University Park,
09:49 AM

CAS Hosts Monarch Tagging at theNate

Butterfly tagging

Right now, a number of monarch butterflies are on their way to Mexico after making a pit-stop at Governors State University for what Professor Melissa Plakke hopes will be a new annual tradition for the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS). 

Plakke participated with biology students and faculty in the Monarch Watch Tagging program for the first time. The program is a large-scale science project aiming to study the monarch’s fall migration from Canada to Mexico, as they journey to avoid the cold weather. 

Participants across the country are called to catch the butterflies and to tag them with a sticker that’ll help biologists track them during their 3,000 mile trek. Monarch Watch, the nonprofit that began the project in 1992, uses the data gathered from these efforts to help understand the dynamics of the monarch’s trip. 

In early September, Plakke said she and her colleagues scrambled throughout the Nathan Manilow Sculpture Park donning butterfly catching nets as the creatures hovered through. They caught and tagged 50 butterflies in five hours. 

“It was such a blast seeing the students excited,” said Plakke, who started teaching at GSU in January and who helped to bring the program to the university. “ It’s hard not to have fun catching butterflies. You're just running around like Spongebob. It’s real work.”

These efforts to study the monarch come at a vital time, Plakke said, noting the monarch butterfly is a huge concern for conservationists. 

“We’re seeing them decline rapidly,” she said. “In fact, we’re worried about them becoming endangered and in some states they are.” 

Plakke hopes to inspire more students and community members who care about conservation to join her next year.

“It’s really a great source of comradery and a great community experience so I’m really excited to see it grow in the years to come,” she said.