Budworm Tracker program studies insect's spread
Two teens and their mother help scientists track outbreak as it heads east
A family in eastern P.E.I. spent their summer taking part in a project looking for the destructive spruce budworm.
Liam Kelly, 14, his brother Cameron, 11, and their mother Kelly Conway are part of a program called Budworm Tracker.
The $18 million federal project is tracking the insect using citizen scientists in six eastern Canadian provinces and Maine.
The last outbreak of the spruce budworm on P.E.I. was 35 years ago. But already millions of hectares in Quebec have been destroyed in the current outbreak and the budworm is heading east.
The insect feeds on the needles of balsam fir and spruce trees, often killing large areas of forest.
There were 25 traps placed across P.E.I. this summer, including the Kelly's trap on the Souris Line Road.
The 14 moths they captured between July 13 and Aug. 10 will be sent to Drew Carleton of the Canadian Forestry Service in Fredericton. They will confirm whether or not they are the spruce budworm.
Liam Kelly recalls the first time he opened the trap and found a moth inside.
"It was exciting but it was also pretty weird that it was actually here," he says. He added it's strange that something so small can do so much damage.
Kelly Conway says the boys checked the traps three times a week, on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
"Sometimes it's hard to wake up early," says Conway. "And we even had to go away on vacation and we had to have their dad open and close the trap. So it took some effort to orchestrate all of that."
"It's perfect. It's citizen science," says Fred Cheverie, the watershed coordinator for the Souris branch of the P.E.I. Wildlife Federation.
"We knew that they'd be keen on this and once they started, they'd keep it up," he added. "And what a great opportunity for kids to learn. [It's] their first introduction to collecting science data."
The family is already committed to putting up the trap again next summer.