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Hope for The Monarchs: Education and Outreach in Texas

Nov 11, 2016


  • Conservation Stories
  • MJV Partnership News

This post was written by the Cibolo Nature Center & Farm, in cooperation with the Monarch Joint Venture.

Fourteen years ago, Texan Monarch enthusiasts Mary Kennedy and Kip Kiphart began hosting Monarch Larva Monitoring Project trainings, including the “MLMP @ CNC Back Porch Review,” to train citizen scientists to monitor a milkweed patch at the Cibolo Nature Center & Farm.  Their goal was to recruit and train volunteers to monitor regional milkweed patches during the annual migrations.  At the time, they had no idea that these trainings would evolve into a monarch monitoring and conservation effort to train and educate citizen scientists and monarch advocates throughout the State of Texas.

Initially, Kip and Mary’s workshops focused on the monarch’s migration, lifecycle, habitats and the Monarch Larva Monitoring Project.  In the years that followed, a variety of experts provided knowledge about creating butterfly gardens, propagating milkweed, and tagging monarch butterflies for Monarch Watch.  As the monarch population began to decline, the workshop expanded to include the threats to monarch butterflies and practical solutions to increase monarch habitat.

In 2012 the Cibolo Nature Center & Farm become a member of the Monarch Joint Venture (MJV).  With the MJV’s support, the Nature Center and its volunteers now train and conduct outreach to natural resource experts, academics, teachers, master naturalists, master gardeners, Audubon groups, college students and many other organizations and professionals.  Through its partnership with the MJV, the Cibolo Nature Center & Farm has been empowered to educate over 40,000 citizen scientists and monarch advocates in the preservation of the monarch butterfly.

Of the many monarch conservationists who have emerged from these workshops, Cathy Downs is the most active.  Driven by compassion and enthusiasm, Cathy travels throughout the state educating young and old through workshops, presentations, booths, and distance learning.  In 2015 she educated over 15,000 people throughout Texas, and in 2016 she will increase this number to over 18,000 in a single year. An example of Cathy’s outreach is the recent Meet the Monarchs! webinar for youth as part of the MJV and NCTC Monarch Conservation Webinar Series, now available on archive. Her consistent hope is that she will inspire more people to become Monarch advocates and that their collective efforts will reverse the decline of this majestic butterfly.                                                                              

Fortunately, these outreach efforts are growing and succeeding as more leaders are emerging throughout the state, including:

  • Carol Clark in Allen
  • Cindy Stone in Austin
  • Craig Hensely, Interpretive Specialist at Guadalupe River State Park
  • Dale Clark of the Dallas County Lepidopterist Society
  • Barbara Keller-Willy with Monarch Gateway
  • Mike Quinn with Austin Butterfly Forum
  • Monika Maeckle at Texas Butterfly Ranch
  • …and many others.

The Cibolo Nature Center & Farm is also thrilled to welcome Texas Parks and Wildlife, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin, the Native Plant Society of Texas, Armand Bayou Nature Center near Houston, and the San Antonio Zoo to the Monarch Joint Venture.   The chorus of advocacy coming through these and other organizations, as well as the growing number of Monarch advocates, will ensure a secure Texas flyway for future generations of migrating Monarch butterflies.

Tagging demonstration

Cathy Downs providing a tagging demo for kids, including proper netting technique. Got one! 

A full room learning about monarch conservation in Amarillo

Cathy’s presentation filled a room in Amarillo.  If just one of these people becomes an active and outspoken advocate for Monarchs, they can effect thousands more people. 

Header photo: Kip Kiphart and Cathy Downs pose along side of newly trained citizen scientists and Monarch advocates next to the milkweed patch at the Cibolo Nature Center & Farm.

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. All photos provided by Cibolo Nature Center & Farm.