(June 5, 2017) -- The Biodiversity and Ecological Sustainability (BES) Laboratory at The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) has been invited to join the Monarch Joint Venture (MJV), a national organization of several dozen research institutes dedicated to monarch conservation, in recognition of UTSA’s top-tier research efforts related to Texas’s state insect.
“This has been an exciting journey and I’m very honored by this invitation from the MJV,” said Janis Bush, UTSA professor of environmental sciences, who leads the monarch research team. “Becoming a part of the MJV makes it possible for us to collaborate with institutions like the Field Museum, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, the Cibolo Nature Center, the National Parks Service and several dozen other remarkable research and conservation centers.”
Bush and her team are conducting research and working to educate diverse audiences about the importance of biological diversity and sustainability. Their research program focuses on plants and animals with low and fluctuating numbers, with the aim of determining the potential vulnerability to the species or communities.
In 2015, the Bush laboratory received a $300,000 grant from the Texas Comptroller to study the monarch butterfly and evaluate whether it should be placed on the endangered species list. UTSA’s work to conserve the monarch butterfly has since received honors from the federal government.
Last year, the UTSA Main Campus, where nearly seven acres of land are dedicated to monarch research, was named a Certified Wildlife Habitat by the National Wildlife Foundation.
“I’m very proud of the impact that our monarch butterfly research is having and of the continued recognition of Dr. Bush and her team,” said George Perry, Semmes Foundation Distinguished University Chair in Neurobiology and dean of the UTSA College of Sciences.
The BES Laboratory is currently conducting a three-year research study to better understand monarch butterflies and milkweed in Texas. Through surveys, greenhouse experiments and field experiments, UTSA researchers will determine the current population status of milkweed in Texas and the ideal growth requirements for native Texas milkweeds. They are also evaluating the effects of best management practices on milkweed and monarchs in Texas and study the utilization of nectar resources by monarchs.
“This information is essential in influencing conservation management decisions in this region. We’re excited for UTSA to be a part of our team, strengthening monarch research and revealing new information that will inform future monarch conservation actions that we and our partners undertake,” says Wendy Caldwell, MJV Coordinator.
In addition to its monarch butterfly research, the BES Laboratory – which includes two faculty members, five staff members, and 15 students -- has also developed an education and outreach program with the support of the U.S. Forest Service to support students interested in environmental science research careers. It is also actively engaging the San Antonio community in monarch conservation efforts though habitat restoration and local speaking engagements.
Through research, education and collaboration with many partners, the Bush team is already working on many aspects of the MJV’s Monarch Conservation Implementation Plan: a guideline for priority monarch conservation actions, which aims to provide valuable information to help guide federal, state, and local management strategies and engage stakeholders across a wide spectrum in monarch conservation.
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