Field Activities & Protocols

Field Activities

The Integrated Monarch Monitoring Program (IMMP) is designed to monitor various indicators of monarch population health and habitat quality and availability. Its results will inform monarch population habitat targets, help scientists understand the threats monarchs face, and inform habitat enhancement strategies. The material in this protocol is rigorous; attending an IMMP training session or completing online training prior to implementing this protocol is recommended.  

The IMMP protocol is divided into several activities described below. Participants can choose which activities to do at a monitoring site, but they are meant to be conducted at the same site on a routine basis. You may either choose a high-priority site that will provide weighted data, or choose a site of your own.

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Integrated Monarch Monitoring Program Overview

Introduction to the IMMP, program goals, and objectives. 

Site Selection

Participants use IMMP mapping tools to select a high priority IMMP site or self-chosen monitoring site. Contact for map access.

Monitoring Plot Setup

Monitoring coordinators will typically help volunteers select sites and delineate monitoring plots. However, those who wish to do so on their own may follow directions here.

Site Description

In order to participate in any of the activities, participants must first describe their monitoring plot. This includes noting disturbances at the site, vegetation composition, and other characteristics. | Site Description Datasheet

Activity 1: Milkweed and Blooming Plant Survey 

Activity 1 is designed to assess monarch habitat at a site. Participants count the number of milkweed host plants and assess the relative abundance of blooming plants that provide nectar for adult monarchs. Activities 1 and 2 may be combined if desired. Estimated time to conduct survey: 1-4 hours. Recommended frequency: Monthly. 
Activity 1 Datasheet (Level A)  |  Activity 1 Datasheet (Level B)   Activity 1 Datasheet (Census)

Activity 2: Monarch Egg and Larva Survey

In Activity 2, participants monitor milkweed plants in their monitoring plot for monarch eggs and larvae.  Estimated time to conduct survey: 1-2 hours. Recommended frequency: Weekly. | Activity 2 Datasheet

Activity 3: Adult Monarch Survey

Activity 3 documents adult monarch presence and behavior. Participants conduct a Modified Pollard Walk to count the number of adult monarchs present at their monitoring plot and record behavior of those monarchs. Estimated time to conduct survey: 30 min. Recommended frequency: Every other week. | Activity 3 Datasheet

Activity 4: Tracking Parasitism and Monarch Survival

Activity 4 is designed to assess local sources and rates of monarch parasitism through collection of monarch larvae that are reared and their fate reported. Important note: public lands often require a scientific collector’s permit to collect live organisms, so this activity cannot be conducted until necessary permits are secured. Estimated time to conduct survey: 15-30 min. Recommended frequency: Daily while larvae are developing. | Activity 4 Datasheet


The appendix includes information regarding program goals and objectives, monarch identification, tips for gaining land access permission, and more.


A glossary of terms found in these protocols.

Submitting Data

Participants submit their data electronically to the MJV using an application called Survey123. Volunteers are taught how to use this during the training workshop. If you did not attend a training and want to submit data, you can read the instructions here. Contact us at if you have questions.

Get Full IMMP Activity Protocols