Citizen Scientists Wanted for Cascades Butterfly Project

Citizen scientists and biologists gather on Sauk Mountain to kick-off the Cascade Butterfly Project. NPS photo by Regina Rochefort.

Volunteer Citizen Scientists are being recruited for the Cascades Butterfly Project, a long-term effort in six locations in the Cascades Mountains to help biologists identify and count subalpine butterflies. North Cascades National Park and Mount Rainier National Park are among the participating locations.

Subalpine meadows are projected to shrink dramatically due to the effects of climate change, but the rate and magnitude of this change are unknown. Butterflies make ideal indicator species because they are particularly sensitive to climatic changes, and are relatively easy to identify in the field by scientists and volunteers alike.

The Cascades Butterfly Project incorporates both inventory and monitoring. Inventories are being collected across the landscape as volunteers upload photos of butterflies from any of the six protected areas on the Butterflies and Moths of North America project website, which provides a means of mapping butterflies across North America, but also provides specific location selections to support the Cascades Butterfly Project.

Permanent transects to monitor changes in butterfly abundance and species diversity will be established in three areas: North Cascades National Park, Mount Rainier National Park, and Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. Along each transect, volunteers will record plants in flower and butterfly abundances.

The next volunteer training takes place on Saturday August 13 in Mount Rainier National Park. To become a volunteer with the Cascades Butterfly Project, contact Jeff Anderson, North Cascades Institute Science Coordinator, at or 206-526-2574. Fourteen volunteers turned out for a recent training session in North Cascades National Park.

Six protected areas in the Cascade Mountains are collaborating on this new monitoring program: North Cascades National Park, Mount Rainier National Park, Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, Okanagan-Wenatchee National Forest, Skagit Valley Provincial Park, and Manning Provincial Park.

Monitoring protocols were developed by Dr. John McLaughlin of Western Washington University with funding from the Pacific West Region Natural Resource Preservation Program and Washington’s National Park Fund. Volunteer recruitment is led by the North Cascades Institute. High school field science teams from the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry assisted in two years of field testing.

The Cascades Butterfly Project is modeled after the successful Rocky Mountain Butterfly Project, which began in 1997 and has since documented fluctuations in butterfly populations and is responsible for a 49% increase in the number of documented butterfly species in Rocky Mountain National Park.