Monarch Butterfly Ecology Camp Inspires Future Leaders

In December 2015, the National Wildlife Federation named San Antonio, TX a Monarch Champion City for committing to accomplish all of the actions under the Mayors’ Monarch Pledge, and partnered with organizations across the city to develop its Monarch Conservation Plan. One of those organizations, the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA), conducts research across Texas to determine the density of native milkweed populations throughout the state, the species of milkweed preferred by monarchs, the best practices for establishing milkweed, and the effects mowing has on monarch habitat.

In addition to this research, UTSA also educates the public about the monarch. During the 2015-2016 school year, UTSA students visited San Antonio elementary schools and taught 3rd – 5th graders about monarch winter survival strategies, monarch protection, and metamorphosis. UTSA’s latest project to engage the public in monarch conservation is a Monarch Butterfly Ecology Summer Camp for children ages 9-11, funded by the U.S. Forest Service. The camp was designed and executed by UTSA students through the Educating Youth in Environmental Science (EYES) program. Local elementary schools nominated students to attend the summer camp on a scholarship.

Students from San Antonio elementary schools enjoy their time at the Monarch Butterfly Ecology Camp at UTSA
Students from San Antonio elementary schools enjoy their time at the Monarch Butterfly Ecology Camp at UTSA

The National Wildlife Federation was invited to participate in the camp to help educate the students about the monarch work we are doing in communities across Texas, Oklahoma, and Arkansas. On July 21st, I spoke to the students about the importance of collaborative work between fields, and about how they can have a career working in wildlife conservation without a degree in science. When I was in school, I didn’t have programs like the Monarch Butterfly Ecology Camp or other hands-on exciting science curriculum; I was never inspired or excited in my science classes, and I pursued a liberal arts degree and then went to law school. Now, I find that conservation causes need people who understand effective communications and the policy process, because scientists often need help communicating their findings to the public so that people can act based on their research.

One student in the back raised her hand a few times to ask me questions. Later, the UTSA staff told me that she had not spoken much at the camp and was not interested in pursuing science, yet she seemed excited to learn about ways that she could contribute to conservation causes outside of the laboratory. Several students were curious about the Monarch Outreach Specialist position and opportunities beyond traditional science careers. I was thrilled at the students excitement and ambition, and I am proud to have helped them recognize potential paths that will allow them to help wildlife.

See Students In Action

Congratulations to the UTSA team for inspiring a new generation of conservation leaders! Click the button above to see more photos of the camp and learn more about UTSA’s monarch work.