Migratory Dragonfly Partnership Initiatives

Using citizen science to answer the many questions surrounding dragonfly migration in North America and promote cross-border conservation

The MDP is developing a network of citizen scientist monitors across Canada, Mexico, and the United States to track the spring and fall movement of the five best-known migratory dragonflies in North America: Common Green Darner (Anax junius), Black Saddlebags (Tramea lacerata), Wandering Glider (Pantala flavescens), Spot-winged Glider (Pantala hymenaea), and Variegated Meadowhawk (Sympetrum corruptum). The MDP will develop tools and resources to enable participants to monitor the timing, location, duration, and direction of travel of dragonfly flights, and to identify the species involved. Regular monitoring and centralized reporting among participants across three nations will help us answer some of the many questions currently surrounding dragonfly migration and provide information needed to create cross-border conservation programs to protect and sustain the phenomenon. Please see below for more information on current MDP Projects. For additional information please download the MDP Monitoring Protocols to help you get started.

Dragonfly Pond Watch Project

The purpose of the Dragonfly Pond Watch project is to engage citizen scientist volunteers to regularly monitor and report on the seasonal distribution of five of the best-known migratory dragonfly species at wetland sites throughout North America: Common Green Darner, Black Saddlebags, Spot-winged Glider, Wandering Glider, and Variegated Meadowhawk. Participants will visit local ponds of their choice and make repeated visits over time to collect relevant field data on the annual movements of target species and the biodiversity at their site. For more information or to volunteer please visit the Dragonfly Pond Watch project webpage.

Stable Isotope Project

The MDP is implementing a Stable Isotope Project to investigate patterns of reproduction, emergence, and movement among migrant species at different latitudes. Participants will help us assess connectivity of migratory dragonfly populations using stable isotope signatures.

Isotopes are different forms of one chemical element, each with a slight variation in atomic structure. These isotopic forms vary characteristically with latitude. For dragonflies, an isotopic signature can be generated by measuring the ratio between stable isotopes of hydrogen, a component of the waters in which the nymphs live during development, traces of which remain locked into the wing tissue of the adult after emergence. By comparing the hydrogen isotope ratio in its wings to that of the water body where the insect was captured, researchers can get an indication of how far a captured dragonfly has moved from its emergence site. Isotope data will increase our understanding of the points of origin of dragonflies in a mass flight, better delineate southern and northern endpoints of migration, and help distinguish migratory individuals from residents.

Initially, the Partnership will develop a snapshot of Common Green Darner (Anax junius) spring migration across the eastern half of North America with the help of dragonfly enthusiasts around the region. Participants will collect samples from the southeastern United States (February – May+), and then progressively northward as spring advances. Participants will collect any exuviae found at nearby ponds as well as Green Darner adults as they emerge or take flight in early spring and during the summer.

If you are located in the region of interest and would like to participate in the Stable Isotope project, please contact MDP project partner Sara Zahendra at the Vermont Center for Ecostudies.

Migration Monitoring Project

The Migration Monitoring Project uses citizen scientist volunteers to track the fall and spring movement of dragonflies, with emphasis on the five main migratory species in North America. Participants monitor the timing, duration, and direction of travel of migrating dragonflies, and note any additional behaviors observed in a directed migratory flight such as feeding or mating. When gathered across a wide geographic range and throughout a span of years, these data will provide answers to questions about which species are regular migrants; the frequency and timing of migration in different species; sources, routes, and destinations of migrants; and patterns of reproduction, emergence, and movement among migratory dragonflies along their flight paths. Ultimately, we intend to collate and map observational information on dragonfly migration throughout North America. The Partnership has developed the tools and resources to help you start monitoring migration events, and begin collecting and contributing your migration observational data. Please visit the Migratory Dragonfly Partnership’s interactive website to get started!

Short Courses

In 2012 the MDP developed intensive full-day short courses to educate participants about dragonflies and provided training in identification and monitoring. These courses introduce participants to the life histories, behavior and conservation of dragonflies throughout North America, and equip them with the necessary skills to identify dragonflies, contribute to our knowledge-base of dragonfly migration, and help protect the wetlands on which dragonflies rely. Designed for amateur naturalists, dragonfly enthusiasts, educators, university students, and scientific professionals, the full day training courses provide participants with the latest information and science on dragonfly migration and train participants in identifying migration events and collecting scientific data. Indoor classroom study is complemented by field excursions to observe the target dragonfly species in their natural habitat. Five courses held in the summer and fall of 2012 in the U.S. and Canada  were extremely well-received: Portland, OR (2 courses); Austin, TX; Ontario, Canada; and Cape May, NJ. Additional courses are in the planning stages for 2013. Please continue to check the Xerces Society’s events page to find out if a course will be held in your region.

2013 Dragonfly Calendar

Inspired by their work with the Migratory Dragonfly Partnership (MDP), the Xerces Society has created a 2013 Dragonflies of North America Calendar. Part of the goal of MDP and Xerces is to use the phenomenon of dragonfly migration to educate the public about the importance of odonates and the vulnerability of their habitats, and to give people more information and a better appreciation of these beautiful insects.

Please click here to purchase your 2013 Dragonflies of North America Calendar today.

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