Citizen scientists play a very important role in our understanding of monarch biology, distribution, and abundance. We rely on volunteer submitted data to assess long term trends in monarch populations, diseases and habitat availability. There are many different citizen science programs which focus specifically on one or many aspects of the monarch annual life cycle of breeding, migrating, and overwintering. A summary of these projects can be found on the Study Monarchs: Citizen Science Opportunities page of our website.
The University of Minnesota Monarch Lab is spearheading a number of different citizen science workshops to recruit and inform potential volunteers about opportunities to get involved in monarch monitoring. Locations for these workshops were chosen based on analyses done by Karen Oberhauser and Leslie Ries. These analyses determined locations that were both important to monarchs and where gaps in the data reported may exist.
In December 2013, Monarch Lab and Monarch Alert staff coordinated a 1.5 day workshop in San Luis Obispo, California. This workshop focused on monitoring overwintering monarchs in California by conducting counts and tagging butterflies. It also introduced opportunities to participate in Project Monarch Health, an initiative to sample adult butterflies for the monarch parasite Ophryocystis elektroscirrha, and the Monarch Larva Monitoring Project, a program aimed to track the distribution and abundance of monarch eggs and caterpillars.
In spring 2014, Monarch Larva Monitoring Project and Southwest Monarch Study staff put on an MJV sponsored workshop at the Riverfork Ranch near Minden Nevada. This workshop focused on monitoring milkweed patches for monarch eggs and larvae and on tagging monarchs to help us understand the western monarch population.
To help promote citizen scientists and the efforts that they put forth, the Monarch Lab has also developed a citizen science newsletter, MonarchNet news. The goal of the newsletter is to promote collaboration of ideas and findings amongst the various monarch and butterfly citizen science programs in North America. The first edition provided an overview of the different citizen science projects and information on the part of the monarch annual life cycle they study. You can sign up to receive this bi-monthly newsletter and other updates from the Monarch Joint Venture on our website.