While many people prefer to avoid insects, this month they are being asked to take a picture and contribute it to a database of what’s flying around in their neighborhood.
It’s all part of the iNaturalist Pollinator Bioblitz 2019 taking place in Fairfield County as well as Putnam and Westchester counties in New York. Within the bioblitz is the Pollinator Pathways project spearheaded by the Norwalk River Watershed Association.
The local project is organized by Kristin Quell-Garguilo of Ridgefield, a professor of sustainable systems at Westchester Community College and association board member, who said June is an “excellent” month for the project since June 17-23 is 2019 Pollinator Week.
“The concept of a bioblitz has been around a really long time,” Quell-Garguilo said. Typically, it involves people recording sightings by hand under the auspices of a society or university. By using the iNaturalist app, a bioblitz can cover a much greater area.
“The average person doesn’t need an ID card anymore,” she said. “Everybody can become a citizen scientist.”
To participate, a person downloads the iNaturalist app, snaps a picture of a particular insect, and submits it via the app. At the other end, a computer will suggest an identification which will be confirmed — or not — by a scientist, entomologist or serious hobbyist.
If the insect falls into the parameters the Pollinator Pathway project is looking for, it will be included in local data.
“We are looking for pollinator species,” Quell-Garguilo said, although birds, while some are pollinators, are not being included in this study. What is included are: arachnids, butterflies and moths, beetles, true bugs, hoppers, aphids, bees and apoid wasps, bee flies and flies.
“This is a way citizens can help scientists track pollinator populations,” Louise Washer, president of the watershed association, said. “They will also be helping us at the Pollinator Pathway track what pollinators are being spotted along the pathway. We are interested to see how these numbers will change over time and plan to do bioblitzes each June,” she added.
The first few days of June yielded about 260 confirmed observations, Quell-Garguio said, but she is hoping for many more. “In science, we like high population numbers for it to be meaningful. The greater the number the better the data,” she said.
She will accumulate the data on what is found and what to look for in the future. Information will be reported on iNaturalist and she will also present information found, but those details have yet to be finalized.