Making Monarch Monitoring Accessible for Everyone

Allison Boehm grew up on a farm near Wadena, Iowa, and is entering her final year at ISU, majoring in Environmental Science and pursuing a minor in Animal Ecology. A lifetime Cyclone fan, she loves being outdoors and is excited to be working in the field with ISU researchers.

One of the main goals of Iowa Learning Farms and Water Rocks! is to help keep the community informed and up to date with ways for them to help improve the quality of the land and environment. As a water resources intern this summer, I am participating in a project that does just that!

At the beginning of the summer, I sat down with the extension wildlife specialist at Iowa State, Adam Janke, to brainstorm ideas on how to make monarch monitoring accessible to landowners. Monarch monitoring is counting and recording monarch butterflies, larvae, and their food sources, milkweed and flowering plants. This data quantifies monarch populations and the amount and quality of monarch habitat, which is used to determine where populations are low, and where habitat needs to be created.

These pollinators have been on the decline for many years now, largely due to loss of habitat. There are a few programs across the country that aim to collect information on monarchs through the help of volunteers, but many of them require a lot of time, and do not show landowners monarch data for their own land. This was our goal, to find a manageable way for landowners to keep track of how many monarchs, larvae, and food sources on their land that does not require more than a few hours to complete.

This summer, all seven of the water resources interns have been testing a method that may be the answer. We are also using a well-known method to collect data to compare results. This fall, we will compare to see if both methods yield similar results, and hopefully, we’ll create a guide for landowners to conduct their own monitoring!

This project could allow for everyone to take part in helping save a species that is so vital to the environment!

Allison Boehm