Study Monarchs: Citizen Science Opportunities

To understand the monarch migration, we rely on the help of citizen scientists to collect data during all phases of the annual life cycle of monarch breeding, migrating, and overwintering. While measuring and studying overwintering colonies may give us the best estimate of population size, it is important to gain insight into breeding population trends and factors influencing the migration within the U.S.

Each phase of the monarch annual life cycle plays a role in the overall health and abundance of North American monarchs. To estimate the overwintering population in Mexico, staff members of the World Wildlife Fund-Mexico and Comisión Nacional de Áreas Naturales Protegidas (CONANP) measure the area within the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve that is occupied by monarch overwintering colonies. In the U.S., however, information about the status of breeding and migration is collected by citizen scientists.

Here, we list some of the many opportunities to participate in monarch citizen science efforts in the U.S.

Monarch Citizen Science Overview Handout

Jump to: Tracking the Monarch Migration | Overwintering Site Management | Monitoring Larval Populations, Habitat, and Disease | General Butterfly Monitoring Programs 

Tracking the Monarch Migration

Journey North

Journey North is a citizen science program that focuses on migratory organisms, including gray whales, hummingbirds, American robins, whooping cranes, and monarchs. The project seeks to help scientists and the general public understand how migratory species respond to climate and changing seasons by tracking the journeys each year.

Monarch Watch Tagging

To determine monarch migration routes, and weather influence and survival during monarch migrations, Monarch Watch launched a tagging program to mark individual monarchs with a unique identification. The tagging program has produced a dataset with records of over one million tagged butterflies and more than 16,000 recoveries.

Southwest Monarch Study

Understanding migratory and breeding patterns in Arizona and the desert Southwest is very important, since monarchs there fall between the eastern and western migratory populations. The Southwest Monarch Study tracks migration and breeding patterns of monarchs in this region.

Correo Real

Correo Real is a monarch education project which tracks the monarch migration through northern Mexico. The project was created by Señora Rocio Treviño so that volunteers throughout northern Mexico could submit counts and observations of the fall monarch migration.      

Peninsula Point Monitoring Project

Peninsula Point Monitoring Project is an effort managed by the U.S. Forest Service to monitor monarch larvae and conduct migration counts at an important stopover site on the northern shore of Lake Michigan, Peninsula Point.

Monarch Monitoring Project

The Monarch Monitoring Project, or Cape May Monitoring Project, focuses on the fall migration of monarchs along the Atlantic coast, specifically through Cape May, an important migratory stopover for east coast monarchs. Volunteers record monarchs moving through West Cape May and Cape May Point, New Jersey.

Overwintering Site Management

Monarch Alert

Another western overwintering population program, Monarch Alert, focuses primarily on sampling of overwintering clusters in San Luis Obispo and Monterey counties. To gather information on movement of overwintering monarchs along the California coast, they also support a tagging program.

Western Monarch Thanksgiving Count

The Western Monarch Thanksgiving Count is a citizen science effort to observe and collect data on monarchs overwintering along the California coast. Since 1997, volunteers have been collecting and reporting information about the status of monarchs and overwintering sites in California during the week around Thanksgiving and the week around New Year’s Day.

Monitoring Larval Populations, Habitat, and Disease

Monarch Larva Monitoring Project

The Monarch Larva Monitoring Project is a citizen science effort to track monarch eggs and larvae across North America during the breeding season. Volunteers have been reporting data on monarch and milkweed density since 1997.

Project Monarch Health

Project Monarch Health is a collaborative study between citizen scientists and the University of Georgia to better understand Ophryocystis elektroscirrha, a microscopic protozoan parasite of monarchs more commonly known as OE.

Milkweeds of the National Park Service

This project, set up through iNaturalist, is an effort to identify and catalog milkweeds found in national park units throughout the United States.

iNaturalist Texas Milkweed and Monarchs

Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is working through the iNaturalist citizen science project to track milkweeds (Asclepias spp.) throughout the state of Texas. 

Western Monarch Milkweed Mapper

The WMMM is part of a collaborative effort to track monarchs and milkweeds across the Western U.S. Data contributed by citizen scientists will improve our understanding of the distribution and phenology of monarchs and milkweeds, identify important breeding areas, and help us better understand monarch conservation needs in the West.

Integrated Monarch Monitoring Program

The Integrated Monarch Monitoring Program is a program to monitor key monarch and habitat characteristics using spatially balanced sites across the monarch’s U.S. range. Your results will inform monarch population habitat targets, help scientists understand the threats monarchs face during the breeding season, and help to create strategies for implementing habitat enhancement. Combined with habitat management records over time, these data could also be used to assess the effectiveness of local conservation projects for monarchs.

Mission Monarch - Canada

Mission Monarch is a citizen science project dedicated to monarch conservation through better understanding the breeding habits of the butterfly in Canada. The four steps to get involved are 1) create an account, 2) find milkweed, 3) verify presence of a monarch(s), 4) submit observations.

Monarch Calendar Project

Monarch Watch is seeking the immediate assistance of citizen scientists in collecting observations of monarchs in their area during the spring and fall. This project is an attempt to assemble quantitative data on monarch numbers at critical times during the breeding season. The data from these observations will be used to assess their value in predicting trends in the population.

General Butterfly Monitoring Programs

Ohio Butterfly Monitoring Program

This citizen science program of the Ohio Lepidopterists focuses on long-term monitoring of butterfly populations in Ohio.

Illinois Butterfly Monitoring Network

The Illinois Butterfly Monitoring Network is a citizen science based monitoring program focused on monitoring butterfly populations in Illinois.


eButterfly allows citizen scientists across North America to report butterfly sightings and upload and store their own photos and submissions in a personal profile.

Butterflies and Moths of North America

The Butterfly and Moth Information Network hosts a program for Lepidoptera sightings called Butterflies and Moths of North America, or BAMONA. Their website serves to provide general information about nearly 6000 species and also provides high-quality photos and identification tools.

North American Butterfly Association

The North American Butterfly Association, or NABA, hosts a Butterfly Counts program for citizen scientists to collect data about butterfly populations while enjoying time with friends, family, and neighbors.


MonarchNet was established in 2009 to create a centralized resource of monarch monitoring data from a number of butterfly- and monarch- focused citizen science programs for researchers and citizen scientists.