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Community Science Opportunities

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To understand the monarch migration, we rely on the help of community scientists (also called 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's 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 community scientists. Check out the list below for opportunities to get involved with community science and monarch monitoring projects across North America.

Monarch Community Science Overview Handout

Which Monarch Community Science Program is Right for You?

Tracking the Monarch Migration

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    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.

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    Journey North

    Journey North engages citizen scientists from across North America in tracking migration and seasonal change to foster scientific understanding, environmental awareness, and the land ethic. Volunteers submit observations of the first monarchs in the spring, roosts in the fall as well as first emergence and presence of milkweed. Sign up for weekly news updates and watch real-time interactive maps.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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 the migration and breeding patterns of monarchs in this region.

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    Project Monarch

    Project Monarch uses the world’s smallest tracking devices to track Monarch migration. Download the app on your Bluetooth-enabled iOS or Android device and scan for tagged monarchs. View maps of tagged monarch observations on the app or website.

Overwintering Site Management

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    Western Monarch Count

    The Western Monarch Count is a community science effort to 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 New Year’s Day.

Monitoring Larval Populations, Habitat, and Disease

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    Western Monarch Milkweed Mapper

    The WMMM is part of a collaborative effort to track monarchs and milkweeds across the western U.S. Community science data will improve our understanding of the distribution and phenology of monarchs and milkweeds, identify important breeding areas, and help us better understand conservation needs in the West.

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    Integrated Monarch Monitoring Program

    The Integrated Monarch Monitoring Program collects milkweed, nectar plant, and monarch use data from a variety of land-use types and regions across the US. This information is vital to shaping our understanding of how monarchs interact with their environment, documenting conservation efforts, and tracking the population and its habitat as they change over time.

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    Mission Monarch - Canada

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

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    Monarch Calendar Project

    Monarch Watch seeks the assistance of community scientists in collecting observations of monarchs during the spring and fall, in order to assemble quantitative data on monarch numbers at critical times during the breeding season. The data will be used to assess their value in predicting trends in the population.

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    Monarch Rx

    Monarchs may visit dry or injured parts of plants to take up toxic chemicals called pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PAs). Monarch Rx increases our understanding of this behavior, its purpose, and how it relates to monarch conservation.

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    Mapping Milkweed for Monarchs in Georgia

    The State Botanical Garden of Georgia is working through this iNaturalist community science project to track milkweeds (Asclepias spp.) throughout the state of Georgia.

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    Desert Refuge: Monarchs and Milkweeds in Arizona

    Desert Refuge is an effort to better understand the overwintering behavior of monarchs in Arizona. The project engages community scientists across the state to locate nearby milkweed and report on its leafing and flowering stages, as well as any monarch activity on or around the plant, throughout the fall and winter.

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    Nevada Monarchs and Milkweed iNaturalist Project

    The purpose of this project is to understand the range of monarchs and native milkweed species in Nevada.

Urban/Suburban Monarch Monitoring

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    The Field Museum: Monarch Community Science

    Become a community scientist and help us learn more about milkweed gardens for monarch butterflies in the Chicago region. The data collected by community scientists helps researchers at the Field Museum understand how successful milkweed plants in cities and towns are at providing habitat for monarch caterpillars.

General Butterfly Monitoring Programs

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    Ohio Butterfly Monitoring Program

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

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    Illinois Butterfly Monitoring Network

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

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

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    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.

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    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.

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