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Monarch populations across the globe are declining. Mainly due to habitat loss in their breeding and overwintering grounds. Other factors affecting their population size include pesticide usage, changing climate, disease, and much more. More information about how all of these are affecting monarch populations can be found on the Monarch Joint Venture Website: https://monarchjointventure.org/monarch-biology/threats

 To determine where monarchs are being affected the most, data collection needs to occur, and to do this, citizen-science projects were created. With the help of citizens from all over the nation, large amounts of data can be collected to see where monarchs are present and how large their populations are in that area. This data helps scientists to determine conservation actions, such as listing monarchs as a threatened species, habitat restoration, education and more. 

Monarch Joint Venture

The Monarch Larva Monitoring Project (MLMP) is one of many citizen-science based projects being conducted around the nation. This project began in 2021 on Badger Lands after a partnership was formed with Monarch Joint Venture. In this program volunteers go out to designated sites and monitor for monarch adults, larva, and eggs on milkweed around the Badger Lands. The data collected through this program on the Badger Lands and across the nation is then used to make informed decisions about monarch conservation. 

About MLMP

LMP is a citizen-science project created by Monarch Join Venture in collaboration with the University of Wisconsin-Madison- Arboretum. This project allows for volunteers to go out into the field at the Badger Lands and look for monarch eggs, larva, and adults on milkweed plants. Participants in the program volunteer to monitor a particular site on the Badger Lands — following a standard protocol set by Monarch Joint Venture. Through online or in-person trainings, volunteers learn how to identify milkweed as well as the eggs, caterpillars, and pupae of monarch butterflies. They also learn about the monarch’s annual cycle of breeding, migrating, and overwintering. Through monitoring milkweed plants and collecting data, this helps to evaluate monarch density at the Badger lands.

There are multiple activities through MLMP that are used to collect data, but at the Badger lands we are measuring monarch density using datasheet 1C from Monarch Joint Venture. This specific activity has volunteers look at every milkweed plant they come across at their site. 

Once a week (roughly same day and time) volunteers go to their designated site and monitor for monarchs. Depending on the size and location of each site volunteers will either use randomized transects or look at every milkweed plant in their site area. After looking at milkweed plants volunteers record their data onto a data sheet (PDF). Once monitoring in the field is done, volunteers then enter data onto the Monarch Joint Venture website (https://app.mlmp.org/).

Monarch Egg - Image: Allison Sheldon
Monarch Egg

No experience is necessary! Volunteers learn the necessary skills to monitor through trainings. All supplies and equipment, if needed, is provided by the Sauk Prairie Conservation Alliance. Time commitment is roughly one full day at the beginning of summer to learn about monarchs and monitoring, and then about an hour once a week during the summer to monitor at assigned site. 

How to get involved 

  1. Read through the MLMP Manual (PDF) to determine if you are interested in monitoring at the Badger Lands from May until August.
  2. Contact Becca,Sauk Prairie Conservation Alliance Director, with your interest at saukprairieconservation@gmail.com
  3. To learn more about monitoring, view training videos and the 2021 training from Monarch Joint Venture.
  1. Attend online or in-person training to learn how to collect data, different life cycles and much more.
  2. Commit time to monitor once a week from May-October once a week for roughly an hour.

What a monitoring day looks like

  1. Once a week arrive at your site (roughly same day and time each week)
    1. Bring clipboard, pencil, and printed data sheet.
  2. Fill out top portion of datasheet, recording time, temperature, date, etc. 
  3. Begin monitoring.
    1. If you are monitoring every plant at your site look at every plant and look for all life stages of the monarch.
    2. If doing randomized transects choose location to start and begin doing randomized transects. Method determined by you and coordinator of project. Look for life stages at every milkweed plant within your arm span along transect.
      1. Generate next direction once at the edge of your site or when you reach obstruction (ex. tree or shrub). 
Monarch Caterpillar Picture
Image: Allison Sheldon

***If adult is seen while monitor, stop, and look around to see how many are around. Record number of adults on sheet and if you can tell if male/female. Only record adults once to avoid counting the same one twice.

  1. Monitor every milkweed plant in your transect or site area. This should take roughly an hour.
  2. While monitoring or at beginning/end record any blooming species at your site. Specifically, species that may provide nectar to adult monarchs.
  3. Once done monitoring fill out end time on datasheet.
  4. Go onto https://app.mlmp.org/ and enter data from datasheet. Do this the day of or the day after monitoring to ensure data gets recorded.
  5. At the end of the season mail all used datasheets to Sauk Prairie Conservation Alliance.

Sites

 After a volunteer has gone through training and expressed their interest to Becca, volunteers will be assigned to a site on the Badger Lands. Sites are assigned based on accessibility as well as other factors. The Bader Lands are unique in that there are 4 different landowners and many different areas in different stages of ecological restoration. Current sites are located on the Ho-Chunk Nation land (private), USDA Dairy Forage land (private), and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources land (public). Each property has a unique landscape and varies on restoration progress. Monarch monitoring sites will be defined based on amount of milkweed, species present and size. If size restrictions, location to road, or more is needed for accessibility please let the Monarch Coordinator know. 

Picture of Adult on Dame’s Rocket
Image: Allison Sheldon

Monitoring with kids

Monitoring for monarchs at the Badger Lands can be done alone, with a partner, as a group, or with kids. Looking for monarch at all life stages can be exciting for children of all ages, as it teaches them new skills and the ability to recognize a new species at all its life stages. Monarch Joint Venture provides tips for teaching kids and students how to monitor and about monarchs. The tips can be found at https://monarchjointventure.org/mlmp/mlmp-training/mlmp-helpful-how-to-scenarios/mlmp-tips-for-monitoring-with-kids

More monarch activities for kids, specifically at the Badger Lands can be found here, PDF.

Learn more about monarchs from Monarch Joint Venture!

Monarch Migration: https://monarchjointventure.org/monarch-biology/monarch-migration 

Monarch Life Cycle: https://monarchjointventure.org/monarch-biology/life-cycle 

Habitat Needs: https://monarchjointventure.org/monarch-biology/habitat-needs 

Threats: https://monarchjointventure.org/monarch-biology/threats 

Distribution: https://monarchjointventure.org/monarch-biology/global-distribution 

Reproduction: https://monarchjointventure.org/monarch-biology/reproduction 

Monarch Milkweed Interactions: https://monarchjointventure.org/monarch-biology/interactions-with-milkweed 

Other Monarch Citizen-Science Projects: https://monarchjointventure.org/get-involved/study-monarchs-community-science-opportunities 

Tips for Monitoring: https://monarchjointventure.org/mlmp/mlmp-training/know-before-you-go

Documents for Monitoring

PDF of Monitoring Manual

PDF of Data Sheet

PDF of Instructions for Entering Data

PDF of Milkweed Density Instructions

PDF of Ho-Chunk Waiver

PDF of DNR Waiver

PDF of SPCA Waiver

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