Fall Butterfly Count Program at Congaree National Park

September 21, 2016

Have you ever marveled at a butterfly? Have you ever noticed that there are different butterflies with distinct sizes, colors, and behaviors? Have you ever wondered what butterflies can tell us about the health of our environment? Would you like to learn to collect data as a citizen scientist?

The public is invited to learn about butterflies and help collect data as part of a citizen science program at Congaree National Park on Saturday, October 1 beginning at 9:00 am. This program is coordinated through the Carolina Butterfly Society (http://carolinabutterflysociety.org), the North American Butterfly Association (http://www.naba.org), and the NPS Old-Growth Bottomland Forest Research and Education Center (http://nricms.nps.doi.net/rlc/ogbfrec).

Butterflies are not only beautiful, but important as pollinators (find more information about the National Park Service pollinators program at http://www.nps.gov/subjects/pollinators) and indicators of ecosystem health. Some butterflies require specific plants or climate conditions to survive, and many butterflies may be specifically affected by habitat loss, pollution, and disease. Scientists can learn a lot about our changing world by mapping and analyzing changes in butterfly populations. Such a project, however, requires eyes and feet (as opposed to expensive laboratory machines) to help spot, identify, and count butterflies. You—as a volunteer—can truly help!

All ages and experience levels are welcome and invited to join the Congaree National Park Butterfly Count on Saturday, October 1 beginning at 9:00 am. After a brief introduction, volunteers will work with experts and divide up into groups to survey (spot, identify, and count) butterflies in diverse areas of the park. There will be a range of hiking options from easy, family-friendly strolls to backcountry hikes. Some counting groups will be out most of the day (as late as 3:30 or 4:00 pm), but other groups can accommodate folks who need to return by lunch time. The data will be reported to the North American Butterfly Association, which has been coordinating annual counts since 1975. By compiling this data with other counts from all across the continent, scientists can make maps and measure changes in butterfly populations over time.

These programs are free, but space is limited. Advance reservations are required by calling 803.776.4396. The program will begin at the Harry Hampton Visitor Center. Participants should wear long-pants, wear closed-toed shoes, and bring a water bottle. Sun protection, bug spray (though not too much deet, please—its bad for the butterflies, too), snacks and a sack lunch are recommended. Binoculars, butterfly field guides, and digital cameras are recommended as well, but not required. A limited number of butterfly field guides and binoculars are available from the park for loan at no charge. For more information, contact David Shelley, Education Coordinator, Old-Growth Bottomland Forest Research and Education Center at [email protected] or 803-647-3966.

Access to the park (including the canoe launches, campgrounds, trails, visitor center, restrooms, picnic areas) is provided free of charge. The Harry Hampton Visitor Center is open from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm every day (except federal holidays) year-round. The air-conditioned visitor center includes exhibits, a 20-minute introductory film, and bookstore. Rangers at the front desk can answer a host of questions about maps, hiking, fishing, camping, paddling, guided-walks, and more. There is also a free junior ranger program for children. Visitors are encouraged to explore Congaree at any time, as the park’s trails and campgrounds remain open 24 hours a day, seven days per week. Law enforcement and emergency services operations are available seven days per week.

For more information about Congaree National Park, call 803-647-3970 or visit www.nps.gov/cong. Join Congaree National Park on social media: www.facebook.com/CongareeNP, www.twitter.com/CongareeNPS, www.flickr.com/photos/congareenps/ and www.pinterest.com/congareenps.