News from the field: project updates

Butterflies (Issue 85)

Butterflies Australia manager Chris Sanderson reports that the project is continuing, “and possibly even more popular than last time we spoke, despite the coronavirus craziness that’s going on”.

Sanderson says that there are nearly 4500 verified records in the database now, with about 350 awaiting verification.

The big news, he says, is “thanks to the big rains post-Christmas down the east coast of Australia we had a huge boom of butterflies, which was very exciting. It lasted several months and is still not quite done yet!”

The main species (in terms of big numbers) seen over recent months were lemon migrants (Catopsilia pomona), the blue tiger (Tirumala hamata), below, and the large grass-yellow (Eurema hecabe), with many more species showing higherthan- normal abundance.

Butterflies Australia’s official end date is 30 June 2020, “but we have the funds and the intent to keep it going for a few more years at least, and some interest from a third party to take on the project into the future, which is exciting,” says Sanderson.

Star Notes (Issue 86)

The US-based Star Notes project – to link the notebooks of the “Harvard computers” back to their original glassplate photograph through a unique plate number – is more than halfway complete. So far more than 3300 volunteers have classified more than 175,000 pages and have completed over 20,300 subjects.

In fact, the project is going so well another astronomer has been added to the mix, and deservedly so. Born in a log cabin in Alabama in 1907, Ellen Dorrit Hoffleit, started as a research assistant at the Harvard College Observatory (HCO) in 1928. She completed an MA (in 1932) and PhD (1938) in astronomy and remained as a research associate and astronomer at HCO until 1956. She worked until her 1975 retirement at Yale University, and died after a brilliant and lauded life aged 100 in 2007.

To participate, visit the Star Notes website.

Bushfire Recovery (Issue 86)

Total observations posted to the Environment Recovery Project, which monitors bushland regenerating from the devastating 2019/20 fires, passed 5100 (of nearly 1150 species) in mid- May – “a pretty solid effort” says project coordinator Casey Gibson.

Geographically, observations stretch from southeast Queensland and along the east and south coasts to SA. COVID-19 restrictions have hampered the effort, but “we’ve still got a subset of people – landholders, property owners – who are really actively canvassing their own patches,” says Gibson.

Gibson says the project’s been typified by some “really cracking observations” and an underlying theme of optimism.

“Before the pandemic took off, people were getting images of epicormic regrowth on eucalypts, almost as a sign of hope, that we can come through a bushfire disaster.”

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