Goals & Methods

Eastern forktail damselfly male © Joy Marzolf, Mass Audubon
Eastern forktail damselfly male © Joy Marzolf, Mass Audubon
Goals of our odonate sampling

  • Enhance our knowledge of the distribution and abundance of odonates throughout Massachusetts.
  • Provide new information to county and statewide databases on odonates, particularly related to rare species.
  • Test methods for quantifying odonate numbers in the field using transects and point counts.
  • Help guide statewide land protection and other conservation efforts by determining to what extent the odonate fauna of Mass Audubon wildlife sanctuaries is representative of the region.
  • Form partnerships with other organizations and state agencies interested in using our methods, expertise, and information.
  • Engage the public's interest in becoming active in protecting aquatic biodiversity.


This project has been conducted primarily at Mass Audubon wildlife sanctuaries. Funding was provided in 2004-5 through the Biodiversity Program of the Massachusetts Environmental Trust.

Sampling included:

  • General searches of likely odonate habitats at sanctuaries including non quantitative (looking for either presence or absence) or semi quantitative (a qualitative estimate of abundance in a defined section).
  • Estimating abundance through sampling a known distance along a transect line in suitable odonate habitat. An observer counts all odonates within 16 feet on either side of the transect.
  • Estimating abundances through point counts, in which the observer remains in the center of a circle of 16-feet radius and counts odonates passing within the circle in 10 minutes. Point counts were used when the observer's mobility was limited.
  • Searches along the edges of ponds, rivers, and other wetlands for exuviae, the cast off exoskeleton of nymphs. This indicates that the species has bred nearby.

To receive an electronic copy of the complete sampling protocols, contact Inventory Monitoring Project Coordinator.

Data Management

Mass Audubon’s odonate database is a Microsoft Access file that incorporates older odonate records in our general wildlife sanctuary species database with the results of more recent sampling that began in 2004. There are over 7,000 occurrence records in the odonate database, representing 184 separate sampling stations on 51 wildlife sanctuaries.

The database also includes over 1,000 records from transects and point counts, representing one of the first attempts of which we’re aware to gather quantitative information on adult odonate numbers.

Mass Audubon Odonate Monitoring Contributors

Suzie Bowman
Alexandra (Lexi) Brown
Robert Buchsbaum
Rene Laubach
Chris Leahy
David Ludlow
Dave McLain
Paul Miliotis 
Blair Nikula
Jennifer Ryan
Fred Saintours
Susie Schwoch
Ken Shea
Brian Steinberg
Taylor Yeager