University of Minnesota

Citizen Scientists Needed to Study the Changing Milkweed Population

Posted on Thursday, February 19, 2015 at 11:32 am in Monarch Lab Research Updates

(Photo: Diane Rock)

Biologists at the College of William and Mary are seeking volunteers to aid them in studying the genetics of Common Milkweed (Asclepias Syriaca) in order to track and understand how monarchs and other invertebrates will respond to changes in milkweed populations. The study depends on collecting Common Milkweed samples across its native range. This means the study also depends on dedicated citizen scientists willing to collect samples! Here is the letter from Dr. Harmony Dalgleish and Dr. Joshua Puzey calling for volunteers:

Monarch butterflies depend on milkweeds (Asclepia syriaca) for their survival. Alarmingly, milkweed populations are rapidly changing due to increased pressures from agriculture. This has negatively affected Monarch populations and is sure to impact other unique milkweed insects, including milkweed beetles (Tetraopes tetrophthalmus) and milkweed bugs (Oncopeltus fasciatus).

In order to understand more fully how monarchs and other insects will respond to changing milkweed populations, we need to understand the genetic structure of milkweed across its native range. Much in the same way DNA sequencing is used to understand patterns of relatedness in human families, we will use DNA sequencing to understand how geographically dispersed populations of common milkweed are related to each other. This information will help us predict the degree to which changing milkweed populations will impact monarch butterflies in the years to come.

This study will only be possible with the help of volunteers like you! This project depends on obtaining leaf samples from milkweed plants growing from across their native range. Volunteers are asked to collect leaves from five milkweed stems per population and, if possible, five milkweed bugs. Volunteers will be provided with a ‘collection kit’ containing detailed instructions, five tubes for leaf collections, five tubes for milkweed bug collection, and a pre-paid return envelope. If you are interested in volunteering, please send an email to and we will provide more information.

Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions.


Harmony Dalgleish, PhD
Assistant Prof. of Biolog
College of William and Mary


Joshua Puzey, PhD
Assistant Prof. of Biology
College of William and Mary

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