Partnering to conserve the monarch butterfly migration

Promoting Citizen Science Monitoring of Monarchs and Milkweed in Texas

In early spring, eastern monarchs leave their overwintering grounds in central Mexico and head towards Texas. It is here that the vast majority of these monarchs will breed, and where the monarchs that subsequently populate the rest of the eastern U.S. will be born. Monarch reproductive performance in Texas is thought to play a significant role in determining the size and success of the eastern monarch population through the rest of the season. In the fall, monarchs migrating to Mexico all funnel through Texas, where they must find nectar to fuel their flight and build fat reserves that will help them survive through the winter. Data from Texas are of great value for understanding eastern monarch population trends, and we need more monarch citizen scientists in the Lone Star state!

The MJV has partnered with the Cibolo Nature Center (CNC) in the Texas Hill Country to recruit and train new volunteers to participate in monarch citizen science programs, through two-day workshops. At each workshop, approximately 30 citizen scientists learn how to find and monitor monarchs as citizen scientists in the Monarch Larva Monitoring Project, the Monarch Watch tagging program, Journey North, Project Monarch Health, and the North American Butterfly Association.  CNC volunteers also conduct workshops for Texas Master Naturalists to encourage and inform their participation in monarch citizen science.  These workshops emphasize monarch biology, life cycle, habitat, behavior, milkweed cultivation, as well as both national and international threats to monarch survival.

In 2014, Cibolo Nature Center along with instructors Kip Kiphart and Cathy Downs had over 300 citizen scientists participate in their research events, and reached over 11,450 people in their monarch outreach events. CNC has partnered with MJV to put on monarch monitoring workshops since 2011, and CNC started their workshops in the early 2000s. These include talks at nature centers, schools, master gardeners, distance learning, and more. Thanks, Kip, Cathy, and Cibolo for all of your great outreach work in Texas! 

In addition to Cibolo Nature Center’s education work, they are working to create milkweed habitat for monarchs to ensure their conservation and sustain long term monitoring efforts. CNC has designated monarch larval monitoring areas that shelter milkweed throughout 100 acres of Boerne City Park, and acquired 62 acres of farmland sheltering over 300 milkweeds in a designated “Monarch Conservation Area.”

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