Butterflies help predict climate change

Butterflies help predict climate change

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by KEELY CHALMERS, KGW Staff

kgw.com

Posted on June 5, 2013 at 6:20 AM

Updated Wednesday, Jun 5 at 6:20 AM

PORTLAND -- Chasing butterflies is not just for fun anymore. Researchers say the hobby can also help them better predict climate change.

That’s because butterflies are sort of like a "canary in the coal mine," said Kathleen Prudic, an ecologist at Oregon State University and the founder of eButterfly.

The insects are extremely sensitive to changes in things like temperature, humidity and rainfall. A change in their habits or populations could mean big changes for other species as well, including the human species.

The problem is tracking the thousands of kinds of butterflies around the world. So researchers have set up a website called eButterfly.

People are encouraged to log onto the site and download photos of recent butterflies they've spotted along with the time and location of the sightings.

“The data itself will also be used to predict the affects of climate change, so we know how it’s affecting us now and how it’s going to affect us in ten years,” explained Prudic.

 “It’s a win-win... you can go outside and enjoy nature and you can help science,” she said.

So far the website has more than 3 thousand users, but researchers say we need more here in Oregon.

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