The MMMILC Project has both scientific and educational components. Some aspects of the projects are firmly focused conducting scientific research to better understand the seasonal timing of species interactions. Other aspects of this project have educational and mentorship goals: to provide students with experience in the conduct of ecological field research and to provide lasting opportunities for scientists of all stages to engage with the process of scientific mentorship. As much as possible, we are working to build a project where the research, education and mentorship goal are synergistic.
There are two main ways in with you can become involved in the MMMILC Project:
- First, if you are a high school student in the environmental science program at Davis Senior High School, or associated with the Center for Land-Based Learning’s GreenCorps program, we’d love to have your help in monitoring milkweed-monarch interactions.
- Second, if you are an undergraduate or graduate student at the University of California, Davis, we’d love to have you join our mentorship team.
Let me explain a little background. One of the core scientific goals of this project is to build a long-term, large-scale dataset describing the coordinated seasonal timing of milkweed and monarch life histories. We are interested in using this dataset to understand whether the seasonal coordination of this important interaction is changing. Changes in the relative timing of species interactions have been suggested as one potentially important ecological consequence of climate change, and we are interested in using the milkweed community to better understand the role of seasonal timing for species interactions.
This brings me back to the MMMILC Project. Since 2013, we have been working with the Putah Creek Council and the Yolo County Resource Conservation District to establish a large population of 840 new milkweed plants in the North Davis Riparian Greenbelt, an urban greening project in the city of Davis, CA. These milkweeds are long-lived perennial plants, and new shoots will emerge from belowground roots each spring. We plan to monitor the growth and development of both the milkweeds and the monarch caterpillars that we expect to see each season. To monitor such a large population of milkweeds every week over the long growing season, we will need some help.
We are planning to work with motivated students in the Environmental Science program at Davis Senior High School and the Center for Land-Based Learning’s GreenCorps program to regularly monitor these milkweed-monarch interactions each week, all season long, for many years. The students that participate in this project will participate in a real research project; this work will help to build a unique and important dataset to better understand the ecology of milkweed-monarch interactions. So, if you are a high school student interested in participating in this project, I would encourage you to check out the links above to see if you are eligible to join the team.
The high school students that participate in this project will receive training in the natural history of milkweeds and mentorship in the process and conduct of scientific research. We will be building a team of advanced undergraduate and graduate students to provide direct mentorship to the high school students on the projects; our hope is that this mentorship experience will be fun and valuable for students and scientists at every stage. So, if you are an undergraduate or graduate student at the University of California, Davis interested in contributing to this research project, please contact Louie H. Yang (firstname.lastname@example.org) for details.
If you don’t fit into either of the two categories above, there are lots of other ways for you to get involved. There are several excellent organizations focused on the study and conservation of milkweeds and monarchs, including the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, Monarch Watch, and Journey North. There are also lots of great organizations focused on local habitat conservation, restoration and education, including the Putah Creek Council, the Center for Land-Based Learning, and the UC Davis Aboretum. If you know of others organizations that we should add this list, please let me know.