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Citizen Science


Illinois Butterfly Monitoring Network

  • Swamp Metalmark on flower
  • Euphyes bimacula

All across Illinois, citizen scientists are monitoring butterflies and providing scientists with critical data that paints a picture of where butterflies are thriving and how populations and habitats are changing.

The Nature Museum’s Illinois Butterfly Monitoring Network (IBMN) is an award-winning citizen science program to assess the long-term effects of ecosystem restoration activities on animals. These results assist land managers in more effective conservation of Illinois’ butterflies.

The IBMN was founded in 1987 and since then has expanded from seven sites to more than 100! Many other states have adopted our protocols for their own Butterfly Monitoring Networks.

Some butterfly monitors know a great deal about the species but many begin with limited knowledge of butterflies.  Training is provided twice a year with a winter indoor workshop and a summer field experience. There is ongoing support from network leaders throughout the year.

Sign up today to become one of the more than 150 citizen scientists who play such an important role in this initiative.

What Monitors Do

  • Conduct at least six site visits
  • Spend 1 to 2 hours walking a predetermined route during each visit
  • Learn to identify 25 butterfly species the first year and 25 more the second year
  • At the end of the season, submit data which are added to the IBMN database

Project Squirrel

  • Fox Squirrel on ground
  • Grey Squirrel on fencepost
  • Fox Squirrel in tree

Help contribute to scientific understanding by submitting your observations of a wild mammal that you can see every day – squirrels!

Become a Project Squirrel citizen scientist

More than 5,000 people nationwide -- from second-grade students to senior citizens --  have taken part in the Nature Museum’s Project Squirrel, which twice has been selected as one of the nation’s top ten citizen science projects.

Squirrels are considered a sentinel organism because through squirrels we can understand ecological factors that affect a range of more difficult to observe, rare and migratory animals. Squirrels tell us so much about our environment and how it is changing.

No matter where you live, we encourage you to note the fox and grey squirrels in your neighborhood. If you notice an absence of squirrels that is also an important data point.

In addition to making squirrel observations, you are invited to join us in experimentation using food patches. To learn more, click the button below to download the guide to conducting foraging experiments in your yard.

Download the Food Patch Research Guide

©The Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum