Monarch Watch recently celebrated its 30th year with a flutter of wings and activities, all dedicated to the beloved and at-risk monarch butterfly. Events included an evening in the garden, symposium, banquet and monarch tagging at Baker Wetlands Discovery Center.
Founded in 1992 by KU faculty member Chip Taylor, Ph.D., Monarch Watch provides research, education and public outreach. Through distributing free milkweed (the host plants for monarch caterpillars) and leading the Monarch Waystation program and tagging research, Monarch Watch promotes habitat restoration and helps sustain monarchs’ annual migration.
Monarch Waystation No. 1 was established in 2005 at the home of Monarch Watch on KU’s Lawrence campus. Today, there are more than 41,500 certified Monarch Waystations in home gardens, schoolyards and public spaces across the U.S. and in nine countries. By creating a waystation or adding milkweed to an existing garden, you can support monarch conservation. More than 1 million milkweed plants have been distributed through Monarch Watch campaigns since 2010.
Monarch migration happens in the fall when monarch butterflies migrate from the U.S. and Canada to mountains in central Mexico. They make the return flight in the spring. When tagged, researchers are better able to understand the timing and pace of the migration, survival rates and probability of monarchs reaching Mexico.
Raising support for research and habitat restoration is an ongoing Monarch Watch effort. They also are seeking to fully fund the Chip and Toni Taylor Professorship in Support of Monarch Watch that was started with a $1.4 million gift from Taylor and his wife, Toni. Additional gifts have brought the total to $2 million, with the target of at least $3 million to fully fund the position in perpetuity. Taylor recently announced he would step down as director, and the search has begun for his successor.
“In 1992, I had no idea how this small project would change my life, nor did I envision Monarch Watch as it is today,” Taylor said. “It’s fair to say that Monarch Watch continues to lead me into new areas of public education and lines of research I hadn’t anticipated. Each year brings new adventures and connections.”