Caterpillars Count! Join new citizen science project

Caterpillars Count! is a citizen science project sponsored by the National Science Foundation for measuring the seasonal variation and abundance of arthropods like caterpillars, beetles, and spiders found on the foliage of trees and shrubs. Arthropods are an important food source for birds and other wildlife.

Climate change is affecting the timing of spring leaf out, insect activity, and bird migration and breeding. But are the plants, insects and birds all responding to the same degree? If either insects or birds are not keeping up with the shifts of the other organisms that they depend on, then further climate change may have negative consequences for their populations.

Caterpillars Count is part of a multi-university study of phenological mismatch across three trophic levels in eastern North America. The lead universities are University of North Carolina, Georgetown University, and University of Connecticut, with co-investigators from University of Florida, Institute for Bird Populations, Penn State, Evergreen State College, and Ontario Forest Research Institute.

Participants will monitor a site at the Walker Nature Center in Reston for Georgetown University. We will examine 50 leaves on each of 10 trees weeklyor bi-weekly thoughout the spring and summer.  We will count and classify the arthropods we observe. Each monitoring session will take about one hour. There will be approximately 16 monitoring sessions. Volunteeers are not required to participate in every session and the timing is up to the volunteers who are participating. Volunteers must sign-up in advance for training and schedule coordination.

This project is eligible for credit for master naturalists under code C-254.

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