For biologists, there’s a new place to do research: Flickr. Shaun Winterton, a senior entomologist at the California Department of Food and Agriculture, was browsing insect photos online last year when he spotted one with an unusual wing pattern he’d never seen. After talking with other experts, he realized it appeared to be a new insect species.

Winterton contacted the photographer, Guek Hock Ping, and learned that Guek had taken the photo on vacation. Without a specimen, the scientist couldn’t confirm that the insect was a new species. But a year later, Guek returned to the same vacation spot, saw the insect again, and this time brought it home. A researcher at the Natural History Museum in London, Steve Brooks, was able to confirm that it was a new insect. Winterton, Guek, and Brooks co-authored a paper introducing the insect (named Semachrysa jade, after Winterton’s daughter) to the world.

The story is an example of the new possibilities of citizen science, thanks to the quality of new digital cameras, and the rapid spread of information online. Now, there are many ways for non-professional naturalists to get involved in professional science, like the YardMap Project, which uses citizen data to study birds; Zombee Watch, which studies bees; the Tag a Tiny Tuna program, and many more. For another story of how Flickr has been used in citizen science, check out this video from PopTech:

Main image credit: Guek Hock Ping/ZooKeys