Angelique Hjarding, UNC Charlotte (Charlotte, NC): The Butterfly Highway: connecting people and nature
Citizen science is becoming widely recognized as a valuable tool for collecting species observation data. Online citizen science reporting tools, such as eBird (http://ebird.org) and iNaturalist, (http://www.inaturalist.org/) make it easy for backyard nature enthusiasts to report species they observe visiting their yards. In theory, this network should provide equal access for anyone wishing to participate in citizen science biodiversity monitoring. But is there truly equal participation? A correlation between income, race and participation in citizen science biodiversity monitoring has been observed and these populations participate the least in this type of activity. Potential factors that could contribute to low participation are lack of conservation and biodiversity knowledge, a weak connection to nature and access to data reporting tools such as smart phones and computers. Additionally, residential urban areas could be experiencing a reduction in biodiversity due to the effects of urbanization resulting in a reduced number of species to observe.
I will present a project called the Butterfly Highway that was designed to address these issues. The project is a university-community partnership focused on biodiversity monitoring and environmental restoration in urban residential neighborhoods in Charlotte, NC. The project consists of two primary activities: developing a community-based citizen science butterfly monitoring program and the creation of the “Butterfly Highway” in urban residential areas. The Butterfly Highway is a network of sustainable perennial pollinator gardens that have been installed in neighborhood residents’ yards, parks and other pockets of under utilized green space. The project has faced many challenges including recruitment, sustainability and participant safety and it is hoped that our learned experiences can be used to create a model for establishing meaningful and sustainable university-community conservation partnerships.