The Moth Project | Art+Science: Mothology in the Age of Social Distancing | St. Lawrence University Richard F. Brush Art Gallery

The Moth Project | Art+Science: Mothology in the Age of Social Distancing

Monday, September 21, 2020 to Thursday, October 1, 2020
set-up for mothing project
with guest artists Wendy DesChene + Jeff Schmuki from PlantBot Genetics

Moths play a vital role in telling us more about the health of our environment. They are widespread, found in diverse habitats, and sensitive to ecological changes making them particularly useful as an indicator species of climate change. Monitoring their numbers and ranges provides vital clues to changes in the environment, such as the effects of new farming practices, pesticides, air pollution, and climate change. PlantBot Genetics (Wendy DesChene + Jeff Schmuki) presents The Moth Project, a live, community-based intervention focusing on the importance of insects in the environment through online engagement.

The artists have chosen to focus on moths because of the insects’ diversity and potential usefulness as pollinators. There is much concern over the dramatic rise in Honeybee Depopulation Syndrome (HBDS) or Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) in which colonies abruptly die or disappear. Many do not realize the vital role bees play in maintaining a balanced eco-system. Asking what would happen if bees completely disappeared has led to the study of nighttime insects or “second shift” pollinators, such as the misunderstood moth, for food crop pollination. 

Initially, community members will be encouraged to join one or both live, online Monday afternoon lectures and Q & A sessions geared either toward K-12 students (Week 1) or SLU students and adults (Week 2) to learn about the project. During the lectures, participants will learn how easy and affordable it is to moth in their own backyards.

After the initial lectures, community members can join the artists on six subsequent nights of mothing from their own backyard in Alabama through video links like Zoom and/or Chat. The artists’ lighting and mothing set up there will be powered through recycled and repurposed solar arrays, further engaging issues on sustainability. Participants can talk to the artists directly, check in with others in their community, and see and learn about the moths the artists have collected. In addition, if they choose, participants can share photos or videos of the moths that have come to their own backyards set up through the video link.

Participants can also share their findings online with Project Noah and Butterflies and Moths of North America and use the LepSnap to both upload their photos and identify moths. This last step is crucial to the community becoming active as citizen scientists. These apps use data collected from various regions to track insect patterns, which then becomes valuable information to add to their databases. For those of you at SLU this semester, you’ll see very few North Country moths identified on the online databases.

The Moth Project creates interactive public engagements focusing on environmental education and empowers audiences through citizen science and backyard naturalism that can lead to new conversations and civic action. The project is geared to engage participants safely from their own yards or public parks. All they need is a way to access the Internet.