Judith Arnold, a 5th grade teacher at Marshall Elementary Magnet School, took her class of 25 students on a field trip to Buffalo Park on August 24th. The students were participating in an ambitious Monarch Butterfly project. Liz Blaker, NAU faculty and insect expert, coordinated the efforts to capture the monarch butterflies. Liz and Judith also worked together last year to capture, test the monarchs for OE (an obligate, protozoan parasite) and then mark and release the monarchs to monitor their migration if recaptured.
Jessica Thomas, a senior in Environmental Sciences at NAU, helped the students search for eggs, larvae and adults. Read below for how you can have Jessica assist your class with some Monarch and Milkweed adventures as well!
Zack Zdinak, a local naturalist, educator and artist, began the day by showing the students a species of milkweed that is not found at Buffalo Park, but that they could plant in their school garden. He donated seedlings he collected in his yard. Monarch larvae only eat milkweed, so expanding the milkweed plants in school gardens will increase the food source for monarch butterflies and hopefully increase their population.
Jan Busco, an NAU Horticulturist and the "Students for Sustainable Living and Urban Gardening" (SSLUG) Coordinator, also gave some milkweed plants to Marshall Elementary. On the field trip she showed the students the difference between some native and exotic plants. Students spent some time picking cheat grass, a highly flammable non-native species commonly found in Flagstaff.
Thank you's also go to John Taylor, of Terra BIRDS, who helped the students in Judith's class plant milkweed in the Marshall garden; and USGS Research Scientist Greg Vaughan who answered numerous student questions about space exploration as they cooled off from their monarch chasing adventures in the lobby of the USGS Astrogeology Center!
If you are interested in learning more about opportunities with Monarchs and Milkweeds, contact Mindy. She will put you in touch with Jessica Thomas, the Environmental Sciences senior at NAU who is serving as an intern for STEM City this semester!
About the Project Monarch Health citizen science project at the University of Georgia:
About OE: http://monarchparasites.uga.edu/whatisOE/