Monarch Butterflies in a tree, a larvae, a tagged monarch, and another picture of a monarch butterfly.

About Monarch Alert

The monarchs, butterflies that overwinter in California can number in excess of 100,000!  Populations of western monarchs are known to fluctuate from year to year.  Monarch Alert is a citizen based research project backed by graduate student researchers and faculty from Cal Poly State University, San Luis Obispo.  We focus on the demography and population fluctuations of western monarch butterflies, through sampling of overwintering populations in San Luis Obispo and Monterey Counties. We also partner with citizen scientists to understand breeding habits and abundance of monarch butterflies in backyard gardens. This is accomplished through tagging data collected by citizen scientists. Join us!

The program rests on a solid foundation of research set by Dennis Frey (Ph.D. Emeritus, Cal Poly), and the Ventana Wildlife Society.  We appreciate all of their previous (and ongoing efforts) and acknowledge their essential contributions to this program.

The Monarch Alert Program is now under the direction of Cal Poly Professor Francis Villablanca, Science Adviser. Dr. Villablanca's research focuses on using demography in management of biological resources so that management is data driven, involves undergraduate and graduate students as well as community stakeholders, and therefore leads to effective conservation.

Currently, our primary objectives are:

  • Obtain robust estimates of overwintering monarch population sizes at select sites in San Luis Obispo and Monterey Counties.
  • Develop models, based on diverse ecological variables over local and regional scales, which allow us to predict the population size for overwintering monarchs.
  • Tagging of monarchs to study movement and demographic connections between overwintering sites
  • Develop models, based on local, and even grove specific habitat variables, that explain overwintering monarchs abundant, tree use, and movement within and between groves.
  • Science based management, planning and conservation.
  • Collaboration with local Natural History Associations and docent groups that are interested in monarch butterfly biology and conservation.
  • Education and outreach to further an appreciation and understanding of monarch biology and migration dynamics.

While much is known about overwintering monarchs in California, recent dramatic dips in the overwintering population size suggests that migration and overwintering of western monarchs are highly dynamic processes.  With our collaborators and citizen scientists we hope to provide insight into the conservation of this amazing system.

Questions or comments please contact us through our blog.

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