Citizen Science to tackle global decline in ladybird diversity

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Global decline in ladybird beetle diversity
Citizen scientists facilitate finding causes, consequences, and opportunities for conservation


John Losey
Department of Entomology
Cornell University

January 19th 2018
Wageningen University Campus, Orion Building, Lecture room: C4030
Public Presentation 2:00-3:00 pm / Masterclass 3:30-4:30 pm

The last several decades have seen a major shift in the global complex of ladybird beetles (Coccinellidae) from a diverse assemblage of “native” species to one of reduced diversity and dominated by a few cosmopolitan species.  The extremely rapid decline and current rarity of several native species presents challenges for determining species distribution and collecting specimens to initiate laboratory colonies to allow further testing.  These challenges have been addressed through several citizen-science projects across the world that educate non-specialists and recruit them to become ladybird beetle “spotters”.  Since 2008, spotters in the US have submitted over 38,000 identifiable images of coccinellids to the Lost Ladybug Project and their observations have allowed us to establish laboratory colonies of the rarest species.  Combining these observations with directed experiments using captive populations we have begun to test the potential role of introduced coccinellids in the decline of native species.  Did the foreign species play a role in decline or just expand to fill niches vacated by native species?  The answer to this question will aid in predicting the ability of the coccinellid complex to aid in pest suppression in the future and facilitate the development of international strategies to restore and maintain coccinellid diversity.

John Losey is a professor in the Department of Entomology at Cornell University and director of the Lost Ladybug Project, a citizen science program that educates non-specialists on the important role that ladybugs play in the suppression of pests and recruits them to participate in the survey of both native and adventive ladybug species.  Dr. Losey has published articles on the causes and consequences of shifts in the lady beetle species complex, the incorporation of volunteers in research and conservation, and more broadly on the value of diversity in agro-ecosystems.  He teaches a course on insect conservation biology and co-instructs a course on integrated pest management


Following the public lecture Dr. Losey will lead a discussion and offer insights on the following topics within the scope of “citizen science”:

  • The scope of citizen science
  • from Big Data, to crowd-sourcing, to direct citizen science
  • Why use citizen science?
    • Advantages of citizen science compared to conventional science
  • How to develop and nurture a citizen science program
  • Lessons from the Lost Ladybug Project