Today, the Monarch Joint Venture is pleased to announce our support for partner conservation projects in the upcoming year. We’ve allocated $100,000 to support actions outlined in the 2017 Monarch Conservation Implementation Plan. With this funding, 14 projects were identified that will support monarch habitat conservation and restoration, education and outreach, and research and monitoring across the United States.
The Monarch Conservation Implementation Plan, updated annually by the MJV partnership, identifies priority actions for monarch conservation in the U.S. These priorities inform our funding decisions each year, as well as the collaborative nature of proposed projects.
“We’re happy to be able to provide strategic funding for partners to make progress toward our nation’s monarch conservation goals, and are proud to have been able to offer this support to our partners throughout MJV’s existence,” says Wendy Caldwell, MJV Coordinator.
Find out more about this year’s projects below, and visit this page for a full list of all MJV funded projects.
Education and Outreach
Sand County Foundation is working to connect high school educators and students with hands-on pollinator and monarch habitat projects on commercial farms and rural electric facilities. They have identified several high school agricultural educators who are motivated to involve their students in restoration efforts, and through this project will support those teachers with instructional resources that align with current teaching standards. To this end, the MJV is supporting Sand County Foundation to develop much needed curricula and trainings for teachers to create effective habitat for monarchs with their students in rural and ROW landscapes.
As recently as 2014, only a handful of records existed for monarchs and milkweeds in Idaho. In 2016, Idaho Department of Fish and Game (IDFG) undertook a statewide survey of milkweeds and monarch natal habitats to better understand their distributions, habitat associations, and conservation threats. As part of the survey project, IDFG conducted extensive public outreach through news releases, newsletters, presentations, and workshops co-hosted with Monarch Joint Venture and Xerces Society partners. This outreach was met with extraordinary, statewide public interest in monarch conservation. With MJV support, IDFG will address this mounting interest by providing an array of education and outreach programs to increase public awareness of monarch conservation issues, promote monarch citizen science opportunities, and increase volunteer reporting of monarchs and milkweeds in Idaho and the western landscape.
Missourians for Monarchs is a statewide collaborative bringing diverse interests together for monarch conservation. In this project, the coalition is working on reaching out to three audiences in Missouri to bring about landscape level conservation: agricultural producers, the general public, and conservation organizations. They are developing three different videos tailored to each group, to be distributed online and on DVD. Through these videos, Missourians for Monarchs seeks to educate landowners and affect change on the landscape, and will provide a missing resource for Missourians interested in monarch conservation.
There are significant data gaps in our understanding of the western monarch population, especially in Utah, Nevada, New Mexico and remote locations in Arizona. The lack of information about migration and breeding behavior in these areas means it is difficult to make accurate projections about conservation management activities and needs. The Southwest Monarch Study conducts tagging and monarch butterfly monitoring in the southwest which engages people of all ages in conservation. This summer, they will extend their training workshops to areas where data is lacking to recruit and educate long-term volunteers in those areas.
To foster a connection between today’s youth and the environment and conservation concerns, Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever developed the Youth Pollinator Habitat Program in 2014. Since the development of the program, volunteer chapters have established 186 projects across the country on 369 acres in 17 states. In partnership with the MJV, they will provide additional educational opportunities for youth and communities to get outside, enjoy nature, and learn about restoring habitat for monarch butterflies and pollinating insects.
Habitat Restoration and Enhancement
The Iowa Department of Natural Resources will construct a greenhouse to increase local production of native milkweeds and other forbs in partnership with the USFWS, the Iowa DNR Parks Bureau, and the Iowa Department of Corrections. This greenhouse will be capable of producing over 20,000 plugs per year, including milkweed species such as Asclepias verticillata and Asclepias tuberosa as well as many additional native nectar species for monarchs. This project will help the Iowa DNR’s Prairie Resource Center become a self sustaining seed source for their own, and local partner, monarch habitat restorations!
Back to Natives Restoration (BTN), a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization in California connects the community to habitat restoration through service learning and native plant education. BTN assists in the recovery of Orange County’s biodiversity. The BTN Native Plant Reserve (Cuesta Kato), once restored, is slated to be a habitat demonstration site providing habitat for monarchs and other wildlife in the area and will also provide a source of native milkweed and nectar plant seeds for further restoration work. The site is highly visible to the public and with targeted education will serve to inspire others to get involved in native plant habitat restoration. Throughout the restoration process, the site will contribute data to monarch citizen science programs to further our understanding of monarch migration and breeding in the west and provide exciting volunteer and service learning opportunities for the public.
The Missouri Prairie Foundation (MPF) will establish prairie plantings on three sites containing both original prairie and also degraded areas to be improved, from just south of Kansas City, MO to just south of Joplin, MO. These former row crop or grazed pasture areas will total more than 150 enhanced acres. They are immediately adjacent to original remnant prairies, so restoration will provide important contiguous habitat for monarchs and other wildlife that depend on prairies to survive! These acres will be enhanced with a diverse mix of native prairie plugs (including six Asclepias species) over the next three years. Future seeds from these plantings will be collected by native seed suppliers for use on other monarch habitat enhancement projects statewide.
Research and Monitoring
The Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin (NRF) will hold three monarch-specific trainings in Wisconsin to increase the number of monarch citizen scientists in the state. These trainings will focus on recruiting and training volunteers for the Monarch Larva Monitoring Project, Project Monarch Health, and Journey North, as well as information about monarch ecology and habitat conservation. These citizen science programs provide critical data to help inform conservation efforts in Wisconsin and across the country.
The Monarch Larva Monitoring Project (MLMP) plays a large role in gathering of data to address important monarch conservation questions, however there are challenges to staying current in these technological times. With MJV support, the University of Minnesota Monarch Lab will support MLMP data entry platform improvements through both their website and the Monarch SOS mobile application. Over the past few years, the Monarch Lab has been collaboratively working with other MJV partners on the Monarch SOS mobile app to aid citizen scientists in collecting and then submitting data to a number of monarch citizen science programs.
Rights-of-way (ROWs), roadsides, and other neglected but importantly ubiquitous landscape features offer unique potential with regard to monarch and pollinator conservation and comprise roughly 12 million acres nationwide. Vegetation management within ROWs is required to maintain corridors with minimal safety hazards for the utility. The Ohio Pollinator Habitat Initiative is in the second year of a project to study the impacts of varying management practices in pipeline ROWs to inform how utilities can cost-effectively implement monarch and pollinator friendly management practices on their wide ranging lands.
In partnership with Caltrans, Ducks Unlimited, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, and Toyota Motor Corporation, Pollinator Partnership will conduct a series of migratory habitat enhancements and monitoring along the California State Route 152 corridor, which runs from Fairmead (Route 99) west to the coast (Watsonville). Data produced by monitoring of the habitat enhancement sites can be used to guide future restoration efforts by the state and will contribute to our understanding of western habitats.
The Monarch Conservation Science Partnership (MCSP), a collaborative of scientists and conservation professionals from academia, NGOs and federal and state agencies, has developed an Integrated Monitoring Strategy to track monarchs and their habitat using a spatially balanced sampling scheme. Information gathered with this strategy will support continued development of MCSP models and tools that yield conservation recommendations. Furthermore, data collected over the long term will help track long-term population status and trends and aid in evaluating the effectiveness of conservation actions. To date, MCSP analyses have focused on setting population and habitat targets, modeling threats, and developing conservation recommendations for monarchs in the eastern U.S., and have been tested in the east. Recognizing that western monarchs have unique life history characteristics and biogeographical differences, a Western MCSP convened last year, and is receiving funding from the MJV to evaluate and improve the applicability of MCSP protocols for western habitats.
The Western Monarch Thanksgiving Count (WMTC) is a volunteer citizen scientist driven effort managed by the Xerces Society that has produced an annual estimate of the population of monarch butterflies that overwinter along the California coast since 1997. While participation in the WMTC overall has expanded in recent years with the national increase in attention to monarch butterflies and their plight, coverage of many sites in southern California has declined. Sites that were historically monitored are no longer being visited. Many questions relevant to monarch conservation related to O.e. prevalence, movement, and phenology could be answered by increased citizen scientist participation from the San Diego area, where a year-round monarch breeding has been documented. To increase participation in this critical citizen science effort, the Xerces Society will host a training workshop in San Diego to teach about the WMTC and other monarch citizen science opportunities.
The Monarch Joint Venture is a national partnership of federal and state agencies, non-governmental organizations, and academic programs working together to conserve the monarch butterfly migration. The content in this article does not necessarily reflect the positions of all Monarch Joint Venture partners. Header photo by Wendy Caldwell.