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Evenings with Audubon: Monarch Butterflies: Dwindling numbers for an iconic insect

  • UW Arboretum Visitors Center 1207 Seminole Highway Madison, WI, 53711 United States (map)

A conservation biologist ponders moving beyond the documentation of decline

An Evenings with Audubon presentation by nationally-renown monarch expert Karen Oberhauser

A monarch butterfly on showy goldenrod at Madison Audubon's Goose Pond Sanctuary. Photo by Arlene Koziol

A monarch butterfly on showy goldenrod at Madison Audubon's Goose Pond Sanctuary. Photo by Arlene Koziol

Monarch butterflies populations have been declining over the last 20 years. Because insect numbers are notoriously difficult to assess, and because they often show large year to year fluctuations, simply documenting this decline has been a challenge. It is now important to move beyond simple documentation, and toward responding to the challenge posed by monarch conservation, and insect conservation in general. Monarchs are negatively impacted by many human activities, and various scientists and monarch advocates have implicated habitat degradation and loss, pesticide use, climate change, vehicular collisions, invasive species, and pathogen spread in their dwindling numbers.

In this presentation, Karen Oberhauser, one of the nation's top monarch conservation biologists, will describe the amazing biology of migratory monarch populations, and the work of citizens and scientists in documenting monarch numbers at all stages of their migratory cycle. She will discuss threats to monarchs, and potential responses to these threats. Because conservation biology must be, at its essence, a science of hope, Karen's focus is on positive changes as well as on the challenges posed by declining monarch numbers.


Karen Oberhauser is a Professor in the Dept. of Fisheries, Wildlife and Conservation Biology at the University of Minnesota, where she and her students conduct research on several aspects of monarch butterfly ecology. Her research depends on traditional lab and field techniques, as well as the contributions of a variety of audiences through citizen science; this research has resulted in over 100 scientific publications. Her strong interest in promoting a citizenry with a high degree of scientific and environmental literacy led to the development of a science education program that involves courses for teachers, and opportunities for youth to engage in research and share their findings with broad audiences. In 1996, she and graduate student Michelle Prysby started a nationwide Citizen Science project called the Monarch Larva Monitoring Project, which continues to engage hundreds of volunteers throughout North America. Karen is passionate about the conservation of the world’s biodiversity, and believes that the connections her projects promote between monarchs, humans, and the natural world promote meaningful conservation action. She is the chair of the Monarch Joint Joint Venture, and a founding officer of the Monarch Butterfly Fund. In 2013, Karen received a White House Champion of Change award for her work with Citizen Science.

More information can be found at monarchjointventure.org


This Evenings with Audubon program is presented in proud partnership with theWisconsin Chapter of the Society for Conservation Biology

Earlier Event: October 1
Birds, Bikes, & Brews
Later Event: October 22
Harry Potter Festival - Owl Post!