Save your garden by saving the monarchs

Post by Zoë Short

The end goal of the scientific communication class that I am currently in is to have us design, implement, and assess a real-world scientific communication project. The project must focus on solving an issue in our hometown. For this, I have chosen the decline of monarch butterflies in my Wyoming hometown. I chose this issue because I spent my summer studying monarch and regal fritillary butterflies throughout eastern Wyoming. Through my participation in this project, I know that North American populations of monarch butterflies have declined significantly in the past few decades. My participation in this research is also what made me passionate about this project.

A monarch butterfly spreading its orange, black, and white wings in a person’s hand.
A monarch butterfly taking flight in someone’s hand. Credit: Zoë Short ©2021

I came up with a proposed solution to my chosen problem, and this is to have local gardeners plant milkweed in their own gardens. This would provide supplemental habitat for the monarchs, because they lay eggs on only these plants and eat them as caterpillars. My target audience will be the gardeners of my hometown, since this is who would implement my proposed solution. I also chose this audience because I feel that they would be predisposed, as gardeners, to care about species conservation. Furthermore, as successful gardeners, I know that they know how important pollinators are for prosperous flowers and crops, and monarch butterflies are one of these essential animals.

The ultimate expression of our final scientific communication project is allowed to take many different forms. For my project, I have chosen to implement a series of social media posts. I felt that this would be an efficient and engaging way to communicate information to my stakeholders. Before I could decide on the content and timeline of my social media posts, I had to find a place to post the series. I searched several keywords on Facebook to try to find a group or page containing a large percent of my stakeholders – local gardeners. Miraculously, I found a Facebook group for the gardeners of my home county. The group has a relatively small number of members, but I think this just means that my posts will not get lost in a large volume of activity. Furthermore, I think a small group will be easier to connect with personally.

A honeybee sitting on the light pink flowers of a milkweed plant.
A honeybee interacting with milkweed, the host plant of monarch butterflies. Credit: Zoë Short ©2021

In deciding the content and timeline of my posts, I had to take into consideration the small group of my stakeholders. I did not want to overwhelm them with multiple posts a day, since the group is not extremely active, so I decided on one post a day over the span of a week, because I felt like I could sufficiently cover my topic in that time. I first broke my seven posts into different topics – an introduction of the project, information on the monarch decline, the importance of monarchs, information about milkweed, a brief explanation of the action my audience can take (planting milkweed), a guide for planting milkweed, and finally a guide to getting milkweed seeds. Then, I drafted these posts with my information and supplemental material – pictures, news articles, comics, and diagrams. I sought feedback from my family, friends, and Professor B. After incorporating their feedback and adding captions and alternative text to my graphics, my social media series was ready to go.

After my social media series is complete, I will post an anonymous survey for my stakeholders to complete. The survey will assess if they learned anything about monarch butterflies from my series, if they are interested in planting milkweed, if they would like me to continue posting occasionally about this topic, and if they feel like they needed more information. I do foresee an issue with little feedback on my survey since the Facebook group of my stakeholders has so few members. Overall, I hope to provide information to my stakeholders about the issue of declining monarch populations, and perhaps even inspire some of them to plant milkweed in their own gardens to help curb this decline.


Zoë Short is a junior at the University of Wyoming studying zoology.

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