Monarch butterfly presenter speaks on decline, conservation efforts


Arabella Hau/ Iowa State Daily

Karen Oberhauser presented “Monarch Conservation: Saving an Iconic Insect,” during which she said her goal was not just to save monarch butterflies, but other species as well.

Arabella Hau

The Great Hall of the Memorial Union was packed with people Thursday to hear a presentation on the declining monarch population and what can be done to conserve the species.

Karen Oberhauser, director of the University of Wisconsin-Madison Arboretum and director of the Monarch Larva Monitoring Project, presented “Monarch Conservation: Saving an Iconic Insect” to a room full of students, faculty and members of the general public.

Oberhauser introduced the monarch discussion by explaining the overall goal is not just to save the monarch butterflies, but to save other species as well.

The level of interest held by people around the world was also heavily emphasized to show that despite the great interest in the species, the monarch numbers are dying.

“I learned a lot more about what’s going on with monarch conservation and the ways that we personally as citizens can help with monarch conservation,” said Collin Stratton, senior in animal ecology.

Oberhauser focused on the fact that most monarch butterflies are unique because they migrate due to weather and breeding patterns. Oberhauser said no other insect has an organized system like monarchs do.

“I’ve participated in some monarch research,” said Rachel Vanausdall, a research associate for natural resource ecology and management. “And I’ve read several papers by [Oberhauser] and have always been interested in her work and the stuff she presented wasn’t very new to me because it’s stuff I’ve read in the literature, but I enjoyed it and it’s nice to see a big crowd of people here to listen to what she has to say […]”

Oberhauser talked about the factors that affect the monarch population, such as climatic change, habitat availability and harmful pesticides.

“I didn’t know as much about the factors that were causing them to decline,” said Alexias Townsend, a freshman in food science. “I thought that they were just in general on the decline because of various reasons. Now I know it’s this pesticide, the reduction of land, it’s climate change. I really have more of an understanding of why monarchs are on the decline and also more of what I can do to help. Maybe one of the biggest impacts is that even if you do such a small thing, it can help overall.”

Examples of what people can do to participate in the conservation of monarchs were presented to the audience, including creating habitats, supporting conservation organizations and sharing information about monarchs.

“I think there are a lot of good things we can do as students and citizens,” said Matthew Card, senior in animal ecology. “Just as far as gardening and things we can do around Ames especially that can help (the butterflies) on their way down to Mexico.”

Not only scientists have an affect on the population of monarchs, as the presentation displayed ideas of how everyone can take part in the conservation effort in their everyday life.

“We have some untamed land and I was thinking that if I could supplement that with some more seeds, or [make] sure that we don’t spray it just to make it more (butterfly) friendly,” Townsend said.