Fly Southwest Monarch Study for Citizen Science

By nfriedman | June 25, 2016 12:52 pm

In Arizona and the surrounding Southwestern United States, over 400 people are participating in a nine-year ongoing game of tag. But these folks are not tagging each other. They’re actually romping about in meadows with small nets, hoping to catch and tag a Monarch butterfly.

In 2003 Chris Kline began the Southwest Monarch Study in order to track the migration pattern of the Monarchs that appear in Arizona. Much was known about the migration of Monarchs down the eastern coast to Mexico, but this was not enough. Kline rallied Arizona locals to achieve mass data collection across the state, uncovering information about the unique Monarch population.

Gail Morris is the current project leader of the Southwest Monarch Study and she radiates a passion for Monarchs. She sees beauty beyond the surface of their iridescent wings. Gail says that “it’s their incredibly long migration that gets me most excited.” She explains how wildly adaptable they are, as they use adverse weather conditions to their advantage. These little, thin winged creatures use Arizona’s annual monsoon to take flight thousands of feet into the air and fly fifty to one hundred miles a day. They can use columns of warm rising air called ‘thermals’ for travel. Once, after a day of meadow-romping, Gail was chatting with a friend by their cars: “This monarch shot up from a tree at angle like a plane ascending.” They marveled as it it joined a cast of hawks in a thermal and disappeared into the sky.

So where are these butterflies going when they catch a ride in the wind? According to the Southwest Monarch study, it depends. Arizona Monarchs have a unique travel agenda, and it even varies from day to day. Monarchs comfortably take the wind as it blows, following it to specific overwintering locations in either California or Mexico depending on how the wind presents itself on the day they take flight. These locations can be as specific as a single tree, flocked to year after year. Some Monarchs even stay in Arizona through the winter, merely migrating to lower altitudes.

All of this raw data was gathered by the locals, and analyzed by professional scientists. “The local people often see the movement but it had never been published,” Gail says. A while back Gail was searching for Monarchs with a group of citizen scientists in Northern Arizona. “These bird watchers heard we were looking for orange butterflies and they said ‘Stop at the fishery, you’ll find them there’”. This did not align with Gail’s previous knowledge about Monarch habitats, but she hesitantly followed her own mantra: the locals know best. When the group arrived at the fishery they were surrounded by walnut trees and these trees were showered in Monarchs. Gail was struck yet again by the Monarch’s adaptability to variable habitats.

Lisa Rensch also finds her free time best spent chasing butterflies. She’s a prominent citizen scientist with the study, as she has been tagging with her daughter since 2013. Her daughter, only one year old when they began, learned to delicately handle the butterflies. Lisa is a true nature lover, completely losing track of time as she tracks the Monarchs. While tagging she has run into goldfinches and even “a nest of deer mice,” she says. “It was lined with thistle down, the babies all snuggled cozy inside.” She never knows what she’ll find while searching for Monarchs.

Currently the Southwest Monarch study is expanding. Groups in California, Utah, and Colorado are now tagging. As science often goes, the findings of the Southwest Monarch study have led not only to answers, but to further questions about these resilient creatures.

Ultimately, the study hopes to further encourage conservation. Families and public areas are already inspired by the project, filling in the missing link to Monarch survival: rich sources of nectar for the butterflies to feed on. Southwest Monarch Study is teaming up with the city of Mesa, Tanto National forest, the Nature Conservatory, and the Bureau of Land Management, where each organization is adding milkweed to their property as a nectar source to support feeding of the Monarchs. Milkweed is a rich nectar source for other pollinators as well, so other animals will benefit a side effect.

If you are wowed by these little troopers and live in the Southwestern United States, check out the Southwest Monarch Study. Find caterpillars, tag butterflies, plant milkweed and watch your garden come alive. If you are elsewhere, keep learning about these fascinating creatures by checking out this video, or learning about the findings from the study. Knowledge breads conservation; discovering how cool science is breads passion.


Love pollinators and want to do more? Check out our newsletter featuring other interesting pollinator citizen science projects that you can participate in!

 

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Citizen Science, Environment

Celebrate Pollinator Week with Citizen Science!

By Eva Lewandowski | June 23, 2016 3:14 pm
Photo: Wendy Caldwell

This week we celebrate National Pollinator Week, in honor of the bees, butterflies, beetles, and other animals that provide essential services to ecosystems and agricultural lands everywhere.

Citizen science is at the forefront of pollinator research, and below we highlight six projects that you can join to help study and protect pollinators. To find more, visit the SciStarter Global Project Finder.

Cheers!
The SciStarter Team

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Helping Herptiles with Citizen Science

By Eva Lewandowski | June 13, 2016 10:43 pm
Photo: USFWS
Amphibians and reptiles, also known as herptiles or herps, are the focus of many citizen science projects. Are you interested in frogs, turtles, and snakes? If you are, join one of the projects below to study the distribution and population status of these wonderful creatures!
Find more than 1,600 projects and events in the SciStarter Global Project Finder.
Cheers!
The SciStarter Team

Cuban Treefrog
Cuban Treefrogs are an invasive species causing trouble throughout the state of Florida. Report the presence of Cuban Treefrogs and native Treefrogs.

North Carolina Sea Turtle Project
Volunteers along the North Carolina coast are needed to search for sea turtle tracks and report nests and strandings. These activities help biologists monitor and protect the turtles.

Photo: Janalee Caldwell
OK Amphibian Disease Testing
Students and teachers in Oklahoma are needed to catch frogs, quickly swab their skin, and send the collected samples in to be tested for a fungal disease. Lesson plans are available.

Photo: Mike Pingleton
HerpMapper
Whenever you see a reptile or amphibian of any kind, you can report it to HerpMapper. You can easily keep a record of your own sightings and contribute to a larger database of herptile populations.

Photo: Henry Doorly Zoo
Amphibian Conservation and Education Project
Volunteers throughout Nebraska can participate in this project by monitoring amphibian populations, testing for diseases, and monitoring the quality of aquatic habitats.

Explore the Frontiers of CitizenScience in New Book from ASU.

The latest volume in “The Rightful Place of Science” series is a cutting-edge look at the changing relationship between science and the public. Co-edited by SciStarter Founder, Darlene Cavalier, with a blurb from Bill Nye the Science Guy.Get your copy today!

 

Celebrate World Oceans Day with Citizen Science!

By Eva Lewandowski | June 8, 2016 1:55 pm

Photo: USFWS

Today, June 8th, people across the world will celebrate World Oceans Day, a day set aside to honor and protect our oceans.

To help you participate in World Oceans Day, we’ve put together a list of 7 ocean-based citizen science projects that need your help.

That’s not all though. For a comprehensive list of ocean and marine citizen science projects, check out SciStarter’s project finder!

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Boat Trips for Bat Monitoring: How Wisconsin Residents are Helping Bat Conservation

By Eva Lewandowski | June 4, 2016 9:15 pm
Bat Monitoring on Boats (Image Credit: WDNR, Wisconsin Bat Program)

Bat Monitoring on Boats (Image Credit: WDNR, Wisconsin Bat Program)

When you think about wildlife you might encounter while boating, fish, turtles, and waterbirds all come to mind. But a growing group of citizen scientists in Wisconsin is using boats to find a whole different type of animal – bats. In parts of the state, bat monitoring by boat, canoe, or kayak has become the go-to method for many volunteers seeking to collect data on these elusive nighttime creatures that play a key role in keeping insect populations in check.

These volunteers are part of the Wisconsin Bat Program, a citizen science project run by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. There are three different ways that Wisconsin residents can contribute to our understanding of bat populations across the state. The most involved, and for many the most fun, is to conduct night time acoustic monitoring using special handheld bat detectors. These small devices pick up ultrasonic sounds – the noises that bats use to echolocate and navigate through their environment. Volunteers walk, drive, or boat along survey routes, and the bat detector, which is paired with a GPS device, records the presence of bats in the area. Because different species of bats make different sorts of calls, the species in the area can often be determined even if they are never seen. Read More

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Autoimmune Diseases Affect Millions of Americans: Here’s How Citizen Science Can Help

By Guest | June 1, 2016 12:32 am

Autoimmune Citizen Science is an app to help people with autoimmune diseases track their symptoms, lab tests, and treatments in order to see what’s working and what isn’t. Individual data is aggregated in order to see what’s working for the community as a whole. Check out the project on SciStarter and sign up for the beta testing phase of the app.

Autoimmune disease in the United States (Image Credit: AICS)

Autoimmune disease in the United States (Image Credit: AICS)

by Vivek Mandan

Despite the estimated 50 million Americans with at least one or more autoimmune diseases, public awareness is practically nonexistent. How could this be? 50 million individuals out of a national population of 320 million is almost 16%. With almost one-sixth of the nation suffering, autoimmune disease is present at epidemic proportions – yet, medical treatment remains limited and research scarce and disorganized. How did this happen silently and unnoticed when we have the most advanced medical knowledge in the history of the world? Read More

Citizen Science for Bat Fans!

By Eva Lewandowski | May 26, 2016 6:32 pm
Photo: USFWS
Those Elusive Flying Mammals!

Bats can be tricky to spot and observe but let’s try because they need our help.  As disease, habitat loss, and climate change decimate some bat populations, we can help scientists monitor and protect them.

Below, our editors highlight five bat-related citizen projects from around the globe.

Find more than 1,600 projects and events in the SciStarter Global Project Finder.
Cheers!
The SciStarter Team

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MORE ABOUT: bats

Better Living through Citizen Science

By Eva Lewandowski | May 20, 2016 12:23 am
Life-changing citizen science.
People just like you are advancing medical research. Wondering where to start?
Our editors have selected six projects to get you started. Find more than 1,600 citizen science projects and events in the SciStarter Global Project Finder.
Cheers!
The SciStarter Team

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Tell your citizen science story with #MyCitSci

By Catherine Hoffman | May 12, 2016 6:25 am

MyCitSci-500x250

During Citizen Science Day, we asked our community of citizen scientists to tell their stories and experiences in words and pictures. Here, we’ve summarized many of the amazing stories we’ve heard. There is still time to tell yours. You can post them to our Facebook page or tag us on Twitter with #MyCitSci. We can’t wait to hear your story!

Citizen science is
…exploring new places

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Citizen Science

Look Up Into to the Starry Night for Science

By Guest | May 3, 2016 11:58 pm
Composite image of the Earth at night (NASA)

Composite image of the Earth at night (NASA)

Help researchers monitor and understand light pollution with a simple smartphone app

Guest post by Christopher Kyba

How many stars can you see when you look up at the night sky? The answer depends a bit on your vision and a lot on where you live. The bright sky over cities reduces the contrast between the stars and the spaces between them, making them difficult or impossible to see. It’s similar to how the noise from traffic makes it hard to hear singing birds.

This phenomenon is known as light pollution and is of concern for both ecological and human health reasons. For example, the croaking of frogs and toads is a nighttime breeding ritual and artificial right disrupts this activity, reducing populations. Similarly, birds that migrate or hunt at night can have their navigation severely affected by artificial light. Read More

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