Citizen science and global biodiversity
Citizen science and global biodiversity

Start this free course now. Just create an account and sign in. Enrol and complete the course for a free statement of participation or digital badge if available.

Free course

Citizen science and global biodiversity

1.1 Identifying Katie’s moth

Week 1 told a story about six-year-old Katie from England, who in 2009 discovered an unusual furry moth on her windowsill. Curious to find out what it was, she showed it to her dad, who helped her to post a picture of the moth o iSpot, in order to determine its species identity.

This example provides a useful demonstration of the process of coming to an identification by using a range of support services and resources. The iSpot team were intrigued by Katie’s unusual and distinctive post. The curator of the site suggested that the image might have been that of a euonymus leaf-notcher. But he wasn’t sure of this identification, not least because this species had never been seen before in the UK – nor, indeed, anywhere in Europe.

Within 24 hours, the iSpot curator’s identification had been confirmed within the iSpot online community by an expert at the Natural History Museum in London, with further confirmation coming from an expert from Thailand. The euonymus leaf-notcher is actually native to parts of Southeast Asia, including Thailand, China and Japan. It has been accidentally introduced to a small area of the USA (where it has established itself but does not seem to be spreading much) and then to the UK.

It is unclear how the moth arrived in the UK, but the most likely explanation is that its caterpillars were transported on some of the euonymus plants on which they feed. It is a possible unintended consequence of the global trade in garden plants.

The moth was dead when Katie found it, but the specimen was kept and passed on to the Natural History Museum in London. There it forms part of the long-term record of changes to wildlife in the UK and can be examined by other experts wanting to know about it.


Take your learning further

Making the decision to study can be a big step, which is why you'll want a trusted University. The Open University has 50 years’ experience delivering flexible learning and 170,000 students are studying with us right now. Take a look at all Open University courses.

If you are new to University-level study, we offer two introductory routes to our qualifications. You could either choose to start with an Access module, or a module which allows you to count your previous learning towards an Open University qualification. Read our guide on Where to take your learning next for more information.

Not ready for formal University study? Then browse over 1000 free courses on OpenLearn and sign up to our newsletter to hear about new free courses as they are released.

Every year, thousands of students decide to study with The Open University. With over 120 qualifications, we’ve got the right course for you.

Request an Open University prospectus371