Cal Poly Monarch Project, Professors Aiding Pacific Grove Sanctuary
March 2011 COSAM E-Newsletter
SAN LUIS OBISPO – Fewer monarch butterflies are spending the winter in Pacific Grove, and Cal Poly is helping the city find out why – and possibly bring them back.
Cal Poly Biological Sciences Professor Francis Villablanca works with a team of Cal Poly students and volunteers to monitor 18 monarch overwintering sites in California through the privately-funded Cal Poly Monarch Project. The Pacific Grove sanctuary is one of the sites.
Villablanca spoke recently at a public meeting convened by monarch enthusiasts to help find ways to increase the number of monarchs spending winters there. Pacific Grove has the butterfly on its city seal and its citizens passed a bond measure in the 1990s to purchase the land for the sanctuary. It is owned and maintained by the city.
Dwindling numbers of monarchs are a concern there. Citizen volunteers bought and placed potted eucalyptus trees around the sanctuary in Pacific Grove in 2010 out of concern that the city’s 2009 eucalyptus tree trimming was to blame for the drop in winter butterflies. The city has hired a science consultant to update its grove management plan, the topic of a Feb. 24 public meeting.
Villablanca spoke at the meeting about the ongoing Cal Poly research and types of data yet to be gathered that could aid the Pacific Grove monarch sanctuary. One new strategy, Villablanca suggested, could be to add potted cypress and pine trees in the sanctuary.
The Cal Poly Monarch Project research and monitoring in Pismo Beach has found that the butterflies cluster in eucalyptus during pleasant weather, but seek refuge in large cypress trees during storms, high wind and cold. They are also attracted to pine trees. The mix may be a key in managing groves in urban areas surrounded by housing, like the one in Pacific Grove.
Monarch benefactor Helen Johnson
and Professor Villablanca
“There are still additional options, and providing more trees and letting the monarchs choose which ones they prefer would be one way to gather the data we need to understanding all the issues from a scientific perspective,” Villablanca said.
The Cal Poly Monarch Project exists thanks to private support from philanthropist Helen Johnson. Watch for a story on Villablanca, his students and the Monarch Alert Project in the Spring 2011 edition of Cal Poly Magazine, coming soon.
Find out more about the Monarch Alert Project on its web site at:
Find out about the Pacific Grove monarch sanctuary and plans on the city web site at: