The Lost Ladybug Project (LLP) is a Cornell University citizen science project that connects science to education by using ladybugs to teach non-scientists concepts of biodiversity, invasive species, and conservation. The project has successfully engaged thousands of children (ages 5-11) in collecting field data on ladybugs and building a ladybug biology database that is useful to scientists. It has also reached 80,000 people over the Internet. The goal of the project is to promote lifelong appreciation of biodiversity and science, and provide scientists with data on the changing distribution and abundance of ladybug species across the country.
The current project is broadening the Lost Ladybug Project's reach geographically, culturally, demographically, and contextually by creating new tools and materials for the website, and forging new connections with (1) youth groups, (2) science centers, community centers, botanical gardens, nature centers, and organic farms, (3) adults, (4) Native Americans, and (5) Spanish-speakers. The expanded project could potentially involve tens of thousands of new individuals in ladybug monitoring research. An evaluation study is measuring the impacts of the expansion on new participants' knowledge, skills, attitudes, interests, and behavior.
The Lost Ladybug Project has been important in advancing scientific discovery and building scientific knowledge. Data collected by the project's volunteers have improved scientists' understanding of (1) ladybug species presence/absence, (2) shifts in ladybug species composition, (3) shifts in ladybug species ranges, and (4) change in ladybug body size and spot number. Evaluation data show that the project has a broad audience reach and is achieving its learning goals for adults and children. Broadening the project's reach will further increase the project's importance to ecology, conservation biology and biodiversity research, as well as education research.