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Butterflies, Moths Focus of Survey at Tech

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A survey housed in the Arkansas Tech University College of Natural and Health Sciences is studying butterflies and moths in the state of Arkansas like never before. 
According to Dr. Eric Lovely (photographed, right), associate professor of biology at Arkansas Tech, the Arkansas Butterfly and Moth Survey “will contribute to a deeper understanding of the biodiversity of these insects across Arkansas.”

Lovely serves as director for the Arkansas Butterfly and Moth Survey, while Jim Ettman (photographed, left) is curator for the project. Ettman is a retired naturalist and lifelong butterfly and moth hobbyist. 

Their objectives include describing the variety of butterflies and moths in Arkansas, recording changes in their distribution and population patterns and then relating any changes to possible environmental shifts.

“Butterflies and moths have been shown to be excellent indicators of environmental changes, but first you must have a baseline of the species that occur in the region,” said Ettman. “Only then can you monitor changes that take place in the biodiversity of these insects. The survey’s collection of butterflies and moths has value. Its greatest value, however, lies in the data.”

Lovely and Ettman were prompted to start the project five years ago because Arkansas lagged behind surrounding states in the study of butterflies and moths. 

“While much has been recorded about the 150 or so butterfly species in this part of the country, Arkansas is almost a black hole on the map,” said Lovely. “The number of different moths that occur in Arkansas may reach into the thousands, but little has been published or even known about them.”

Initial success convinced Lovely and Ettman to seek an expansion of the Arkansas Butterfly and Moth Survey. They found additional storage space for specimens, developed additional funding for research projects and increased the number of suitable sites. One of their goals is to develop a Web site that would provide interested persons with access to the data collected during the survey.

Lovely and Ettman say the primary resource needed by the Arkansas Butterfly and Moth Survey is people.

“We invite professional and amateur butterfly and moth enthusiasts to participate in the survey,” said Ettman. “Participation can include donation of specimens, species identification, field collecting or help in the development of the survey Web site. This is important work. Butterflies and moths provide us with factual data than can help us understand our changing world.”

Persons interested in participating in the survey can reach Lovely by phone at (479) 498-6077 or by e-mail to Contact Ettman at (501) 242-3791 or

Visit to learn more about the study of biological sciences at Arkansas Tech.