Since 2022, more than 300 volunteers have joined BIMBY (Butterflies in My Backyard) a citizen science project that tracks butterflies in B.C.
Volunteers became BIMBY Seekers. They took photos of butterflies throughout the province and submitted their data to the BIMBY Project on iNaturalist. By season’s end, 8,400 observations were made, and 118 butterfly species were identified.
According to John Reynolds, former chair of the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada, the photos Seekers submitted to iNaturalist constituted over one-fifth of the overall data scientists across the country studied to help formulate conservation policies.
So, who are these BIMBY Seekers and why did they donate their time and energy to track and document butterflies for the BIMBY Project? After all, taking pictures of flitting butterflies is no easy task!
Picture a grown woman crawling around in the dirt. Yikes! I am 75 and should know better. But I love every minute of my time outdoors chasing those flights of fancy!
Princeton BIMBY Seeker Sue Elwell
Sue doesn’t include the word “quit” in her personal dictionary. She confessed she knew nothing about butterflies when she joined the project.
None of that mattered. Sue learned from the project team and fellow Seekers and experts who shared their knowledge with volunteers during the season. She consulted with University of British Columbia zoologist Michelle Tseng about walking transects (a set route Seekers walk year after year) and learned from iNaturalist volunteers and experts about the native plants that different butterfly species frequent.
Sue put all of the knowledge together and formulated a system to track butterflies in Princeton. The result was more than 2,400 observations. She even captured images of rare B.C. butterfly species like the Mormon metalmark. Quite a feat for a self-confessed novice! More importantly, Sue shared her methodology and findings with fellow Seekers.
We are also lucky to have Stephen Deedes-Vincke as a Seeker. Stephen joined the David Suzuki Foundation’s Butterflyway Project in 2018 to help plant native plants for local butterflies and wild pollinators. A year after joining the project, he helped set up BIMBY B.C. on iNaturalist. Since 2022, Stephen has been the BIMBY iNaturalist trainer. Seekers learn from Stephen ways to take photos and how to submit to the iNaturalist BIMBY Project. By late fall, as the season wraps up, he shares his data analysis with Seekers and the public through the year-end report.
Stephen is an IT manager for TELUS, which means he does not have a lot of free time outside of work. So why does he spend so much time on BIMBY? He thinks it’s because he gets to build bridges and fill in the gaps.
“Although scientists create and uncover knowledge from their research, there is sometimes a lack of knowledge transfer from the scientific community to the general public,” he says. “Citizen science projects such as BIMBY help facilitate knowledge- sharing while also collecting valuable data to help address pressing issues. It’s a win-win!”
BIMBY committee member Alex Wong couldn’t agree more. For Alex, BIMBY is also about diversity and inclusiveness.
BIMBY is a unique citizen science program that engages people of all ages and backgrounds. Not only are we collecting valuable data about B.C. butterflies, BIMBY also engages students, parents and educators to learn and appreciate how nature impacts our lives in ways we can’t even imagine! This is true no matter where you come from or where you live today.
BIMBY committee member Alex Wong
We live in a precarious world at a time when biodiversity in nature is vulnerable. If we believe humans have played a big role in creating these challenges, we should try as hard as we can to help correct the problems. BIMBY Seekers may not be able to fix every problem, but they do play a key role in gathering crucial data for experts to tackle the issues and find solutions.
I adore the volunteers we call BIMBY Seekers because of their continuous generosity and courage.
As the 2023 BIMBY season begins, new Seekers will be greeted and welcomed by the BIMBY Committee. This includes our UBC partners Tara Moreau and Michelle Tseng, and Alex Wong, Stephen Deedes-Vincke, Michelle Chan and Daniel Koveshnikov, as well as the 300-plus BIMBY Seekers from 2022 who opted to stay for another season.