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Science Everyday people contribute to research that benefits
their communities and the world | By Sally James
their hindwings. He recently tagged almost 200 monarchs near Lake Havasu.
“It does not hurt the butterfly,” Graves emphasizes.
The migration of North American monarchs is an epic north-south journey
of up to 3,000 miles. Many monarchs spend the summer as far north as north-
ern Canada and winter in the southern United States or Mexico.
Tags help researchers with the nonprofit Southwest Monarch Study learn
new details about the migrations and about monarch numbers, which are
facing serious declines, according to a 2015 U.S. Forest Service report, “Con-
servation and Management of Monarch Butterflies: A Strategic Framework.”
Habitat loss is among the threats to the monarchs, notes the report, which
cites a White House memorandum stating that there is “imminent risk of
The Southwest Monarch Study is a member of the Monarch Joint Venture
partnership of public and private entities that coordinate efforts to protect the
monarch migration across the Lower 48 states. In addition to tagging butterflies
for tracking, Southwest Monarch Study activities include monitoring the amount
of native milkweed available to monarchs for food and laying eggs, supporting
the North American Monarch Conservation Plan, and
educating the public about the beautiful pollinators.
Retired software engineer Malcolm Colton, who
lives in California’s Sonoma County wine country,
collects information from his house for researchers
studying the microscopic landscapes of our homes.
The information is designed to help scientists learn
more about how microbes such as bacteria in our
houses influence our health, and this research may
one day lead to strategies for preventing illness.
Colton hung up a device that collects informa-
tion about temperature and humidity at his home, and also swabs his home to
collect microbe samples. The data is sent to a project called The Wild Life of
Our Homes (homes.yourwildlife.org), which is working to map home-related
microbes in all 50 states. The project, now in year three, was so intriguing,
more than 1,000 citizen scientists signed up after learning about it via social
media. New participants are not being sought, but there will most certainly be
other upcoming opportunities to help study the biodiversity of our everyday
lives, the project website notes.
“A number of adverse health symptoms or diseases (itchy eyes, headaches,
asthma, allergies, and auto-immune disorders, to name a few) may be linked to
changes in the microbial species with which we live,” explains the website.
images: shutterstock.com except as noted
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