Espace pour la vie, the Vermont Center for Ecostudies and the University of Ottawa are proud to announce the launch on a worldwide scale of a butterfly observation platform. Thanks to the collaboration of an international team of biologists, entomologists and computer systems specialists, the e-Butterfly.org platform offers high-performance tools allowing community science everywhere to help draw up an inventory of butterflies around the world.
eButterfly: an essential tool for taking the pulse of butterfly populations
A veritable gold mine for scientists, its database consists of close to 20,000 butterfly species, meaning all those known at the present date. Whether you’re a novice or a specialist, the eButterfly community science platform allows you to submit sightings of butterflies from everywhere, resulting in the rapid collection of large volumes of observations—invaluable data for scientists surveying the impact of climate change on butterfly populations. The platform, moreover, allows for the organization of great quantities of data based on the distribution, number and diversity of butterflies in the world, which is essential for research. Ultimately, global, crowd-sourced community science projects like eButterfly give scientists access to more data than they alone could collect and serve a critical role in monitoring and mitigating the insect biodiversity crisis.
“Every time butterfly watchers raise binoculars and cameras to record a butterfly sighting, they collect important data,” states Dr. Rodrigo Solis Sosa, eButterfly Human Network and Data Coordinator. “Recording the number, date and location of each butterfly, no matter how common or rare, may seem trivial, even repetitive—but this detailed information is invaluable to science and conservation.”
“Besides being relatively simple to follow,” explains Maxim Larrivée, cofounder of eButterfly and director of the Insectarium de Montréal, one of the five Espace pour la vie museums, “this methodology makes it possible to gather essential data for monitoring butterflies, from local to global scales, relating to their populations, to phenology or to impacts of climate change on their biodiversity.”
“We’re creating a community of people who are collaborating with scientists to survey and conserve butterfly populations,” states Kent McFarland, conservation biologist, cofounder of the Vermont Center for Ecostudies and cofounder of eButterfly. “It’s the best of the Internet combined with the rigors of science.”
Powerful artificial-intelligence tool
eButterfly also uses the most up-to-date technologies to identify butterflies from around the world. A team from Mila – Quebec Artificial Intelligence Institute and its partners have created a state of the art image-recognition algorithm that can identify most of the world’s butterflies based on their location and an image uploaded to eButterfly. The algorithm was fed millions of photos of butterflies from a number of sources so that it can recognize the patterns characteristic of each species. After two years of development and tests, the algorithm delivers outstanding performances.
“AI algorithms are an excellent way of rapidly identifying a lot of photos,” said David Rolnick, Assistant Professor in the School of Computer Service at McGill University and at Mila. “Scientists can now devote more time to the rare species that require specialized knowledge.”
A project made possible thanks to collaborative work
eButterfly is an international project devoted to research, conservation and education supported by the following organizations: Vermont Center for Ecostudies; Espace pour la vie, a service of Ville de Montréal; and University of Ottawa.
New to eButterfly?
A Quick Start Guide has been designed to guide new users through each step of using the platform.
A webinar will be given by Dr. Rodrigo Solis Sosa, eButterfly Human Network and Data Coordinator, on Thursday, May 18 to explain how the eButterfly platform works.
Registration and more information
Community science at Espace pour la vie
Aligned with the priorities of the Montréal 2030 strategic plan, the mission of Espace pour la vie is to bring people close to nature, to inspire them and to encourage them to adopt behaviors that foster the socioecological transition. It is in that context that numerous programs at the local, national and international level have been implemented, including the following community science projects:
According to Espace pour la vie director Julie Jodoin, “In placing observation, documentation and understanding of nature at the center of their approach all at the same time, community-science activities are a bridge between a sense of wonder, knowledge development and the feeling of contributing—three elements necessary for a paradigm shift. They create connections between the population and scientists: they generate productive collaborations. In that sense they are a fantastic tool for protecting the environment and for preserving biodiversity.”- 30 -
Espace pour la vie brings together the Biodôme, the Biosphère, the Insectarium, the Jardin botanique and the Planétarium. These five prestigious City of Montréal institutions form Canada’s largest natural-science museum complex. Together, they are launching a daring, creative urban movement, encouraging all of us to rethink the connection between humankind and nature and to cultivate a new way of living.