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Welcome to
Caterpillars Count!

Caterpillars Count!

Host a Survey Site

Want to host a new Caterpillars Count! site?

Consider these questions:

  1. Will your site have at least 10 (ideally 30 or more) survey tree locations?
  2. Will surveys be carried out at least 6 times over the late spring and summer?
  3. Is there an existing pool of potential participants who could share the work of conducting these surveys, or a single individual willing to dedicate the time required?

If you answered yes to all these questions, here are the next steps!

Register for an account. You'll need to supply an email address and create a password.

Once you are logged in, go to the Create New Site page to register your own Caterpillars Count! site. You'll need to enter the following information

  • Site name
  • Short description (140 characters or fewer)
  • Site location. Drag and drop the marker for your survey site onto the map.
  • Number of survey locations you expect to support (should be a multiple of 5)
  • Site password (You will give this out to participants/volunteers so they can submit surveys for your site. It should be different than your secret Caterpillars Count! account password; you want to give participants access to submit surveys at your site, not access to your whole Caterpillars Count! account!)

You will receive an email once you have created your site with a link to print your branch survey codes. You can simply click that link, or you can manually retrieve and print your branch survey codes from the Manage My Sites page.

Setting Up a New Site

Establish the Monitoring Area

  • Choose an area that contains representative vegetation of the common shrubs and trees at your location.
  • Survey branches will be arranged in groups of 5 called "circles"
  • Each of the circles will be centered on a representative bush or small tree that has leaves available for inspection. If working with a small area, it is okay for the circles to be close together. These circles may be arrayed in a loose grid, a line, or some combination depending on the configuration of vegetation at the site.
  • Choose a survey method. Decide whether participants at your site will primarily use visual or beat sheet surveys. Whichever type of survey you choose, we ask that you be consistent and conduct all surveys in the same manner.

Select Trees within the Monitoring Area

Before you head out, you might want to bring these materials:

Each circle will consist of 5 survey locations.

While the center point for a survey circle may be chosen based on subjective criteria (seems like a good general location for surveys, vegetation is representative, etc), the other 4 survey locations should ideally be located in each of the 4 cardinal directions from the center point, location A.

Note: To increase comparability between sites, we will ONLY SURVEY TREES AND SHRUBS; we WILL NOT be sampling grasses and herbaceous plants.

In order to select these survey points, follow these steps:

  • Select the center survey tree (red). When selecting the center survey, it is important to choose a tree that can be easily surveyed. You are in search of a tree that has at least 50 leaves that measure 5cm (~2in.) in length. Therefore, choose a tree that has a relatively high abundance of leaves.

    If finding 50 leaves to survey proves to be a challenge then you are probably better off choosing another tree. It is also important that the leaves are at a height that is easily accessible. Using a ladder is not a practical way to gather data, so these should be leaves that you can see at eye-level.

  • Identify the 4 satellite survey trees. Once you have selected the center (red) survey, walk 5 yards (approximately 6-7 steps) in one of the cardinal directions. The first plant with 50 leaves that are at least 5cm (~2in.) in length is the plant that you should survey. If there is not a plant directly in front of you, then you can use a plant that sits within 10 feet of your transect line. If there is no suitable vegetation at 5 yards and within 10 feet, continue walking along your transect line away from the center point until you find a tree with 50 leaves. Repeat this process until you have picked out all 4 satellite trees (blue, green, yellow, purple). The colors of the 4 satellite trees can be arranged in any order, and depending on the availability of suitable branches your actual survey circle layout may look quite different from the ideal cartoon pictured above, which is fine!
  • Identify survey trees. See the Identification Skills page for resources to help identify your survey trees to species. Species names can be entered through the Manage My Sites (Edit Survey Plants) page of the website or app.
  • Mark survey trees. After creating a site, you'll receive an email with a link to print survey tags for that site. If you cannot find that email, retrieve and print the tags from the Manage My Sites page. One cheap method of weather-proofing tags is to "laminate" them with packing tape. Hang tags on the relevant survey branches in a visible location.
  • Repeat these steps for each survey circle.

Now that you have established your survey trees and decided on a survey method, your site is ready to be surveyed!

Test Your Knowledge of Caterpillars Count! Protocols