The Rhode Island Odonata Atlas: Preliminary Results of a Six-Year Inventory of Dragonflies and Damselflies

Virginia A. Brown

Rhode Island Natural History Survey



The Rhode Island Odonata Atlas is a statewide, volunteer based inventory of dragonflies and damselflies, which began in 1998, and has just completed its 6th and final field season. Fifty-five (55) volunteers have participated in the project, donating thousands of hours to fieldwork, data entry and analysis, collection management, and publicity. The current species list for the state stands at 135, twenty-two (22) of which were added during the Atlas period. Included in the additions to the list are a few species of local and regional conservation interest, such as the Coppery Emerald (Somatochlora georgiana) and the Blackwater Bluet (Enallagma weewa). Faunal lists for various townships range from a low of 12 species to a high of 107 species. Burrillville, South Kingstown , and Richmond support the highest odonate diversity. Providence and Washington Counties rank among the most diverse counties in the country, with 125 and 126 species respectively. Several ponds and rivers contain more than half of the species reported for the state, and local diversity “hot spots” tend to be where large areas of protected and/or undeveloped landscapes exist. An analysis of the assemblage of 40 river and stream species, with further examination of 8 pollution sensitive species, may be useful in assessing the health of Rhode Island ’s watersheds. Rhode Island is a particularly productive place to conduct statewide inventories of insects because of its small size and large areas of accessible open space. Additionally, though one might suspect a limited fauna in a state of this size, Rhode Island has a great diversity of habitat types and an abundance of wetlands, which support a correspondingly high diversity of odonate species.


Biography: Virginia Brown is Coordinator of the Rhode Island Natural History Survey (RINHS) Inventory, Monitoring and Stewardship Program. She has a B.S. Wildlife Biology from Kansas State University , and worked as Curator of Research and Collections/Naturalist at the Cape Cod Museum of Natural History from 1981 to 1990 and as Director of Science and Stewardship for The Nature Conservancy in Providence , Rhode Island from 1990 to 2002. Virginia has 24 years experience studying Odonata. Her work includes research on rare species, population dynamics, behavior, monitoring techniques, habitat, etc. She authored Dragonflies and Damselflies of Cape Cod, a regional guide to the Odonata of southeastern Massachusetts , published in 1991. In 1998, she began the Rhode Island Odonata Atlas project, a statewide inventory of dragonflies and damselflies.


Contact Info: Virginia Brown, Rhode Island Natural History Survey, Room 11, Coastal Institute-Kingston, 1 Greenhouse Road, URI, Kingston, Rhode Island 02881. E-mail: