Thursday, April 25, 2013

Profile: Rick and Libby Avis, Citizen Scientists--Moths of BC

Citizen science is a growing component of E-Fauna BC and contributions by citizen scientists in BC (and sometimes from outside BC!) are significant. One example of this are the moth photo contributions by Rick and Libby Avis. Although they have sent in photos of many insects, including Robber Flies, Rick and Libby are particularly focused on moths and have been sending in geo-referenced photos covering many BC moth species.  Often, because of a lack of data for us to map, their photo records are the only dots on our distribution maps so far, so these are significant contributions to E-Fauna and species mapping in BC.

In documenting BC's moth species, Rick and Libby take photos throughout the province. But they also focus on their own backyard in Port Alberni:  "We have been amazed by the  number of species in our back yard - over the last six years we have documented over 600 species of moths on our property... many moths are readily attracted to light, so we began by leaving our porch light on overnight, then subsequently graduated to a black light."

Rick and Libby have almost 1000 photos published on E-Fauna, making them one of our biggest contributors.  But this isn't all they do. They are active collectors and have been sending voucher collections into the University of Guelph to be used by the BOLD program for DNA analysis. And they have been contributing to several other websites, including BugGuide, the Moth Photographers Group and the Pacific Northwest Moth site. 

Like many citizen scientists, Rick and Libby came to this documentation of species in BC from other occupations.  Rick is a retired math and physics teacher with North Island College and Libby was a planner with the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District.  Today, though, thanks to continuous hard work and much interaction with experts, they are now experts in moth identification (and in identification of many other species), and are making significant contributions to the knowledge base of BC moth diversity.  

As for why they do this, Libby says:  "We feel strongly about the importance of citizen science which we feel is a “win-win” both for interested amateurs and also as a means of widening the overall knowledge base for the province. The advent of digital photography and the internet have been a god-send to people like ourselves living in smaller communities where there is otherwise no ready access to academic resources or professional expertise. We owe a great debt of gratitude to the help we have received from experts on websites like E-Fauna, Bug Guide, the Moth Photographers Group and the Pacific Northwest Moth site – and in turn, with their assistance, we have also been able to contribute to the environmental knowledge of our area. We feel it is particularly important to post to those websites, so that we leave a permanent record of our findings in the Alberni Valley – one which others may build on in the future."

Vancouver Dart (Agrotis vancouverensis), photo by Rick and Libby Avis

Fireweed Clearwing Moth (Albuna pyramidalis), photo by Rick and Libby Avis

If you would like to be a citizen scientist like Rick and Libby, and help us map species on E-Fauna BC, just send in your photos with location coordinates that we can map. You can get location coordinates easily from Google Maps.  Just find your location on the map, and right click on it.  A little menu pops up. Click on 'What's here", and location coordinates will appear in the search box.

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