There’s a white butterfly – small cabbage white – that invaded Australia a little over a century ago and has spread to many parts of the country. It has been successful in part because as a caterpillar it eats many of the plants we do, those in the mustard family (broccoli, mustard, cabbage, kale, brussel sprouts, etc.). Chances are you’ve probably seen this butterfly darting through your backyard or down the road on your way to work…in fact some caterpillars may be munching on your garden right now! (Go check!).
Well, we created a citizen science project to turn these invasive pests into a research opportunity to study how organisms adapt to environmental changes, such as human alterations to climate and land-use. Our project – Pieris Project (www.pierisproject.org/) – ask the public (that means you!) to help collect this globally invasive butterfly and send them to us. We then use this collection to explore a number or research questions, including how changes in climate after the genes inside these butterflies.
One question we hope to answer right away is: where did these butterflies come from? They are believed to have originated from somewhere in Europe, but no one really knows where in Europe. It’s also possible that the butterflies in western Australia originated from somewhere different than those found in eastern Australia. With your help, we can answer these questions and so many more.
But to make this project a success, we need your help. You can check out our project and how to participate here, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter. If you have questions you can email us at email@example.com and sign up for our project here.
Happy collecting and observing,
Pieris Project Team