eButterfly Surveys

Sampling event
Latest version published by Vermont Center for Ecostudies on Jul 21, 2024 Vermont Center for Ecostudies
Publication date:
21 July 2024
CC-BY-NC 4.0

Download the latest version of this resource data as a Darwin Core Archive (DwC-A) or the resource metadata as EML or RTF:

Data as a DwC-A file download 134,103 records in English (61 MB) - Update frequency: daily
Metadata as an EML file download in English (19 KB)
Metadata as an RTF file download in English (14 KB)


eButterfly was created in 2011 based upon two simple ideas. First, many people are passionate about observing butterflies and, second, every butterfly observation has potential research value for fundamental and conservation research. Even observations of common species from well-sampled areas have value for monitoring population change, phenology, and for other spatiotemporal studies. Using informal science education, eButterfly steers participants into standardized data collection and provides extensive resources to improve observers’ capacities for butterfly detection and identification. eButterfly users document the presence or presumed absence of species as well as abundance through checklist data collection. To report butterfly observations, a web interface engages participants to submit observations through three interactive steps designed to collect location, effort, and the species and numbers detected. eButterfly encourages participants to submit photos of their observations as vouchers for species verification. eButterfly - an international, data driven project dedicated to butterfly biodiversity, conservation, and education - is a joint initiative of the Insectarium de Montréal - Espace pour la vie, Vermont Center for Ecostudies, Mila - Quebec Artificial Intelligence Institute, and University of Ottawa.

Through time, each participant, each observation, each checklist, and each verification builds the database. eButterfly then shares this treasure trove of butterfly data with a global community of community scientists, educators, lepidopterists, conservationists, and land managers. In time, this information will become the foundation for a better understanding of butterfly distribution and population trends.

Data Records

The data in this sampling event resource has been published as a Darwin Core Archive (DwC-A), which is a standardized format for sharing biodiversity data as a set of one or more data tables. The core data table contains 134,103 records.

1 extension data tables also exist. An extension record supplies extra information about a core record. The number of records in each extension data table is illustrated below.

Event (core)

This IPT archives the data and thus serves as the data repository. The data and resource metadata are available for download in the downloads section. The versions table lists other versions of the resource that have been made publicly available and allows tracking changes made to the resource over time.


The table below shows only published versions of the resource that are publicly accessible.

How to cite

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

Larrivée M, McFarland K, Zhang X, Prudic K, Solis R, Bunsen M, Kerr J (2024). eButterfly Surveys. Version 1.829. Vermont Center for Ecostudies. Samplingevent dataset. https://ipt.vtatlasoflife.org/resource?r=ebutterfly&v=1.829


Researchers should respect the following rights statement:

The publisher and rights holder of this work is Vermont Center for Ecostudies. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial (CC-BY-NC 4.0) License.

GBIF Registration

This resource has been registered with GBIF, and assigned the following GBIF UUID: cf3bdc30-370c-48d3-8fff-b587a39d72d6.  Vermont Center for Ecostudies publishes this resource, and is itself registered in GBIF as a data publisher endorsed by GBIF-US.


Metadata; Samplingevent


Maxim Larrivée
  • Originator
  • Point Of Contact
Insectarium de Montréal - Espace pour la vie
Kent McFarland
  • Metadata Provider
  • Originator
  • Point Of Contact
conservation biologist
Vermont Center for Ecostudies
PO Box 420
05091 Norwich
Xinbao Zhang
  • Originator
software engineer
Kathleen Prudic
  • Originator
Assistant Professor
University of Arizona
85719 Tuscon
Rodrigo Solis
  • Originator
human network and data coordinator
Michael Bunsen
  • Originator
software and machine learning engineer
Jeremy Kerr
  • Originator
University Research Chair in Macroecology & Conservation
University of Ottawa

Geographic Coverage


Bounding Coordinates South West [-90, -180], North East [90, 180]

Taxonomic Coverage

Butterflies of the world

Superfamily Papilionoidea (Butterflies)

Temporal Coverage

Start Date 2019-12-15

Sampling Methods

An observer(s) are asked to checklist survey butterflies. They visit a site and find and count as many butterflies as possible. Effort is tracked by the distance walked or area searched. Amount of time searching is recorded. Incidental observations - observing butterflies was not their primary purpose or they lack information about how many other butterfly species are in the area during the observation period (e.g.butterflying while driving or gardening- are also accepted.

Study Extent eButterfly users conduct butterfly checklist surveys anywhere they choose from Panama and the Caribbean islands, west to Hawaii and north to arctic Canada and Alaska.
Quality Control Observers are encouraged to photograph every species they encounter, rare or common, to act as vouchers for their observations. eButterfly encourages participants to submit photos of their observations as vouchers for species verification. Photographs are processed in a way that is comparable to how a natural history museum traditionally works with a specimen. The eButterfly participant is analogous to the collector, the crowd-sourced identification system is analogous to the determiner, and eButterfly acts as the curator. eButterfly users validate or suggest corrections to observations with and without photographs based on species’ known ranges and phenology. Additionally, eButterfly users can add identifications and report and comment on others’ observations, and this provides another mechanism for increased data quality.

Method step description:

  1. eButterfly documents the presence or presumed absence of species as well as abundance through checklist data. To report butterfly observations, a web interface engages participants to submit observations through three interactive steps. After logging into their eButterfly account to enter observations, participants are asked where they observed butterflies using an online mapping tool to select an existing or new location. Step two asks participants to indicate which of four different protocols they used to count butterflies. Traveling and area counts are effort-based sampling protocols, which require submitting both the amount of time spent butterfly watching and the distance traveled or area searched. Timed counts lack the spatial component and only record the total amount of time spent observing butterflies. The fourth protocol is a less rigorous option, called ‘‘casual observation”, which requires only date, location, and species observed to describe the sampling event. Participants are encouraged to use the most rigorous protocols when possible. The final step presents a checklist of the butterflies known from the state or province where the outing occurred. The participant fills in the number of individuals seen for each species and can upload photographs they captured of those species during the outing. Although “sight only” observations are accepted, eButterfly encourages participants to include photos with their observations for species verification. Observations are tagged as photograph, specimen, or sight observations. Other ancillary information such as counts of each life stage, host plants, sex, behaviors, and other notes, can also be added. At the end of the checklist, participants are presented with a final question that asks if they are submitting a checklist of all butterflies observed during the count. This is an important question that allows data consumers to determine if this is a complete presence/presumed absence checklist, which is more informative than presence-only data.

Bibliographic Citations

  1. Prudic, K.L.; McFarland, K.P.; Oliver, J.C.; Hutchinson, R.A.; Long, E.C.; Kerr, J.T.; Larrivée, M. (2017) eButterfly: Leveraging Massive Online Citizen Science for Butterfly Conservation. Insects 8 (2), 53. https://doi.org/10.3390/insects8020053
  2. Larrivee M, Prudic KL, McFarland KP, Zhang, X. and J Kerr 2020. eButterfly: a citizen-based butterfly database in the biological sciences. http://www.e-butterfly.org http://www.e-butterfly.org
  3. Soroye, P., Ahmed, N., & Kerr, J. T. (2018). Opportunistic citizen science data transform understanding of species distributions, phenology, and diversity gradients for global change research. Global change biology, 24(11), 5281-5291. https://doi.org/10.1111/gcb.14358

Additional Metadata

Alternative Identifiers cf3bdc30-370c-48d3-8fff-b587a39d72d6