Calling all citizen scientists and nature lovers!
You may have heard that the monarch butterfly is in trouble. As a matter of fact, monarch populations have declined by 90% in recent years, largely due to a loss of habitat. Illegal logging in their winter home in Mexico and the loss of milkweed and other native flowering plants along their migration routes have had a profound impact on their ability to survive. This is sad news for Texas. The monarchs fly through our state in late fall on their way to Mexico and return to our fields of wildflowers that serve as their spring breeding grounds.
The good news: this is a problem that can be addressed – and not just by people in labs in white coats – but by you and me and our communities right here in Dallas. Texas Parks and Wildlife has started a project to record milkweed locations across the state. Milkweed is the only plant where monarchs will lay their eggs. The caterpillars rely on milkweed as virtually their only source of food. How will this project help monarchs? By tracking milkweed, we can identify the areas where monarchs need the most help from us, and we can plant milkweed gardens and monarch way-stations where they can feed and lay eggs.
How does the project work?
This program is managed through iNaturalist, a website where citizen scientists like you can upload photos of wildlife – plants, animals, insects, and even tracks and scat – and then receive information about your observations from other users. This helps scientists and organizations like Texas Parks and Wildlife create useful data. In this case, they are asking us to take pictures of milkweed and add those observations to the project page.
You can upload your photos to the website from a computer or tablet, or download the app for Apple and Android devices and upload directly.
If you’ve ever dreamed of being a scientist, or just think that wildlife is really cool, join the Texas Milkweeds and Monarchs project to help protect an iconic native butterfly!
And for information on how to identify milkweed species in your yard, check out this link from the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.