Art Shapiro's Butterfly Project

Art Shapiro began monitoring 10 transects in 1972 and has been conducting bi-weekly monitoring of those sites ever since. He also monitors an additional site as part of NABA's Seasonal Count Program! Art's program is the longest continually running butterfly monitoring project in the world, predating even the British Butterfly Monitoring Scheme.

Monitoring Activity Tracker


Coordinator: Shapiro, Arthur M.
Program Started: 1972
Institution Type: Academic Institution
Species Focus: All butterfly species


Protocol Type: Restricted search, Transect
Data Type(s): Presence/absence, Abundance
Survey Focus: Adults
Incidental Data Collected: Weather
Visit Frequency: Biweekly
Effort Tracking: The same person has surveyed all transects since 1972 (Art Shapiro). The amount of time spent on each transect is consistent between surveys but time spent is not tracked.
Protocol Notes: Ten of 11 sites follow the protocol described here. Transects vary by length but are walked at a steady pace. Transect maps are available at the Art Shapiro website. Transects are not divided into subsections. When the program began in 1972, only presence/absences were recorded. Since 1999, abundances are recorded at 5 out of 10 sites.
Additional Notes: One site (Willow Slough) is actually a NABA count site, so see the NABA Count link for details on those protocols.
Taxonomic Standard: Modified NABA

Program Results

Research Spotlight:

Shapiro Research SpotlightForister, M. L., J. P. Jahner, K. L. Casner, J. S. Wilson, and A. M. Shapiro. 2011. The race is not to the swift: Long-term data reveal pervasive declines in California's low-elevation butterfly fauna. Ecology 92:2222-2235. This paper tracks population trends of ~40 butterfly species separately at each lowland site (see map above), West Sacramento (WS), Rancho Cordova (RC), North Sacramento (NS), and Gates Canyon (GC). The correlation coefficient for each species is shown at each site. Negative coefficients indicate declines and the dashed line separates negative coefficients (where populations are increasing) to negative coefficients (declining). High elevation sites (see above map) did not show similar declines. More “weedy” species that are mobile and associated with disturbed habitat were not declining as precipitously, but the difference was slight. No other butterfly trait was associated with probability of decline.


Pardikes, N.A., Harrison, J.G., Shapiro, and A.M., Forister. 2017. Synchronous population dynamics in California butterflies explained by climatic forcing. Royal Society open science 4(7):170190

Bell, K.L., Hamm, C.A., Shapiro A.M., and C.C. Nice. 2017. Sympatric, temporally isolated populations of the pine white butterfly Neophasia menapia, are morphologically and genetically differentiated.  PLoS ONE 12(5): e0176989

Colwell, R.K., Gotelli, N.H., Ashton, L.A., Beck, J., Brehm, G., Fayle, T.M., Fiedler, K., Forister, M.L., Kessler, M., Kitching, R.L., Klimes, P., Kluge, J., Longino, J.T., Maunsell, S.C., McCain, C.M., Moses, J., Noben, S., Sam, K., Sam, L., Shapiro, A.M., Wang, X., and V. Novotny. 2016. Midpoint attractors and species richness: Modelling the interaction between environmental drivers and geometric constraints.  Ecology Letters 19(9): 1009-1022

Forister, M.L., Cousens, B., Harrison, J.G. Anderson, K., Thorne, J.H., Waetjen, D., Nice, C.C., De Parsia, M., Hladik, M.L., Meese, R. van Vliet, H., and A.M. Shapiro. 2016. Increasing neonicotinoid use and the declining butterfly fauna of lowland California. Biology Letters 12(8)

Espeset, A.E., Harrison, J.G., Shapiro, A.M., Nice, C.C., Thorne, J.H., Waetjen, D.P., Fordyce, J.A., and M.L., Forister. 2016. Understanding a migratory species in a changing world: climatic effects and demographic declines in the western monarch revealed by four decades of intensive monitoring. Oecologia 181(3):819-830

Jahner, J.P., Forister, M.L., Nice, C.C., Fordyce, J.A., Wilson, J.S. Murphy, D.D., Marion, Z.H. and A.M. Shapiro. 2015 Regional population differentiation in the morphologically diverse, elevationally widespread Nearctic skipper Polites sabuleti. Journal of Biogeography 42(():1787-1799

Long, E.C., Edwards, K.F., and A.M. Shapiro. 2015. A test of fundamental questions in mimicry theory using long-term datasets. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 116(3):487-494

Badik, K.J., Shapiro, A.M., Bonilla, M.M., Jahner, J.P., Harrison, J.G., and M.L. Forister. 2015. Beyond annual and seasonal averages: using temporal patterns of precipitation to predict butterfly richness across an elevational gradient. Ecologlical Entomology 40(5):585-595

Pardikes, N.A., Shapiro, A.M., Dyer, L.A., and M.L. Forister. 2015. Global weather and local butterflies: variable responses to a large-scale climate pattern along an elevational gradient. Ecology 96(11):2891-28901

Harrison, J.G., Shapiro, A.M., Espeset, A.E., Nice, C.C., Jahner, J.P., and M.L. Forister. 2015. Species with more volatile population dynamics are differentially impacted by weather. Biology Letters 11(2):20140792

Casner, K.L., Forister, M.L., Ram, K., and A.M. Shapiro. 2014. The utility of repeated presence data as a surrogate for counts: a case study using butterflies. Journal of Insect Conservation 18(1):13-27

Casner, K.L., Forister, M.L., O'Brien, J.M., Thorne, J., Waetjen, D., and A.M. Shapiro. 2014. Contribution of urban expansion and a changing climate to decline of a butterfly fauna. Conservation Biology 28(3):773-82

Nice, C.C., Forister, M.L., Gompert, Z., Fordyce, J.A., and A.M. Shapiro. 2014. A hierarchical perspective on the diversity of butterfly species' responses to weather in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Ecology 95(8):2155-68

Runquist, E.B., Forister, M.L.l and A.M. Shapiro. 2012. Phylogeography at large spatial scales: incongruent patterns of population structure and demography of Pan-American butterflies associated with weedy habitats. Journal of Biogeography 39(2):382-396

Forister, M. L., J. P. Jahner, K. L. Casner, J. S. Wilson, and A. M. Shapiro. 2011. The race is not to the swift: Long-term data reveal pervasive declines in California's low-elevation butterfly fauna. Ecology 92:2222-2235.

O'Brien, J. M., J. H. Thorne, M. L. Rosenzweig, and A. M. Shapiro. 2011. Once-yearly sampling for the detection of trends in biodiversity: The case of Willow Slough, California. Biological Conservation 144:2012-2019.

Forister, M. L., A. C. McCall, N. J. Sanders, J. A. Fordyce, J. H. Thorne, J. O'Brien, D. P. Waetjen, and A. M. Shapiro. 2010. Compounded effects of climate change and habitat alteration shift patterns of butterfly diversity. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 107:2088-2092.

Thorne, J. H., O'Brien, J., Forister, M. L., Shapiro, A. M., Building Phenological Models from Presence/Absence Data for a Butterfly Fauna, Ecological Applications, 16(5), 2006, pp. 1842–1853.

Forister, M. L., Shapiro, A. M., Climatic trends and advancing spring flight of butterflies in lowland California, Global Change Biology, 9, 2003, pp. 1130-1135.

Fordyce, J. A., and A. M. Shapiro. 2003. Another perspective on the slow-growth/high-mortality hypothesis: Chilling effects on swallowtail larvae. Ecology 84:263-268.