Citizen science programs and conservation efforts throughout Canada, the U.S., and Mexico help us to understand monarch breeding, migrating, and overwintering. While the concept remains the same, different geographic locations and ecosystems differ slightly in monarch abundance and behavior. Less is known about western breeding habitats and migration flyways. For example, we know that monarchs migrating from the Upper Midwest go to Mexico, and monarchs from California typically migrate to the California coast. Arizona, which falls between the eastern and western migratory populations, is a different story. Studies to better understand the breeding and migratory behavior in this area are underway through programs like the Southwest Monarch Study (SWMS). SWMS is based in Arizona and provides citizen science and monarch conservation opportunities throughout the desert southwest. We are excited to partner with SWMS to expand our knowledge of the monarchs in this region and inform monarch conservation efforts there.
In addition to tagging and egg and larval monitoring, Southwest Monarch Study engages in many conservation efforts throughout the region. One of their major conservation projects has been working along the Salt River in downtown Phoenix to restore monarch habitat in the Rio Salado Habitat Restoration Area. The photo included here shows a group of volunteers working to plant trees at the Rio Salado site after a fire destroyed a portion of the habitat. Additionally they coordinate statewide milkweed seed collection efforts to promote area habitat restoration. Conversations with the Arizona Department of Transportation are underway, with progress in sight as Asclepias speciosa will be added to the roadside seed mix for at least two Arizona cities. Additionally, SWMS has developed regional how-to documents for monarch conservation in the southwest and shares information with a strong network in the region. They offer workshops and presentations for citizen scientists, landowners, land managers, and anyone interested in monarch conservation. MJV has called upon the expertise of SWMS leaders to help with targeted workshops in the western U.S. and we are eager to expand this relationship.
To learn more about the Southwest Monarch Study, visit their website: www.swmonarchs.org. Make sure that you also find and follow Southwest Monarch Study on Facebook to keep up with their most recent efforts. MJV is on Facebook and Twitter as well, if you aren't already following us!