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Month of the Monarch will honor 30 years of conservation; Monarch Watch to unveil future plans

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Post updated at 1:02 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 25:

Monarch Watch has enlisted help from thousands of community scientists all over the world to fulfill its mission: Bring back the monarchs. Those dedicated to that goal will celebrate three decades of conservation work in September as the organization announces its next steps.

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“When we started this program in 1992, we never envisioned how it would grow or what it would be. It’s an organization that reaches probably 100,000 people a year in one capacity or another,” said Orley “Chip” Taylor, founder and director of Monarch Watch.

Taylor, 85, said he officially retired from the University of Kansas in 2016; however, he still dedicates time and energy to Monarch Watch. Lately, he’s been working on a retrospective for presentation Sept. 15 during a 30th anniversary banquet at Abe & Jake’s. It’s one of several monarch-related activities across Lawrence in September.

Remembering the organization’s roots is only part of the festivities. A conversation about the future of Monarch Watch also will take center stage.

“Well, this celebration is really two things. It signals an end, and it signals a new beginning. And what’s gonna happen here is that there’s gonna be an announcement at this event about what that means,” Taylor said. “It means in a year or so, things are gonna change with respect to Monarch Watch, but the idea is to keep Monarch Watch going.”

Taylor said he would probably help with the transition “in one capacity or another.” He emphasized the future of conversation efforts would depend on effective communication and branding as well as adequate funding.

“We need to talk seriously about where all of this conservation energy has to be directed in the future and talk extensively about how to enlarge this,” Taylor said. “Monarchs and pollinators are, in general, facing decline, habitat loss, and we’re dealing with things that we don’t know. Insect numbers are generally decreasing. And so there’s a lot of work to do, and we need to get with it. But it takes resources to do that.”

Based at KU, Monarch Watch promotes habitat restoration for monarchs and fellow pollinators through its distribution of free milkweed plants, administration of Monarch Waystation sites, and the coordination of a tagging research project that spans east of the Rocky Mountains in the United States and Canada on the monarch’s path to Mexico.

Each fall, naturalists of all ages in Douglas County and beyond place a tiny sticker on a monarch’s wing and record a few simple details to help Monarch Watch track the species. More than a quarter of a million tags are distributed to volunteers across North America annually, according to Monarch Watch’s website.

The Monarch Waystation program, Taylor said, started out slowly in 2005 but has since picked up steam. Approximately 47,700 registered sites, including this one in Lawrence, provide milkweed, nectar and shelter for monarchs in breeding areas during migration. 

The program now registers up to 4,000 new sites each year. Waystations have been registered in nine countries, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, Taylor said. With the monarch considered a threatened species that is sustaining ongoing habitat destruction, waystations fill the gaps between the growing distances from one natural habitat to the next.

“It’s turned out to be very successful in the sense it has become kind of a brand,” Taylor said. “It’s jumped the fence, so to speak, and it’s become a symbol of how you create a habitat for a species that you care about.”

On Aug. 16, Lawrence Mayor Courtney Shipley proclaimed September the Month of the Monarch. The proclamation noted the “loss of habitats and resources needed for monarch butterflies” in the U.S., Canada and Mexico and called for their governments and citizens to “work together to create, conserve, and protect monarch habitats.”

Month of the Monarch

Here’s a roundup of community events planned during the Month of the Monarch.

Most events hosted by Monarch Watch require registration by Wednesday, Aug. 24, so don’t wait. You can register at this link. More information can be found on Monarch Watch’s website.

Contributed image

Monarch Watch 30th Year Celebration

2 to 3:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 3 at Lawrence Public Library, 707 Vermont St.

Attendees will see caterpillars, chrysalises and monarchs up close. This program is geared toward children ages 5 to 11 but suitable for all ages. Casey, Julie and Esther from Monarch Watch will demonstrate how to hold monarchs and identify males and females. They’ll also talk about monarch migration and how we can help. Everyone will learn how to tag monarchs and get free milkweed seeds to take home. This event is free, but registration is required. Contact Jenny Cook via email at jcook@lplks.org for more information.


Monarch Watch Banquet and Program

5:30 to 10 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 15 at Abe & Jake’s Landing, 8 E. Sixth St.

Happy hour kicks off the event with dinner following. A short program about Monarch Watch’s 30 years will be presented, and the evening will wrap with time to socialize and talk about the organization’s future. Attire is casual. Registration is due Aug. 31. Cost is $60 per person and includes appetizers, dinner, dessert, two drink tickets and the program.

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Monarch Watch Update Symposium and Box Lunch

9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday, Sept. 16 at Monarch Watch, 2021 Constant Ave.

This mini-conference with various speakers will provide monarch updates and brief tours of the facilities. Participants will break for lunch and convene for additional discussion. Taylor said he had invited colleagues from all over the country to talk about their research specialty and discuss the species’ future. Attire is casual and registration cost is $15 per person.  Fee includes the symposium and a boxed lunch containing a sandwich, side, dessert and drink. Register by Aug. 24.


Evening in the Garden

4:30 to 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 16 at Monarch Watch, 2021 Constant Ave.

A pollinator’s delight! Monarch Watch staff and Douglas County Master Gardeners will answer questions as participants explore Monarch Waystation No. 1. Attire is casual. Registration is free but due Aug. 24.


Monarch Watch Tagging

8 a.m. to noon Saturday, Sept. 17 at the Baker University Wetlands and Discovery Center, 1365 North 1250 Road

Monarch Watch will provide tags, butterfly nets and instructions. You’ll explore one of the most diverse habitats in Kansas while tagging monarchs as they migrate through Douglas County. Consider wearing your muck boots on this excursion. Some areas could present rugged and very wet conditions. Register here by Aug. 24 for this free event.


Author Talk with Sara Dykman: Bicycling with Butterflies

7 to 8 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 17 at the Raven Bookstore, 809 Massachusetts St.

Author and field researcher Sara Dykman will talk about monarch butterflies and her historic bicycle journey to track the butterfly’s migration patterns through three countries. Registration not required, but the Raven requires attendees to wear face masks and provide proof of vaccination against COVID-19. Visit this link for more information.


Pop-Up Science: Marvelous Monarchs

Noon to 1:30 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 18 at KU Natural History Museum, 1345 Jayhawk Blvd.

This family-oriented program invites attendees to participate in hands-on educational activities in a museum-gallery setting. Learn about monarch butterflies and conduct a science experiment that models how monarchs travel via thermal air masses. Registration is not required for this free event. Visit the museum’s website or contact Eleanor Gardner via email at eleanor.gardner@ku.edu for more information.

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Tricia Masenthin (she/her), equity reporter, can be reached at tmasenthin (at) lawrencekstimes (dot) com. Read more of her work for the Times here. Check out her staff bio here.

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