Monarch butterfly research is relevant to all of those interested in conservation. Even if conservation does not directly interest someone, the popularity of the iconic monarch butterfly tends to engage most. In the past and present, audiences have been excited about the research and wanted to know what they can do to help the monarch butterfly, whether it be planting milkweeds or raising monarchs from eggs to butterflies. Conservation research can benefit greatly from being presented and shared with others inside and out of the conservation community. Monarch butterfly research is just one example of how, when the word is spread, individuals tend to take notice and try to do what they can to help the species at risk.
The research aimed to provide much-needed baseline information for the conservation of the threatened monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus). This study was conducted locally, in three different prairies near Mt. Vernon, Iowa, including Waterworks Prairie, Wickiup, and Indian Creek Nature Center. Prairies were surveyed for milkweed plants using transects. The plants were then tracked for use by monarch butterflies throughout the summer by observing for the presence of monarch butterflies at various life stages. The research results included measures of milkweed density and distribution in the prairies to examine the relationship between prairie size and milkweed abundance. Samples of the milkweeds across the three prairies were measured to determine the role that the plants play in supporting monarchs at three life stages (egg, caterpillar, and butterfly). The resulting relationship between milkweed plants and monarchs helps provide a glimpse of the factors that limit monarch populations. Knowing the limiting factors allows for the creation of ideas for how to bring back the threatened monarch butterfly.
Libby Anderson, ’18
Spring Grove, IL
Jennifer Davis, ’18
Sponsor: Tammy Mildenstein