How do monarch butterflies cope with the changing seasons? What will be the impact of a changing climate? Can citizen science contribute to answering these questions?

The two main goals of our project were determining monarch butterfly phenology and establishing if citizen science was feasible to use when addressing important ecological questions.

When approaching these questions, we were interested in learning more about the science behind monarch butterfly migrations, and their phenology changes as the climate changed. Phenology is defined as the timing of annual cycles of plants and animals, and is extremely sensitive to climate change.

Based on our hypothesis that in a changing climate, there would be changes to monarch butterfly phenology and their migration patterns, we predicted that if monarch butterflies are responding to a warmer climate by migrating later, then there would be a later decline in the number of sightings.

Recently, citizen science has been on the rise as many scientists and researchers have used public data to help with their own assessments. Citizen science is when the public voluntarily helps conduct scientific research, and they collect data on various topics, usually in areas available to the public, such as parks. We expected that we could use the data online, such as that from BioBlitz, iNaturalist, and citizen science projects, to discover the butterfly patterns.