ELIZABETHTON, Tenn. (WJHL) — Community members joined together at Sycamore Shoals State Historic Park on Saturday to volunteer at a “butterfly count”, which is part of a national effort to preserve butterfly populations.

The annual Elizabethton Butterfly Count happens in partnership with the North American Butterfly Association. Approximately 20 people were out at Sycamore Shoals with binoculars and cameras, hoping to spot and log as many different species of the winged insects as they could.

Photo: WJHL

An hour in, and the group had identified half a dozen species.

Naturalist Don Holt led the group and told News Channel 11 this survey helps show changes in the butterfly population, and that it’s important the population stays healthy.

“Even though not everyone understands what pollination is, you do know it’s important because we eat food that grows from plants that are pollinated by insects,” Holt said. “The butterflies themselves may not be that active in the pollination of food crops, but they’re part of a healthy ecosystem. Without an ecosystem, there’s no us.”

Saturday’s butterfly count started at Sycamore Shoals but eventually moved to other locations in Elizabethton throughout the afternoon. Holt said this year’s group of nature enthusiasts was the largest he’d seen in a while.

“Today’s wonderful,” he said. “I think this is the largest group I’ve had in a long time. Today’s a perfect day. We’ve got beautiful weather. We’ve got a great turnout.”