Catchment News

Citizen science online: learning to identify Ireland’s Dragonflies and Damselflies

Dragonflies and damselflies are beautiful creatures. Their presence near freshwater can provide a useful indicator of water quality. Dave Wall, Citizen Science Officer with the National Biodiversity Data Centre, has provided online training videos and interactive quizzes for citizen scientists who want to learn how to identify and map them.

Dragonfly Ireland 2019 – 2024 is an all-Ireland survey of dragonflies and damselflies, and their habitats. The survey is coordinated by the National Biodiversity Data Centre in the Republic of Ireland and by the Centre for Environmental Data and Recording in Northern Ireland. Dragonfly Ireland 2019-2024 is funded by the Environmental Protection Agency as part of a citizen science project focusing on aquatic species and their potential as bioindicators. 

Please remember to follow the current public health guidelines when looking for these wonderful creatures.

Downy Emerald Photo: © Donna Rainey

Online tutorials: Identifying Ireland’s Dragonflies and Damselflies

The National Biodiversity Data Centre have made some really great videos to allow citizen scientists to get started on identifying and recording dragonflies and damselflies. Originally they planned to hold workshops for the public this year to show them how to do this, but these videos are great and will allow you to get started now. So if you’d like to learn about these wonderful creatures, and get involved with recording any you can find close to where you live, the videos below will get you started.

1. An Introduction to Dragonflies and Damselflies

A very short introduction to the history of dragonflies and damselflies and the differences and similarities between the two groups.

2. The Green and Red Damselflies

An introduction to Ireland’s green and red damselflies and how to identify them.

3. The Blue Damselflies

Got the Blues? This is an introduction to the most commonly confused of the Irish damselfly groups – the blues damselflies. This tutorial will bring you through the main identification features you can us to separate out and identify Ireland’s blue damselfly species.

4. The Hawker and Emperor Dragonflies

This tutorial is an introduction to the Irish Hawker and Emperor dragonflies and their identification. It also includes identification information for the golden ringed dragonfly.

5. Dragonflies: Emeralds, Chasers, Skimmers and Darters

This tutorial brings you through the identification features of the Emerald Dragonflies, Chasers, Skimmers and Darters.

Interactive online quizzes to test your identification skills

If you’d like to test your knowledge, you can access two interactive quizzes by clicking on the images below.

Name that Dragonfly

An interactive quiz to test your knowledge on dragonflies:

Name that Damselfly

An interactive quiz to test your knowledge on damselflies:

Recording your results

So now that you have learned all about these wonderful creatures and how to identify them, you can start working as a citizen scientist and recording your results.

Recording sheets are available on the National Biodiversity Data Centre website.

The project offers three levels of participation to volunteers:

  • Dragonfly Spotter encourages the submission of casual sightings of any Dragonfly or Damselfly species.
  • Dragonfly Recorder asks volunteers to conduct timed surveys of a freshwater site, record all dragonfly and damselfly species present, estimate their numbers, and assess their habitat. Two surveys must be completed, one in May/June and the second between July and September.
  • Dragonfly Monitor asks volunteers to conduct a minimum of four surveys at their local site, and to repeat site surveys annually.

Learn more:

If you would like to participate in Dragonfly Ireland 2019 – 2024, further information is available at:

Sightings of Dragonflies and Damselflies in Northern Ireland can be submitted at:

Four Spotted Chaser © Rachel McKenna

Who is involved?

Quite simply, everyone in Ireland has a role to play. This can be from something as simple as making sure you don’t pollute your local stream, or a local community working together to establish a Rivers Trust to enhance the rivers and lakes in their area, to a Government Department or Agency helping a Minister implement a new policy to help protect and enhance all our water bodies.

This website has been developed and is maintained by the Environmental Protection Agency, and is a collaboration between the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Local Authority Waters Programme.


Local Authority Waters Programme

The Local Authority Waters Programme coordinates the efforts of local authorities and other public bodies in the implementation of the River Basin Management Plan, and supports local community and stakeholder involvement in managing our natural waters, for everyone’s benefit.


Environmental Protection Agency

The EPA is responsible for coordinating the monitoring, assessment and reporting on the status of our 4,842 water bodies, looking at trends and changes, determining which waterbodies are at risk and what could be causing this, and drafting environmental objectives for each.


Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage

The Department is responsible for making sure that the right policies, regulations and resources are in place to implement the Water Framework Directive, and developing a River Basin Management Plan and Programme of Measures to protect and restore our waters.