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Texas A&M researcher and longtime butterfly enthusiast Craig Wilson, pictured with a tagged Monarch butterfly within his U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)-sponsored People's Garden, located across the street from College Station's Wolf Pen Creek Park. (Credit: Craig Wilson.)

COLLEGE STATION --

The twin cities of College Station and Bryan are teaming up to help Monarch butterflies, thanks to the ongoing efforts of one of their biggest local proponents, Texas A&M University scientist Craig Wilson.

Wilson, a senior research associate in the Center for Mathematics and Science Education, has maintained a registered Monarch Waystation for the past six years within the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)-sponsored People's Garden, located across the street from College Station's Wolf Pen Creek Park. He routinely hosts elementary and middle school student groups, educating them in the basics of scientific inquiry and encouraging them to explore their inner scientists by observing the bounty of nature, Monarchs being one of his favorite examples.

This past December, Wilson contacted College Station Mayor Nancy Berry and Bryan Mayor Jason Bienski, asking both to commit their respective cities to efforts intended to help save the Monarchs, whose national numbers have declined by about 90 percent in recent years. Both mayors subsequently agreed to take the National Wildlife Federation's Mayors' Monarch Pledge, a new, national campaign that is working with mayors and local government chief executives to identify and execute specific steps to help Monarchs and other pollinators thrive.

"I would like to add my thanks to those of the Monarch butterflies currently overwintering in Mexico awaiting their return through Texas in the spring," Wilson said. "By your efforts and by involving citizen scientists, you are helping to ensure that the magnificent and magical Monarch butterfly migration between Canada and Mexico through Texas will survive for future generations to marvel at and to enjoy."

Monarchs, which are found across the United States, numbered some 1 billion in 1996 but have since fallen victim to a variety of threats, including loss of habitat due to agricultural practices, development and cropland conversion. Degradation of wintering habitats in Mexico also has had a negative impact on the species, which now is estimated to number around 50 million -- a figure that Wilson says is up from a historic low of 33 million in 2013-14.

"Mayors and other local government officials play a pivotal role in advancing Monarch butterfly conservation in urban and suburban areas," said Collin O'Mara, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation. "By working together, we can ensure that every American child has a chance to experience majestic Monarchs in their backyards and communities."

As part of the campaign, cities and municipalities commit to creating habitats and educating citizens on ways they can make a difference in their own homes and neighborhoods. Mayors who take the pledge commit to at least 3 of 25 specific actions to help save the Monarch butterfly. These actions include creating Monarch-friendly demonstration gardens at city hall, adding milkweed and nectar-producing plants in community gardens, changing mowing schedules to allow milkweed to grow unimpeded and 22 other possible actions.

Berry became the 51st mayor nationwide to sign the Monarch Pledge in late December. She plans to issue a related proclamation as part of College Station's next City Council meeting, set for Thursday (Jan. 28). Bienski also signed the pledge earlier this month, ensuring that greater Aggieland is fully committed to the cause.

Both mayors are working with their respective parks and recreation departments to decide which pledge-related actions to implement. In the meantime, both say they are grateful to the National Wildlife Federation for bringing awareness to the Monarch's plight, which they are committed to working with their communities to improve.

"Our parks system represents more than 1,300 beautiful acres, which means we have countless opportunities to create and sustain Monarch-friendly habitats," Berry said. "We'll continue to do our part to ensure College Station is a helpful stop for these beautiful travelers."

"The Bryan-College Station community is rapidly growing," Bienski said. "It is important for cities to be cognizant of the impact of development activities on nature. For this reason, I join Mayor Berry in pledging to work with our City of Bryan Parks and Recreation Department to take actions to help save the Monarch butterfly. The Monarch adds one more dimension of beauty to our community, and we hope to play a part in saving the Monarch migration through Texas."

The National Wildlife Federation is America's largest conservation organization inspiring Americans to protect wildlife for our children's future. Learn more about the Mayors' Monarch Pledge and other activities at NWF.org/News.

For additional information on Wilson's scientific outreach efforts and related Center for Mathematics and Science Education initiatives, visit http://cmse.tamu.edu.

Read additional first-person perspective on the Mayors' Monarch Pledge and Mayor Berry's meeting with the local Mayors' Monarch Pledge Delegation in the Texas A&M Science blog.

-aTm-

Contact: Shana K. Hutchins, (979) 862-1237 or shutchins@science.tamu.edu or Craig Wilson, (979) 260-9442 or cwilson@science.tamu.edu

Hutchins Shana

  • (Credit: Dwight Bohlmeyer.)

  • Wilson earlier this month, caring for a fledgling Monarch at his Bryan home as it prepares for first flight. (Credit: Craig Wilson.)

  • A newly-emerged Monarch, resting in Wilson's U.S. Department of Agriculture office located adjacent to College Station's Wolf Pen Creek Park. (Credit: Craig Wilson.)

  • A Monarch caterpillar in the People's Garden. (Credit: Craig Wilson.)

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