Project MonarchHealth

Project <i>MonarchHealth</i>

Project MonarchHealth is a citizen-science survey of the occurrence of the protozoan parasite Ophryocystis elektroscirrha (OE), which parasitizes monarch butterflies. Best known for their migrations between breeding and wintering sites throughout North America, these butterflies are also found in non-migratory populations in places such as southern Florida. This parasite is not harmful to humans; however, it can harm the butterflies by inhibiting normal growth and lowering butterfly survival in the wild.

To check for parasites, surveyors can swab the abdomen of live butterflies to collect parasite spores. MonarchHealth participants help scientists map the location and infection levels of OE in monarchs throughout the United States and determine how much disease the parasites cause.

The most essential activity is capturing and sampling wild monarchs. Either capture monarch butterflies as adults or raise the caterpillars in separate containers until they become adult butterflies. In either case, you will gently tape each butterfly’s abdomen with a sticker to collect the OE spores. Next, you will send the sample, along with a simple data sheet for each butterfly, back to the scientists at the Altizer lab where they will analyze the sample. After the data are compiled, we will send you the results of your sampling contribution as well as post them on our results page for the public to see.

Project Details

  • PRINCIPAL SCIENTIST: Sonia Altizer, Associate Professor
  • SCIENTIST AFFILIATION: Odum School of Ecology, University of Georgia
  • DATES: Ongoing
  • PROJECT TYPE: Fieldwork
  • COST: Free
  • GRADE LEVEL: All Ages

    Please email your name and address to

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What Is Citizen Science?

Research often involves teams of scientists collaborating across continents. Now, using the power of the Internet, non-specialists are participating, too. Citizen Science falls into many categories. A pioneering project was SETI@Home, which has harnessed the idle computing time of millions of participants in the search for extraterrestrial life. Citizen scientists also act as volunteer classifiers of heavenly objects, such as in Galaxy Zoo. They make observations of the natural world, as in The Great Sunflower Project. And they even solve puzzles to design proteins, such as FoldIt. We'll add projects regularly—and please tell us about others you like as well.

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