Invitation to Join Dr. Oberhauser's Study
I am assessing interest in participating in a monarch larval monitoring project next summer. We would like to have participants from representative locations throughout the summer range of monarchs, in both the eastern and western populations. We have worked out basic techniques for the last two years at the University of MN, and would provide clear instructions for anyone who is interested in participating. Data that we collect will be posted on the Monarch Watch web page, and on this listserv. All participants' names will be listed with their data in any dissemination of the results.
Participants would need access to a reliable location in which milkweed grows, preferably of at least an acre in size, although smaller sites may be acceptable. You would need to be willing to monitor the site at weekly, or, at most, ten-day intervals. Monitoring would involve keeping track of how many milkweed plants you check for eggs or larvae, and the number of individuals observed. It takes about 1-3 hours per monitoring period, depending on how many plants you look at and how much time you spend marveling about what you see. Depending on where you are, it would last anywhere from 2-3 months.
This study will provide the first large-scale assessment of larval densities throughout the course of an entire summer, and will be extremely valuable in determining the importance of different times and locations in monarch population numbers. Hopefully, we will be able to collect the data over several years to compare between as well as within-year densities. Thus, participants in 1997 would provide pilot, base-line data for a long-term study.
The skills required are ability to recognize monarch larvae, and to differentiate instars. We will distribute scientific drawings and descriptions to all participants to help with instar and egg identification. The work is fun, but it can be hard on the lower back! We have a core group of 3-4 people that work on this every week, and usually 2-4 extras (teachers, small children, boyfriends, girlfriends, etc). We've found that almost anyone is trainable!
If you're interested, please send a message to me at the above e-mail address. To save extraneous messages, it would probably be best not to post it to the entire list, but to send the messages to me individually. We will send a detailed description of the project, and anyone that is still interested after reading this description will receive the instar identification directions, data sheets, and everything else they'll need.
Dr. Karen Oberhauser