The Monarch Project is a conservation effort for YIC to grow Milkweed plants to disperse around the Salt Lake City area. Milkweed is an important plant for Monarch butterflies as this is the only plant they can lay their eggs on and their larvae can consume. Monarch butterfly population numbers have been drastically declining in recent years, so this is an effort to increase their success of reproducing each season.
Last year, the first annual Monarch Project was successful as YIC grew over 1000 milkweed plants for their community to plant as way stations for migrating monarchs. This was accomplished through the help of STEMCAP leaders going in to the centers to assist with education, planting and care of the plants.
However, due to social distancing efforts this year the monarch project has needed to go virtual! This entails STEMCAP leaders dropping off supplies to the students, checking in on the milkweed through virtual meetings and photos, as well as handing off more responsibility for the care of the milkweed to the students. Scientists and STEMCAP staff have given weekly virtual presentations and facilitate live-stream discussions with YIC students about the Monarch butterflies, their migration and the importance of Milkweed. Some other related topics for these lectures include pollination biology and the importance of all types of pollinators, and careers in conservation.
So far, this project has once again been hugely successful thanks to the students’ flexibility and care along with help from staff in the youth centers. Virtual meetings with STEMCAP presenters have also kept the ball rolling, providing continued support and education to the students. The milkweed plants will hopefully soon be developed enough to transplant into the surrounding community!