Australian university launches citizen-run butterfly project to help protect at-risk insect

Source: Xinhua| 2019-10-25 10:20:45|Editor: ZX
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CANBERRA, Oct. 25 (Xinhua) -- Australia's amateur butterfly-watchers will be part of a world-first citizen-run science project aimed at protecting the popular insect.

Researchers at Australian National University (ANU) launched the project on Thursday, explaining that people can download an app to record and upload what type of butterflies they've seen and where.

This information will give scientists important information that will help protect the at-risk species.

ANU Research Officer Chris Sanderson said while butterflies were one of Australia's best-known insect species, there was a severe lack of scientific data about them.

"Everyone loves butterflies, but there is still so much to learn about them," he said in a statement. "And anyone who takes part in this project could be the person to make the next big discovery."

"Butterflies are an excellent species to target, as they are active during the day, and often large and brightly colored, making them easier to spot," Sanderson said.

"By collating both old and new sightings into a central database, and verifying it through a panel of experts, this project will allow for research and conservation work that is currently impossible," Sanderson added.

It is hoped the project will create an extensive database of butterfly sightings in Australia.

There are currently eight types of butterfly listed as threatened with extinction, but experts believe as many as 38 species are potentially under threat.

Butterfly expert and ANU Associate Professor Michael Braby said the project was hugely important for the future of butterfly research in Australia.

"There is critical need to get accurate information on the distribution of butterflies. Such data will assist in conservation planning and decision-making regarding land use," he said.

The Bulloak Jewel, a small butterfly with distinctive purple wings and brown spots, is an example of a butterfly which has only been spotted in a handful of locations, mainly next to highways on thin strips of trees.

"If citizen scientists could find more locations where the Bulloak Jewel occurs, it would totally change how we are able to manage and conserve this species," Sanderson said.

The ANU app will include a field guide with basic information about how to identify every species of butterfly found in Australia, and where possible, there will also be photos of all the different forms and life stages of each species.