Senior citizen scientists watch for insects in Virginia

A citizen scientist recently captured this image of an eight-spotted forester moth (Alypia octomaculata) in Virginia. Credit: Judy Gallagher via iNaturalist

Alexandria, Virginia resident Jim Waggener began keeping track of insects like dragonflies, butterflies and moths over 25 years ago. Now, he leads a group of senior citizen — and citizen scientists — who meet every week from April to October to count the insects they find in Northern Virginia.

Last year they logged 43 surveys and 1,569 volunteer hours. Stay-at-home orders briefly interrupted their outings this spring, but they’re back individually to resume their work. A Georgetown University team that studies butterflies has begun collecting and analyzing their data and put it in a network for researchers worldwide to access. They also share their work on the citizen science platform iNatualist. Waggener says he hopes their work can shed light on the catastrophic decline of insects globally.

“I read a publication by the [U.S. Geological Survey] that said if a few people will over time look at the same places over and over again, that the outcome is bound to be important,” Waggener told the Washington Post.

Read more, and see the photo essay on their work, in the Washington Post.