Monarch butterfly expert Karen Oberhauser, a professor at the University of Minnesota, has been honored by the White House for her work in “citizen science.”
Oberhauser was honored Tuesday at a ceremony in Washington, D.C., as a White House “Champion of Change.” The program honors Americans who are doing extraordinary things in their communities.
Oberhauser runs the monarch lab on the U’s St. Paul campus and has worked with thousands of volunteers across the nation to gain a bigger view on monarch biology and population trends. She directs the Monarch Larva Monitoring Project, which uses observations from volunteers in the United States and Canada to track monarch populations, does educational workshops for teachers, and runs the Monarchs in the Classroom project.
Some fear climate change, herbicides and encroaching development around the monarchs’ winter home in Mexico are endangering the butterfly. In a statement, Oberhauser said the honor she received from the White House reflects the work of all the volunteers who care enough to track and count monarchs.
“I’ve called citizen scientists an ‘army for conservation’ for many reasons: They collect data with conservation applications, they often become stewards for local habitats, and they reach out to others about the importance of conservation,” Oberhauser said. “I feel that the award is for the entire monarch citizen science community, which includes hundreds or even thousands of volunteers.”
University President Eric Kaler said Oberhauser represented the U’s best and brightest and reflected the U’s emphasis on public engagement, “a core part of the university’s land-grant mission.”