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New Publication Highlights the Impact of IMMP

Jun 07, 2019


  • Community Science
  • Recent Research

A new paper, “The Integrated Monarch Monitoring Program: From Design to Implementation” (Cariveau et al. 2019), shares the rationale, progress and importance of large-scale monitoring of monarchs and their habitats through the Integrated Monarch Monitoring Program (IMMP).

While monarch monitoring efforts have existed for decades, a more comprehensive and integrated approach to monitoring monarchs and their habitats across the landscape was developed to fill data gaps and improve conservation efforts. Compared to other monarch citizen science programs, this growing dataset aims to target sampling locations that are geographically widespread and cover different land use types, not just known monarch habitat areas.

“This program is especially important because it integrates data on habitat – milkweed and nectar plants – with data on monarch use, which really hasn’t been done before at this scale” said Alison Cariveau, Monarch Joint Venture (MJV) Science Coordinator and lead author of the paper.

In 2015, the Monarch Conservation Science Partnership, including scientists from USFWS, USGS, MJV, and other institutions teamed up to develop the IMMP, and it has now undergone three pilot years of data collection and refinement.

Citizen scientists, conservation partners, biologists, and land managers participate in the IMMP to monitor breeding habitat, foraging resources, and monarchs of all life stages. Participants can select which activities they would like to conduct and can select a site of their choosing or a random priority site.

A key element of the IMMP is its proactive site selection design that obtains representative data throughout the monarch breeding range. Geographically distributed data allow evaluation of how monarch habitat and its use vary across ecoregions, latitude, elevation, and climatic conditions. Ecologically representative sampling collects data on all habitats that may be suitable for monarchs, rather than just easily accessible sites or known habitat locations.

Map of high priority monarch monitoring blocks.
The IMMP needs your help to monitor monarchs and their habitat throughout the country. This map shows the top 500 priority sampling blocks in the nation. See a block near you? Get involved here.

The IMMP will greatly improve our knowledge of monarch biology.  Pairing habitat data with monarch use provides an opportunity to assess how monarchs interact with a variety of habitat characteristics. IMMP data can also be used to address other critical research questions for monarchs, pollinators and the environment.

Involvement from a broad array of partners is essential for implementing a successful monitoring program for such a widely distributed species. Other programs, such as the North American Bat Monitoring Program and the Breeding Bird Survey, have succeeded at this scale and have made a significant impact on conservation policy. In three pilot years, the IMMP has already been implemented at hundreds of sites across California, Georgia, Iowa, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Texas and Wisconsin, showing strong potential to reach the scale and impact of other successful large-scale monitoring programs.

“The IMMP is taking off,” said Laura Lukens, MJV National Monitoring Coordinator and paper co-author. “The growing participation, ranging from individual volunteers to state-wide organizations, has shown us this program meets an important need for a better understanding of monarchs and their habitats.”

Widespread participation is needed to achieve the goals of the IMMP over the long-term. Success will depend on engaging partners across government, academia and organizations, alongside a cadre of citizen scientists. These efforts are only just beginning, and the potential for long-term scientific payoff is enormous.

Ultimately, monarch conservation relies on the cooperation of all stakeholders not only in protecting and restoring habitat, but also in understanding and evaluating this species and the habitats on which it relies.

To learn more or find out how you can take part in the IMMP, visit  Read the full paper here:


The content for the article was modified from the following paper:
Cariveau AB, Holt HL, Ward JP, Lukens L, Kasten K, Thieme J, Caldwell W, Tuerk K, Baum KA, Drobney P, Drum RG, Grundel R, Hamilton K, Hoang C, Kinkead K, McIntyre J, Thogmartin WE, Turner T, Weiser EL and Oberhauser K (2019) The Integrated Monarch Monitoring Program: From Design to Implementation. Front. Ecol. Evol. 7:167. doi: 10.3389/fevo.2019.00167

The Monarch Joint Venture is a national partnership of federal and state agencies, non-governmental organizations, businesses 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 Laura Lukens.