Elizabeth Braatz wants to help you save the Monarch
ABOVE: Teaching a pollinator workshop. Exhibit A: bee in a jar!
This post was written for Open Spaces, the official blog of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. It’s part of a monthly series featuring SCA interns writing about their experiences working to promote, protect and study wildlife on public lands all over the United States.
Today, Elizabeth Braatz checks in from St. Croix Wetland Management District in Wisconsin. She’s part of the Career Discovery Internship Program, a collaboration between SCA and USFWS that’s strengthening the next generation of conservation leaders by connecting culturally and ethnically diverse college students to wildlife-focused career opportunities.
Early on in my SCA internship at St. Croix Wetland Management District, I learned three interesting facts about monarch butterflies.
1. Monarchs journey up to 3,000 miles between Mexico and the northern United States and Canada. each year, and this annual epic journey is actually undertaken by four generations of butterflies.
A monarch sits on a sunflower at Lacreek National Wildlife Refuge in South Dakota. Photo by Tom Koerner/USFWS
2. Monarchs are utterly dependent on milkweed. Adults can enjoy different types of flowers, but in the fat, brightly striped caterpillar stage, monarchs can only eat milkweed.
3. Monarch butterflies are in danger. Their population has declined from a peak of 1 billion butterflies in 1996-97 to a low of 33 million butterflies in 2013-14 – a crash of more than97 percent. Although numbers went up in 2015, and the overall decline is less dramatic if one looks at averages (average annual monarch population is 300 million and was 57 million in 2015), this still represents a major loss. habitat loss is a key factor behind this staggering decline.
While that last fact is pretty depressing, some exciting things going on give me cause to be cautiously optimistic. One of them is the Pollinator Resolution.
The Pollinator Resolution was started as a regional partnership among the National Park Service’s St. Croix National Scenic Riverway, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s St. Croix Wetland Management District, and the U.S. Forest Service’s Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest. Although not legally binding, Pollinator Resolution partners pledge to promote the restoration and creation of habitat for monarchs as well as to educate the public about these beautiful creatures. Thanks to strong efforts from the three founding organizations, and much hard work from local community volunteers, this partnership has grown to encompass over 50 organizations! They range from a local Rod and Gun club to a yoga studio to the Students for Sustainability club at the University of Minnesota (Full disclosure: I’m an officer in Students for Sustainability so naturally I got us to join).
The interns at the St. Croix Wetland Management District spend most of their time working in teams to complete large surveys, but each intern gets an individual project to focus on as well. Much to my delight, my individual project is to help promote the Pollinator Resolution.
My first Pollinator Resolution project was to create a brochure. St. Croix WMD gets frequent inquiries from people asking how they can help Monarchs, so my supervisor wanted me to design a brochure that people could take with them. I had a lot of fun with it. First, I looked up butterfly facts on the Fish and Wildlife Service’s awesome Save the Monarch Butterfly website (Go on! Click it!). Next, I sketched draft ideas on paper, to get a general idea of what type of information should go where.
Early drafts for the brochure. As you can see, this mostly consisted of drawing the stick-person equivalent of a butterfly.
After drafting all my paragraphs and headlines, I moved on to making things actually look good. I had this vision of overlapping butterfly silhouettes fluttering around the edges of the brochure. Due to copyright issues, we couldn’t use existing illustrations, so I drew some silhouettes, digitized them with my laptop, and spent some time fiddling with their size, transparency and overall placement.
My computer struggling to load hundreds of objects on the brochure’s file.
After this initial draft, my fledgling brochure then went through several rounds of the all-important feedback process. My supervisor, Chris Trosen, suggested some key rewordings (such as putting the partnering organizations into alphabetical order instead of, well, putting our name first), added additional contact information, and contributed a beautiful ArcMap map of his own creation. Another staff member, Caitlin Smith, helped me choose which plant species to highlight, and several more of my awesome co-workers saved me some embarrassment by catching silly little things like misspelled words and grammatical errors. From all of this feedback, my current (and possibly even final!) draft emerged. Here it is! I hope you enjoy it, and maybe even add a few of its recommended pollinator species to your garden.