Looking for a Few Good Cabbage Whites


7699638224_c7bacaf023_zHey butterfly lovers, graduate students Sean Ryan at the University of Notre Dame and Anne Espeset at the University of Nevada, Reno are asking for help from fellow butterflyers. These students are investigating how different environments have changed the genomes of the ubiquitous, introduced cabbage white (Pieris rapae). The findings of this project will also provide insight into how other butterflies may respond to climate change.

Anne and Sean are asking the butterfly community to please collect cabbage whites from all over the world, mail them to them with the associated date and location, and they’ll work their DNA magic. They launched the Pieris Project last June and have already received butterflies from more than half the US states and 8 countries! However, they are still looking for butterflies from many regions across North America.

If you’re interested in helping, there are two ways you can contribute:

Send them 2-5 butterflies from where you live. Make sure to have the date, location with lat/long on the envelope. You’ll find the details at the Pieris Project website. Although this summer is winding down in many places, you may be still be able to catch a few before winter arrives.

Fund their research. The donations help defray the costs of genetic extractions and sequencing fees. Anne and Sean launched a crowd-funding campaign on Experiment.com in hopes of raising $6,000. Time is winding down and they need to meet their funding goal so please check it out. One of the incentives for donating is a “Backyard Genomics Explorer Kit.” An excellent holiday gift for the budding young scientist in your life.

With everyone’s help, they will learn how the shape, size, color, and genes of the cabbage white have changed with the environment helping to predict how climate change may affect butterflies.

Please follow them on Facebook and Twitter @PierisProject.