Question and Answer

What is Citizen Science?

There is a long history of public participation in science. Prior to the late 19th century, most scientific research was conducted by untrained, yet passionate, citizens. Today, we use the term citizen scientist to describe volunteers who collect data for research but who are not professional scientists.

Citizen science and monarch monitoring have been closely tied together for years. Starting in the 1950s, Dr. Fred Urquhart’s “Insect Migration Association” involved hundreds of volunteers in a search of the then mysterious overwintering grounds of migrating monarchs. This tagging project allowed Urquhart to track the flights of individual butterflies, and ultimately led to the 1975 discovery that monarchs from the northern U.S. and southern Canada were overwintering in central Mexico.

Public involvement in monarch citizen science programs has been growing since 1990. Several citizen science programs focus on different aspects of monarch biology, including migration, population dispersal, parasites, and overwintering. Find out more about them here.

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