Citizen science can predict butterfly population trends

September 27, 2017

New research by the University of Kent, Butterfly Conservation and the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology shows that citizen scientists can play a role in gathering meaningful information to inform long-term monitoring of biodiversity trends such as butterfly population change.

Although citizen scientists are increasingly engaged in gathering biodiversity information, trade-offs are often required between public engagement goals and reliable data collection.

But the new study, entitled Using citizen science butterfly counts to predict species population trends, shows that mass-participation science can serve to complement standardised biodiversity monitoring.

Researchers, led by Dr Emily Dennis, a visiting research associate at Kent's School of Mathematics, Statistics and Actuarial Science and senior ecological statistician at Butterfly Conservation, used data from the Big Butterfly Count (BBC). This is an established UK citizen science project organised annually by Butterfly Conservation to produce population change estimates for 18 common butterfly species comparable to standardised monitoring data collected by skilled recorders.

UK butterflies are well suited for citizen science; they are conspicuous, popular and, in comparison to many other insects, easy to identify. In addition, the country's high human population density and tradition of amateur natural history recording provide a ready source of participants.

The results, say the researchers, show that the BBC data provide the potential for additional or improved assessments of biodiversity change. For example, there is increasing interest in the biodiversity of urban areas, both as potential refuges for species whose habitats have been degraded in intensively farmed countryside and for the opportunities it affords for human-wildlife interactions and associated human well-being.

The researchers conclude that the results 'establish BBC as an example of a citizen science win-win; a project focused on outreach and public engagement that generates meaningful scientific output'.
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Using citizen science butterfly counts to predict species population trends (Emily Dennis, Byron Morgan, Tom Brereton, David Roy and Richard Fox) is published in the journal Conservation Biology. See: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/cobi.12956/full

For further information contact Martin Herrema at the University of Kent Press Office.

Tel: 01227 823581/01634 888879

Email: M.J.Herrema@kent.ac.uk

News releases can also be found at http://www.kent.ac.uk/news

University of Kent on Twitter: http://twitter.com/UniKent

Note to editors

Established in 1965, the University of Kent - the UK's European university - now has almost 20,000 students across campuses or study centres at Canterbury, Medway, Tonbridge, Brussels, Paris, Athens and Rome.

It has been ranked 22nd in the Guardian University Guide 2018 and 25th in the Complete University Guide 2018, and in June 2017 was awarded a gold rating, the highest, in the UK Government's Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF).

In the Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings 2015-16, it is in the top 10% of the world's leading universities for international outlook and 66th in its table of the most international universities in the world. The THE also ranked the University as 20th in its 'Table of Tables' 2016.

Kent is ranked 17th in the UK for research intensity (REF 2014). It has world-leading research in all subjects and 97% of its research is deemed by the REF to be of international quality.

In the National Student Survey 2016, Kent achieved the fourth highest score for overall student satisfaction, out of all publicly funded, multi-faculty universities.

Along with the universities of East Anglia and Essex, Kent is a member of the Eastern Arc Research Consortium (http://www.kent.ac.uk/about/partnerships/eastern-arc.html).

The University is worth £0.7 billion to the economy of the south east and supports more than 7,800 jobs in the region. Student off-campus spend contributes £293.3m and 2,532 full-time-equivalent jobs to those totals.

Kent has received two Queen's Anniversary prizes for Higher and Further Education.

University of Kent

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