EAST ALTON – Over the next two years, scientists at the National Great Rivers Research and Education Center (NGRRECsm) are investigating dragonflies and damselflies (Odonata) throughout Central and Southern Illinois.

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“Odonata are a relatively well-known and charismatic group of insects and have key functional roles both within terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems and across terrestrial-aquatic boundaries,” Wildlife Ecologist John Crawford said. “They are also important indicators of water quality and overall ecosystem health.”

The primary goal of this project is to address current knowledge gaps and develop a baseline of population data as well as determine possible species of conservation concern for state and regional agencies. These data are needed to develop future conservation and management plans.

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“More research is needed to understand current population distributions, rarity, and vulnerabilities of Odonata throughout Illinois,” said Crawford. “Overall, there is not a comprehensive statewide collection of data and what we do have is mostly from the Chicago area due to a large naturalist following in that region.”

This year’s sampling is taking place in Southern Illinois at both stream and wetland sites on public lands, mainly within the Shawnee National Forest. There will be a total of 30-40 sites and including both aquatic and aerial sampling methods. The sampling also aligns with the flight season for Odonates which takes place from June to October.

This project began in 2021 with the creation of an occurrence database gathered from historical records from museum collections including the Illinois State Museum, and Illinois Natural History Survey, and included naturalist database records including iNaturalist and OdonataCentral. From there, maps were created to highlight regions that have been previously under-sampled and pinpoint locations being sampled currently.

This three-year project is being funded through the state wildlife grant program, originating with the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service and administered by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

For more information about Odonata in Illinois visit https://www2.illinois.gov/dnr/education/Pages/WildAboutDragonflies.aspx or contact Crawford at joacrawford@lc.edu.

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