Track Monarch Butterflies As They Migrate

Curious Public Helps Researchers Study Patterns

Volunteers tagged five monarch butterflies at Sunnylands in Rancho Mirage to help track their journey as they migrate for the fall.

Sunnylands Center and Gardens

Aside from the high-profile conferences that still happen at the West Coast Camp David, known as Sunnylands, a remarkable project took wing late summer -- one that will span many months.

"(Aug. 31) was the first day of Sunnyland’s Center & Gardens participation in the Southwest Monarch Program," said Michaeleen Gallagher, the director of education and environmental programs for Sunnylands Center and Gardens in Rancho Mirage.

Researchers launched The Monarch Program in 1990 as a way to nurture a growing public interest in monarch butterflies.

At their headquarters, based in Encinitas, outside of San Diego, researchers study the behavior of the butterfly, cultivate plants in their greenhouse and offer classroom field trips to learn more about the elegant Danaus plexippus.

The creature's migration patterns are one facet of their research, and now more members of the public volunteer to tag monarchs to track their on their journey.

On the first day of the project at Sunnylands, Gallagher, environmental coordinator Kelly Reynolds and two education assistants, Danielle Sombati and Kacey Donner, netted, tagged and recorded information on five monarch butterflies found in the gardens.

The personal tagging allows Gallagher and her team the chance to track where their butterflies scatter off to.

"If these butterflies are found at other locations, we will be notified by SWMP and that information will contribute to current data," Gallagher said. "This program tracks monarchs in the southwest United States, an area that currently has very little data on migration patterns. Butterflies tagged at Sunnylands will hopefully turn up at other sites and be reported."

"Tagging parties" will be held throughout the late summer and early fall in Southern California.

For more information on The Monarch Program, click here.

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