Cornell College students working to restore habitats for the monarch butterfly

liz west / Wikipedia / CC BY 2.0  (MGN)
liz west / Wikipedia / CC BY 2.0 (MGN)(WILX)
Published: Jul. 25, 2019 at 3:25 AM CDT
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Cornell College in Mount Vernon Tammy Mildenstein says the monarch butterfly population has declined more than 90% over the last two decades.

Now, she and a group of students are trying to figure out why.

Monarch butterflies are major pollinators. To figure out how to save them, researchers have to look into their habitats.

The study they are doing involves milkweeds, where the butterflies lay their eggs. They then provide a food source when the caterpillars hatch from those eggs.

Cornell College students are studying a prairie in Iowa City, as well as ones in Cedar Rapids to see how many milkweeds there are, and they will look into planting more if needed.

Researchers also want to find out why monarchs use some milkweed plants over others.

Students taking part in the study say monarchs play a valuable role in our ecosystem.

"Monarchs do affect you directly,” said Amelia Auberry, a Cornell College student. “They pollinate plants and these plants include plants that you might enjoy out in your yard. Even agricultural plants they might affect."

"I never really knew much about monarch butterflies,” said student Emmaline Fievet.”Other than they're pretty before this project, and so now I just know the importance about the importance of them ecologically as pollinators.”

The students are doing this as part of a summer research project. They will send the results to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.

Then they will try to work out a way to restore as much of the habitat as they can. That could mean planting more milkweeds.