provide up-to-date information on Florida’s diverse butterfly fauna. We do this by allowing volunteers, or citizen scientists, to monitor official census routes established on Zoo grounds by the Florida Butterfly Monitoring Network. This is a web-based citizen science initiative dedicated to promoting biodiversity by surveying the health of butterfly populations throughout Florida. For their data to qualify as scientifically valid, the group follows several strict protocols. All census routes are pre-designated so that future volunteers can easily repeat data collection. Before beginning transects, the date, time of day, cloud cover, wind, and temperature are all recorded. The data collected will be used to assess the distribution and population trends of both common and imperiled species, and to facilitate the development of appropriate species conservation and management strategies.
FBMN citizen scientists work with researchers to compare their data with records on burn cycles, exotic plant invasions, land development, and natural disasters. The data overlay reveals changes in abundance or distribution of species, potential candidate species for listing as threatened or endangered, environmental threats, and the impact of catastrophic weather events on butterfly populations and habitats. This information in turn helps scientist anticipate conservation needs before they become crucial to the survival of a dwindling butterfly species.
The Jacksonville Zoo has been a full participant in the Florida Butterfly Monitoring Network since 2006 conducting regular census counts. The Association of Zoos and Aquariums recently praised the FBMN by naming the network one of its Top 10 wildlife conservation effort success stories of 2007.
For more information, please go to http://www.flbutterflies.net, or if you would like to participate and become a citizen scientist and learn more about our local butterflies and how to identify them please call our Zoo Volunteer Programs Coordinator at (904) 757-4463 x176.
Florida Butterfly Monitoring Network Icon Photo by Kelly Donovan