While surfing around for ways to modify and expand my freshman classification project (i.e. insect collection), I happened upon the Lost Ladybug Project. The introductory paragraph at the site sums up their inspiration for the project:
Over the past twenty years several native ladybug species that were once very common have become extremely rare (see details on the nine spotted ladybug pictured left and the two spotted too). During this same time several species of ladybugs from other places have greatly increased both their numbers and range. Besides being incredibly cool and charismatic ladybugs are also essential predators in both farms and forests that keep us from being overrun with pests (like aphids and mealybugs). In many areas the native ladybugs are being replaced by exotic ones. This has happened very quickly and we don’t know how this shift happened, what impact it will have (e.g. will the exotic species be able to control pests as well as our familiar native ones always have) and how we can prevent more native species from becoming so rare.
The project itself provides the necessary background materials and easy to follow method for students to enhance any insect collection with more general purpose. Student find ladybugs, identify whether they are exotic or native, photograph them, and e-mail the images to firstname.lastname@example.org. I image if you had a whole class taking part that you could ship a CD or DVD to lighten the load on their inbox.
If you plan on taking part, or have done so already, I would be interested in knowing. Their site also has links to other Citizen Science Projects that I haven’t had time to explore, one titled “The Great Sunflower Project”.
As the Kansas State Flower, I would think we might have something to offer.