Monarch Larva Monitoring Project: Beyond the Data
Posted on Saturday, January 1, 2011 at 11:18 am in Monarch Citizen Science
An MLMP volunteer reflects on her citizen science experiences and how they have inspired her.
"In the end we will conserve that which we love, we will love only that which we understand, and we will understand only that which we are taught." -Baba Dioum
Through the mind of a seventh grade student, Baba Dioum‘s printed words across the back of a Monarchs in the Classroom t-shirt had a somewhat dismissible personal meaning. Teaching meant homework, understanding meant getting an A on a test, and conservation was an altogether uncharted term.
I first became involved with the Monarch Larva Monitoring Project the summer after sixth grade with an invitation to participate in two years of summer monitoring with a group of 12 of my peers, headed by my middle school science teacher, Cindy Petersen. Despite not knowing much about the monarch, I accepted the invitation under the pretenses of having a Type A personality and a rather petulant misconception regarding the college application process. What developed was life changing; I was hooked on science. After two summers at Spring Peeper Meadow (our group‘s weekly monitoring site) learning about the differences between common and swamp milkweed and the threats of tachinid flies, I was certain that I was destined to be a scientist. I attended the Insect Fair, and even though I can no longer recall the specifics of what my project entailed, the amazing feeling of achievement is vivid. Perhaps it was this feeling that continued to fuel my interest in the biological sciences – the pride in contributing to a program of continental impact and an evolving appreciation for the incomparable beauty of the monarch.
The most beautiful and gratifying part of my experience came in the spring of my eighth grade year, when our monitoring group traveled to Morelia, Mexico to see the overwintering sites, guided by Bill Calvert. Words are incapable of describing the humbling magnificence of the millions of monarchs clinging to every needle of every branch of the orange forest so hidden away in the mountains of rural Mexico. The remarkable beauty of these surreal sites will be forever clear in my mind, as will their influence. Currently pursuing a degree in Pre-Veterinary Animal Science at the University of Minnesota, the Monarch Larvae Monitoring Project is responsible for sparking my interest in the sciences and I fully believe in its importance for securing the interests and enthusiasm of future biologists.
At twelve years old, I wasn‘t sure that spending a summer collecting field data on butterflies would have any positive effects on social standing, but the experience would change my life in ways that I only now begin to identify as a sophomore in college. I believe that the Monarch Larva Monitoring Project has infinite potential; it is the continental force behind monarch advocacy and conservation, and, of equal importance, it provides the opportunity to inspire young biologists of tomorrow.