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Field Activities & Protocols

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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 before 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.

Download Full IMMP Protocol Guidebook


Integrated Monarch Monitoring Program Overview

Introduction to the IMMP, program goals, and objectives.

Site Selection

Participants use IMMP mapping tools within the IMMP User Portal to select a high-priority IMMP site or self-chosen monitoring site. Contact for questions.

Monitoring Plot Setup

Download: Plot Setup Cheat Sheet

Once you've selected a monitoring site, you will determine which type of monitoring plot to set up according to your site characteristics.

Site Description & Conservation Management History

Download: Site Description Datasheet | Conservation Management History Datasheet

Describe the monitoring plot before conducting any activities. Site Description Page 1 is only completed once per year; this record basic information about the plot location and surrounding. Site description Page 2 must be completed on the first and all subsequent visits. The Conservation Management History form must be completed for sites undergoing any conservation management; it records management history and can be added to each year.

Estimated time to conduct: 15 minutes

Required Frequency: Full form on the first visit per year, page 2 on all other visits.


> Activity 1: Milkweed and Blooming Plant Survey

Download: Activity 1 Datasheet (Level A) | Activity 1 Datasheet (Level B) | Activity 1 Datasheet (Census)

Activity 1 assesses pollinator habitat at a site. Participants count the number of milkweed plants and assess the relative abundance of blooming plants that provide nectar for adult monarchs. Leval A & B apply to sites roughly >0.5 acres or larger and involve collecting data within subplots along transects. The Census survey is applicable to small sites or non-diverse homogenous sites such as a crop field (often, baseline data before restoration). Activities 1 and 2 may be combined if desired.

Estimated time to conduct: 1-4 hours

Recommended Frequency: Monthly

> Activity 2: Monarch Egg and Larva Survey

Download: Activity 2 Datasheet

In Activity 2, participants monitor milkweed plants in their monitoring plot for monarch eggs and larvae.

Estimated time to conduct: 1-2 hours

Recommended Frequency: Weekly

> Activity 3: Adult Monarch Survey

Download: Activity 3 Datasheet

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 the behavior of those monarchs.

Estimated time to conduct: 30 minutes

Recommended Frequency: Every other week

> Activity 4: Tracking Parasitism and Monarch Survival

Download: Activity 4 Datasheet

Activity 4 is designed to assess local sources and rates of monarch parasitism by collecting 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: 15 - 30 minutes

Recommended Frequency: Daily while larvae are developing


> Appendix & Glossary

The appendix includes information regarding program goals and objectives, monarch identification, tips for gaining land access permission, and more. The glossary provides definitions of terms found in these protocols.

> Submitting Data

Participants submit their data electronically via the new IMMP Data Portal. See our IMMP Data Portal User Guide or explore the videos below on setting up a user account, registering a site, and entering data into the portal. Contact us at if you have questions.

How to Register a User Account (Video)
How to Register a Monitoring Site (Video)
How to Manage Sites and Users (PDF)
How to Enter Data: Intro and Site Description (Video)