11:39 pm - Tuesday September 19, 2017

Monarch Butterfly Citizen Scientists Needed in Colorado

 Monarch butterflies are at their lowest number in 100 years – since the beginning of record-keeping for the species – and Coloradans are invited to put on their citizen science hats this summer to help track what’s going on.

Lepidopterist Sarah Garrett at the Butterfly Pavilion says the trees that butterflies depend on during the winter in Mexico have been logged heavily, and a new report from the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) notes that climate change has disrupted migration. Garrett adds that milkweed, the plant the species depends on for their young, also is disappearing.

“I mean, it’s a weed and people don’t like it, and so people are using herbicides to try to get rid of it; trying to strip it from their garden landscape,” Garrett explains. “Therefore, you’re not going to see monarch caterpillars.”

Colorado Monarch Butterfly Monitoring Network volunteers will start documenting butterflies May 15. There’s also a Monarch Larva Monitoring Project. Those interested in either can contact the Butterfly Pavilion.

The new NWF report also takes a look at another Colorado species of interest: the Canada lynx. This year is the 15th anniversary of reintroduction of the lynx, which needs cold, snowy winters to thrive. Felice Stadler, NWF senior director of climate and energy, says their report is designed to instill a sense of urgency in reducing carbon pollution – which science says accelerates climate change.

“We have a moral obligation to leave a wildlife legacy for our children and grandchildren that we can be proud of. I think this is something that we all share,” says Stadler.

She says coal-fired power plants are the top source of carbon pollution, so more investment in clean energy is needed, as well as habitat conservation so species have some “wiggle room” when their habitat is affected by climate change.

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