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Citizen Scientists Needed to Track Monarch Butterflies in Wyoming

A citizen science program is seeking volunteers to track monarch butterflies and milkweed plants. (Pixabay)
A citizen science program is seeking volunteers to track monarch butterflies and milkweed plants. (Pixabay)
August 8, 2016

CHEYENNE, Wyo. – With monarch butterfly numbers on the decline, a Citizen Science program is calling for volunteers to help track the colorful insect and the milkweed plants they depend on for survival.

Brenna Marsicek, outreach coordinator at the University of Wyoming Biodiversity Institute, says the program will give the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service more data as it considers placing the monarch on the Endangered Species List.

"The whole reason we started the Citizen Science program was to increase our knowledge of the monarch,” she explains. “Whether it's declining here in the state or if it's doing well here, if this is even an important part of the country for these insects to travel through."

Monarchs travel more than 2,000 miles from Mexico to Canada, a journey that spans multiple generations. In the past two decades populations have decreased by more than 65 percent, according to the Center for Biological Diversity in Tucson, from an estimated 1 billion to just 150 million, mainly due to pesticides and the loss of habitat from development.

Marsicek says herbicide contributes to the loss of milkweed, since many people consider it to be a noxious weed. She says the plant is important because it's the only place the monarch will lays its eggs, and chemicals ingested from the plant makes the monarch caterpillars an unpleasant snack for predators.

Marsicek adds the fate of the butterfly and other pollinators is also tied to the nation's food supply.

"So they move pollen grains from one flower to another, and help plants create seed and reproduce,” she points out. “You know if you think of sunflower seeds, or apples, or basically anything you grow in your garden, is a product of pollination."

Marsicek says to get a better picture of how monarchs and milkweeds are faring in Wyoming, researchers need observations from every county.

Citizen scientists can join the effort by visiting

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - WY