A Dragonfly's-Eye View of MDP & Citizen Science


As the MDP reflects on an impressive suite of accomplishments since its inception in 2011, this year we examine the root of sustained success as we continue to foster new ideas and pave a path for the future of the program. MDP steering committee members met in Portland, Oregon last week to cultivate new ideas and outline plans to expand and grow our network of partners and citizen scientists across North America. MDP has grown into a productive, active collaboration that is advancing our understanding of dragonfly migration, and it continues to thrive because of the collective enthusiasm and sustained efforts of our project partners and citizen scientists. Volunteers from Canada to Mexico have reported thousands of observations, which are already helping us gain new insights into dragonfly migration. A full report will be coming in spring with our annual report to volunteers, but for now we share a few tidbits that illustrate our most notable accomplishments and findings:

  • Participation in citizen science programs has increased steadily, with a 340% increase in registered users and an 800% increase in reporting from 2012.
  • Our citizen scientists have led the charge, providing over 5,800 Pond Watch and Migration observations through the MDP website.
  • Our gracious partners in migration monitoring, the Hawk Migration Association of North America's (HMANA) 19 Hawk Watch stations in northeastern North America, as well as our partners Pronatura in Veracruz, Mexico at the River of Raptors, have provided tens of thousands of additional migration reports to help us piece together migratory pathways and timing between Canada, the USA, and Mexico.
  • Migration activity peaks in September, though the peak week varies from year to year, and often continues into Mexico through mid-November.
  • Common Green Darner (Anax junius) is the most frequently reported migrant in the eastern USA and Canada, but Wandering and Spot-winged Gliders (Pantala flavescens and P. hymenaea) make up the largest proportion of the flights reported from Mexico.
  • Stable isotope analysis of Common Green Darners collected in the far northern reaches of their range in early spring show origins in the far south, confirming that they were migrant adults returning to breed in northern ponds and wetlands.

Advances coming in 2015 include:

  • Exploring ways to update the look and appearance of the MDP website to include ease of navigation, as well as interactive features and feedback mechanisms to allow two-way communication and to foster stronger social connections among the dragonfly community.
  • The MDP dragonfly mobile app (http://tinyurl.com/qyfkuz8) being developed by David Bell (Birds in the Hand) will allow observers to report data in real time and provide dragonfly identification resources in the field.
  • Creation of additional Spanish-language resources, including translation of the MDP protocols booklet and the MDP website.
  • A dragonfly curriculum for teachers and students is in the works through our partners at the University of Minnesota.
  • Additional short courses and workshops.