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Monarch Watch Conservation Specialists

Introduction by Chip Taylor, Director of Monarch Watch
I've been concerned about the loss of monarch habitat for some time. In 2005 we created the Monarch Waystation program in part to compensate for the loss of milkweeds and nectar sources and in 2010 we created the Bring Back the Monarchs program to address the larger issue of restoring milkweeds in areas from which they have been eliminated. Both of these programs require a great deal of outreach and more time and money than I, or my staff of two, Jim Lovett and Ann Ryan, can accommodate.

We needed "boots on the ground" as they say - in this case, people who can help us deliver our message and see to it that milkweeds are planted. I came to learn that there were a number of people already doing this and I decided about a year ago to invite them to join a group - a group of Monarch Conservation Specialists.

I'm pleased to announce this volunteer group of monarch and milkweed advocates with this web page. As you will see, this is a group of accomplished people with substantial records of furthering monarch conservation. The expertise represented ranges from promoting monarch conservation with Federal and State agencies and nature centers to advocating the restoration of native plants, giving school programs and promoting and assisting with the creation of Monarch Waystations.

With funds obtained through the Monarch Joint Venture, we support the activities of these volunteers to educate the public about the need to create habitats for monarchs. We share resources among group members and solicit their advice on how we all can be more effective in promoting monarch conservation. We are pleased to have the assistance of these capable associates. Time permitting, the Monarch Conservation Specialists in your area can provide information to help you or your organization participate in monarch conservation. We would like to add more members to this group but are limited by funds at this time.

We have also given some thought to forming a secondary group and will do so if there is interest, time and funds to make this happen.


Gail Morris []
Arizona and West Region

After Gail began a sabbatical from her position as a Pastoral Associate, she realized the fragile future of the monarch migration and never went back. She now dedicates her time to protecting and expanding monarch habitats throughout Arizona.

Gail soon realized the importance of forging relationships with local and state agencies. She worked with the Arizona Department of Transportation to add milkweed to roadside seed mixes and collaborated with the U.S. Forest Service to create Monarch Waystations. She also advocates for the addition of milkweed and monarch friendly nectar plants in riparian areas and city parks throughout the state.

Gail is involved in several monarch butterfly conservation projects. She coordinates the Southwest Monarch Study, monitors and trains volunteers for the Monarch Larva Monitoring Project, and tests monarchs for Ophryocystis elektroscirrha (O.e.) for Monarch Health. Gail monitors monarch habitats at the Rio Salado Restoration Habitat, the Phoenix Zoo, Tempe Marsh and other milkweed habitats around Arizona.

Gail also conducts special educational opportunities and events to benefit monarch conservation and habitats around the state. People of all ages enjoy her programs including nature and garden clubs, college, high school and grade school students, scout and many other interested organizations. To better understand the monarch migration, every Fall Gail takes volunteers on field trips to tag monarchs in some of the most beautiful cienegas in Arizona.

A life-long gardener, Gail became a Master Gardener in 1995 and completed the Desert Gardening Mastership Program in 2011. To meet the growing demand for regional milkweed varieties across the state she turned to Maricopa, Pinal and Gila County Master Gardeners to propagate milkweed plants to create Monarch Waystations for city libraries, schools and public parks.


Joyce Pearsall []
North Carolina and Southeast Region

Joyce has a Bachelor's degree in nursing and is now employed part time as a nursing consultant for assisted living facilities in Brevard, NC. Early in her career she focused on coronary care, later she moved into hospice nursing during which she became certified as a hospice and palliative care nurse.

Joyce is also certified in Virginia as an archaeological technician. She has a strong interest in prehistoric archaeology and over 30 years of volunteer experience. The Archaeological Society of Virginia honored her as their Amateur Archaeologist of the Year in 1997.

Joyce and her husband, Frank, moved to Brevard in 2003. There they met Ina Warren whose promotion of monarchs, gifts of seeds and seedlings inspired them to create their first Monarch Waystation (#1692) - now a site with more than 1,000 milkweed plants! This garden is the source of seeds and seedlings used to establish other Monarch Waystations. Joyce soon became a Master Gardener and, with Ina's help, a Monarch Mentor. As a result, Joyce encouraged others to develop their own Monarch Waystations and has been very involved with monarch education at the Cradle of Forestry in America in Pisgah National Forest.

Joyce and her husband participate in the Monarch Larva Monitoring Project, managed by Karen Oberhauser of the University of Minnesota. They monitor two sites, Monarch Waystations #1692 and #3112, for this program. They've tagged and released numerous monarchs since 2009 and, based on recovered tags, at least three made it to Mexico!

As an Monarch Watch Conservation Specialist, she looks forward to helping develop Monarch Waystations and promoting monarch butterfly education.


Candy Sarikonda []
Ohio and Northeast Region

Candy has a Master of Science in Nursing specializing in adult cardiology and nursing education. She is married to a cardiologist and has three children. Her entire family is heavily involved in her conservation efforts.

Candy has a passion for community outreach. For the past 10 years, she has been raising native Lepidoptera and providing educational programs for the public with her "lepidopteran ambassadors." Candy likes to work with all members of the public in an effort to educate people about land conservation and the impact of environmental practices on public health. She is especially interested in research and actively encourages people to get involved in citizen science programs and pollinator conservation efforts. Candy enjoys teaching people how to convert their own backyards into pollinator habitats and of course, Monarch Waystations! She loves working with school children and has a special affinity for helping autistic children explore the natural world around them. She truly believes that NO child OR parent should be left inside.

Candy has been a volunteer for the Lourdes University Life Lab for the past 4 years, working to provide hands-on environmental education to over 4,000 young children each year. She provides many outreach educational programs as well, visiting schools, nature centers, parks, businesses, and botanical gardens in order to spread the word about pollinator conservation. Candy has also been a volunteer with the Nature Conservancy for the past 8 years, volunteering through Northwest Ohio's Kitty Todd Preserve. She specializes in helping people create Oak Openings native wildflower garden habitats at schools, parks, homes, hospitals and nature centers as part of the Conservancy's Green Ribbon Initiative. And lastly, Candy is a member of the Oak Openings chapter of Wild Ones. She is currently working to help establish a partnership between Wild Ones and the Monarch Joint Venture, while assisting Wild Ones chapters in their monarch conservation efforts.


Ilse Gebhard []
Michigan and Northeast Region

Ilse received BA and MS degrees in Chemistry from Kalamazoo College and UCLA respectively. She then worked as a Research Chemist in Medicinal Chemistry for 30 years at the Upjohn Company in Kalamazoo, Michigan. After retirement in 1995 she has had the time to pursue her life-long interest in nature.

Ilse began working with monarchs in 1999 when she collected a monarch chrysalis from her yard. In 2002 she became a Monarch Larva Monitoring Project (MLMP) volunteer. She submits weekly monitoring data and raises hundreds of monarchs each year from wild collected eggs and caterpillars to improve our understanding of tachinid fly parasitism. She also contributes data to the Monarch Health project since its inception in 2006.

Ilse not only contributes to monarch research but also is dedicated to improving habitats to sustain monarchs. In addition to her yard landscaped with native plants she has established two native plant butterfly gardens. All three are registered Monarch Waystations and she actively promotes making Michigan the state with the most Monarch Waystations.

Ilse shares her passion for nature by giving presentations, including one on monarchs, to classrooms and adult groups. She leads natural history field trips and tours of the gardens she has established and attends area events with a booth promoting monarchs.


Kip Kiphart []
Texas and South Central Region

As a retired cardio-vascular surgeon turned Texas Master Naturalist, Dr. Ridlon (Kip) Kiphart found his passion for monarchs through a rather indirect route. The Texas native plants his son planted in his garden attracted many butterflies and that fed his interest in photography, an activity that he could pursue while practicing thoracic and cardiovascular surgery.

After retiring and becoming trained as a Texas Master Naturalist, Kip moved to Boerne, Texas and quickly became acquainted with the Cibolo Nature Center and its many volunteer activities. Since 2002, he has been team leader of MLMP@CNC and has given many MLMP trainings throughout the state, primarily for Texas Master Naturalists. Many of the dots on the Texas MLMP map are the direct result of Kip's powers of persuasion and enthusiasm. Since 2009, he has given Monarch Waystation and, more recently, Bring Back The Monarch programs for the Native Plant Society of Texas, the Texas Master Naturalists and gardening organizations. Each year he helps create a demonstration Monarch Waystation at the yearly Mostly Native Plant Sale, sponsored by Boerne NPSOT and CNC. This demo garden illustrates the basic resources required by monarchs and helps sell the native milkweed seedlings available from locally collected seed. Kip has actively encouraged his colleagues to collect milkweed seeds and reports that many people are collecting seeds this year.

In 2008 Kip received the Presidential Volunteer Service Award from the President's Council on Service and Participation, a program created by President Bush to acknowledge exceptional volunteer service. Since retiring, Kip has logged approximately 10,000 hours for the TMN program and he is active in several other wildlife projects both as a volunteer and official photographer.


Denise Gibbs []
Maryland and Northeast Region

Denise has 35 years of experience as a Park Naturalist for the Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission. She has lectured and taught courses for other organizations including The National Arboretum, USDA Graduate School/Natural History Field Studies, and The Audubon Naturalist Society of the Mid-Atlantic States. For 25 years, she owned a native plant nursery specializing in host and nectar plants for butterflies. During that time, she designed and created habitat gardens for butterflies, hummingbirds, and other wildlife. She has had considerable experience creating butterfly meadows and Monarch Waystations. She contributed to Jim Wilson's Landscaping with Wildflowers: An Environmental Approach to Gardening, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden's guide Butterfly Gardens: Luring Nature's Loveliest Pollinators to Your Yard, and more recently to Connie Toops' and Bill Thompson's Hummingbirds and Butterflies. Denise often does contract work for park agencies. She has conducted butterfly inventories for the National Park Service. She has also collected and propagated seeds of rare native plant species for reintroduction on federal parklands.

Denise's obsession with monarchs was launched by a phone call to Dr. Lincoln Brower at the University of Florida. Her objective was to quickly check her facts about the fall monarch migration before conducting a training workshop for 2nd grade teachers. That 90-minute phone discussion was a turning point. Two years later, under the leadership of Dr. Brower, she embarked on a new path, from naturalist to citizen scientist. The project was to monitor and tag fall migrating monarchs at Chincoteague NWR on Assateague Island, VA. For details on this research project, see: www.fs.fed.us/monarchbutterfly/migration/ and mysite.verizon.net/robgibbs301/monarch.htm. A Monarch Management Plan was developed based on data and observations collected during the study. It contains recommendations for habitat enhancement projects and management strategies to benefit monarchs passing through the refuge during their fall migration. Implementation of the plan was initiated in May 2009. As part of the plan, Denise returns to the island each spring and fall to plant nectar-rich seaside goldenrod plants at this critical stopover.

Since the early 90's, Maryland's state insect, the Baltimore checkerspot has been declining. Denise has spent the last several years planting thousands of Chelone glabra (white turtlehead) plants in wetlands to host the caterpillars. She is now participating in a captive rearing and release project to increase the butterfly's population in protected wetlands.


Ina Warren []
North Carolina and Southeast Region

Ina Warren (Brevard, NC - south of Asheville) is a freelance naturalist, lecturer, and educator and lives everyday in complete awe of the natural world. Her passion for volunteerism led her to serve over twenty years on the NC Bartram Trail Society Board and to create a group of Master Gardener educators called Monarch Mentors. In Transylvania County, the Monarch Mentors have visited area schools assisting teachers in learning about monarchs in their classrooms and planting school butterfly gardens. Warren has traveled to Mexico four times to study the monarchs in the over-wintering reserves and is a contributor to a growing group of educators called the Monarch Teacher Network.

She is publishing her second book entitled, "Monarch and Milkweed Almanac." It is 365 pages in length in a "page a day" format and covers all aspects of the monarch life cycle, issues related to migration, milkweeds, and Mexico. It also includes an extensive section, (a botanico-pedia of sorts) of nectar flowers for Monarch Waystations. She is a frequent presenter at the NC Center for the Advancement of Teaching at WCU in Cullowhee, NC and has taught natural history courses at Brevard College, the Pisgah Forest Institute, US Forest Service's Cradle of Forestry, Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont, the NC Arboretum and related venues. She is a Certified Environmental Educator for the State of NC.


Diane Pruden []
Michigan and Northeast Region

After a lengthy career in human resources in the corporate automotive industry, I retired and began enjoying all aspects of nature every day rather than only on weekends and holidays.

A number of years ago, I brought a single stalk of common milkweed with one monarch egg into the house. I observed its development and eventual eclosure into a beautiful male butterfly. I then began studying and learning all that I could about Monarch Butterflies. The following year I began tagging and have increased the number of butterflies that I have raised, captured and tagged each year. This year I will be tagging 300 butterflies. I have visited sanctuaries in Mexico three times over the past four years. Most recently, on behalf of Monarch Watch, I have begun purchasing tags from local Mexicans at the sanctuaries.

Locally, I present programs focusing on Monarch Butterflies, wild mushrooms around the world and daylilies.


Debbie Jackson []
Michigan and Northeast Region

Debbie started raising monarchs 40 years ago while growing up near the cornfields in Iowa, spending most of the summers camping, exploring the Great Outdoors. (She considered entomology studies at college but chose to avoid Latin and studied engineering instead.) That hobby turned into an obsession and a passion to share her knowledge with others.

In the last few years, Debbie's given dozens of programs in school classrooms, community service groups, garden clubs, retirement centers and parks & rec venues. In order to hand out hundreds of caterpillars, she began breeding monarchs too. She found that watching 9 year olds or 49 year olds discover the beauty of a newly eclosed monarch or grin with a caterpillar wriggling across their forearm is a joy!

In addition to conducting Monarch butterfly programs, she's creating a network of monarch enthusiasts who are themselves sharing caterpillars and growing milkweeds. They are also being tutored to breed and give out caterpillars too; the Monarch Outreach plan is growing!


Ba Rea []
West Virginia and Northeast Region

Ba Rea is a naturalist, illustrator and writer with a small publishing company, Bas Relief, LLC which publishes books on monarch butterflies and the milkweed community and other natural history themes for educational use. She received a BS in Visual Literacy from the University of Illinois in 1980. It was an individual plan of study combining courses in illustration, educational psychology and a wide range of natural history study and designed to help her produce illustrations and written materials to explain scientific and natural phenomena. She completed an elementary teaching certification course at Chatham University in 1996 to better understand how to create programs and materials for classroom use. In 2001 she got her Masters in Writing for Children and Adolescents from Chatham University with a concentration on writing about natural history subjects for children of different ages.

In 1970, when she first discovered monarchs, Ba was actually on an informal botany quest to understand how a milkweed umbel full of pink, fleshy florets was going to turn into the fuzz and seed filled milkweed pods with which she was familiar. The smooth-skinned, striped caterpillars with the bouncy, black, antenna-like protrusions front and back were a surprise. She brought them home as part of the bouquet to watch and draw. Finding a fully formed, gold speckled, jade-green monarch chrysalis hanging from the edge of a dresser was a complete surprise. When the chrysalides started turning orange and black, she made a point of sticking around to watch for the emergence of the butterfly. What magic! She has been raising and releasing monarchs; searching, drawing and working to better understand milkweed; and spreading the word about these marvelous organisms ever since. She shares what she has learned through her books, classes and public programs. Teachers and students leaving her classes report that they are no longer able to drive through town without noticing the milkweed. Since 2001, every August, Ba teaches Monarchs in the Classroom Here and Now, a course offered with Pennsylvania intermediate unit and Act 48 credit and sponsored by the Pittsburgh Children's Museum, for teachers who want to use monarchs in their classrooms.

Ba's published books work to spread awareness of monarchs and milkweed all over the continent. In 2003, along with Karen Oberhauser and Mike Quinn and with the help of many other entomologists and monarch enthusiasts, Ba co-authored, designed and published Milkweed, Monarchs and More, A Field Guide to the Invertebrate Community in the Milkweed Patch. It was originally designed to help citizen scientist volunteers in the Monarch Larva Monitoring Project describe and record what they were finding in their investigations. It has since moved into classrooms and nature centers and has come out in two updated versions: one enlarged for older eyes and easier classroom use and one small for easy field use. Other books Ba has published include: Monarch Come Play with Me! (and the Spanish version Monarca Ven! Juega Conmigo) -- a pre-K through second grade look at the monarch lifecycle; Milkweed Visitors, written and photographed by Mary Holland -- an introduction for elementary school students to the community that lives in the milkweed patch; and Learning from Monarchs, Teachers' Handbook -a comprehensive look at monarchs, the monarch community, milkweed and classroom logistics to help teachers use monarchs in their classrooms.

In her new home in West Virginia, Ba continues to increase awareness of monarchs and milkweed through public programs and creation of a monarch festival.


Pat Miller []
Illinois and Northeast Region

Pat Miller became interested in monarchs and monarch conservation while presenting talks on butterfly gardening for the University of Illinois Extension office as a Master Gardener. Pat's good friend, Jane, met Chip Taylor the year he launched the Monarch Waystation program and became interested in promoting the concept of monarch waystations. Jane and Pat traveled throughout the western Chicago area promoting monarch waystations. Following a trip to Mexico with Monarchs Across Georgia, Pat's interest in monarchs blossomed into a program for school children, libraries, and garden clubs.

Pat's love of nature led her into education through her work as a Master Gardener, Master Naturalist and Plant Technician for the Morton Arboretum. She presents programs to schools, libraries, garden and environmental clubs throughout the Chicago area. In 2008 Pat presented monarch programs to over 1000 students and 500 adults, a number she hopes will grow every year. She continues to share her love of monarchs with everyone she meets.

In 2007 the Chicago Tribune wrote an article about Pat's efforts in establishing Monarch Waystations in the area. In 2009, Pat was labeled "Queen of the Monarchs" in a second Chicago Tribune article. "Education and awareness are key issues in protecting this wonderful creature".

Pat is also involved in raising and tagging hundreds of monarchs. "A lot can be learned from this little creature" and Pat hopes to find even more ways to educate others in the coming years through the Monarch Watch Conservation Specialist role.


Trecia Neal []
Georgia and Southeast Region

Trecia has been a biologist at Fernbank Science Center in Atlanta since 1990. Her areas of expertise are ornithology, environmental education, and establishing outdoor classrooms and gardens at schools. For the last eight years, she has been teaching students and teachers about the wonders of monarchs by teaching Professional Development courses in Michoacán, Mexico to study the biology and ecology of the Monarch butterfly in its overwintering habitat. Trecia also served as co-committee chair of Monarchs Across Georgia for three years, is also a committee member and actively tags with the teachers from DeKalb county and promotes the citizen science projects of Monarch Health, Journey North, and Monarch Larva Monitoring Project. Trecia has a bachelor's and master's degree in biology with an emphasis in animal behavior and science education.

Trecia is also responsible for organizing the School Master Gardener program that has trained over 165 Master Gardeners from 42 different schools across DeKalb County. Since 2003 these participants have volunteered over 16,810 hours at their local schoolhouses working with over 31,842 students. Numerous Junior Master Gardener Clubs have been formed in the local schoolhouses and the program was awarded the Outstanding Volunteer Service in Environmental Education Award from EEA in 2007. This program has also brought in over $63,461 in grant money at the local schools just since 2008.


Susan Meyers []
Georgia and Southeast Region

Susan received her BS in Microbiology and MS in Environmental Science from Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge and Florida Institute of Technology respectively. She is currently employed as an instructor for Stone Mountain Memorial Association teaching K-12 students that visit the Park a variety of science-based lessons from geology to life cycles. She also is a graduate of and administers the Advanced Training for Environmental Education in Georgia Program.

After visiting the overwintering colonies in Mexico with Dr. Bill Calvert in March 2003, Susan was "bitten by the Monarch bug" and began volunteering with Monarchs Across Georgia, a committee of Environmental Education Alliance of Georgia. She facilitates educator workshops using the Monarchs & More curriculum, and incorporating the citizen science projects of MLMP, Journey North tracking, Monarch Watch tagging and Waystations, and MonarchHealth. Organizing trips to the overwintering colonies in Mexico since 2004, she initiated and continues to coordinate the Mexico Book Project, bringing books written in Spanish to schools near the sanctuaries.

As a Monarch Watch Conservation Specialist, Susan will continue "planting the seeds" of awareness, understanding and commitment to Monarch education, conservation and research.


Cathy Downs []
Texas and South Central Region

Cathy was born and raised in New England. She retired to Comfort, TX in 2004 from a 30 year career owning and operating her own retail businesses from coast to coast.

She currently chairs the Bring Back the Monarchs to Texas (BBMT) program. The BBMT is a developing monarch habitat project in cooperation with Native Plant Society of Texas and Monarch Watch. Cathy is also a certified Monarch Larval Monitoring Project educator and teaches Monarch biology, habitat and migration at various locations throughout Texas.

Since certifying as a Master Naturalist in 2005, she has been teaching children and adults about native Texas butterflies and their host plants with an emphasis on Monarch biology and migration. Cathy raises Monarch caterpillars for education as well as propagating native milkweeds. She hosts live Butterfly Pavilions at Nature Centers and State Parks throughout the Hill Country area.

Cathy has served as the Volunteer Coordinator for the Butterfly Theater at Kerrville Schreiner Park for 6 years. The 11,000 sq. ft. garden is a certified Monarch Waystation and Monarch Larval Monitoring Project site.

She is the compiler for the North American Butterfly Association July 4th count - Boerne Circle. She participates in the Nature Box Program with Cibolo Nature Center bringing Natural Science topics to elementary schools in the Boerne area.

Cathy recently participated in the Tx. Wildlife Association Distance Learning Program. She presented her program, The Magic of Monarchs, which was simulcast to 179 schools in 12 states. 6,300 children in 1st through 5th grades tuned in bringing her Monarch education client totals to over 14,000 children and adults.


Nicole Hamilton []
Virginia and Southeast Region

Nicole worked 19 years in management consulting leading strategy and organization transformation projects at Booz Allen Hamilton. In 2012 she left Booz Allen to apply her skills full time to the environmental sector and is currently President of the Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy, an environmental nonprofit in northern Virginia.

In 2013, she spearheaded the launch of the Loudoun Monarch Butterfly Campaign. Through this campaign, she and her team touched over 2400 people through community outreach programs, distributed more than 2500 milkweed plants through donations and native plant sales, helped establish Monarch Waystations at 20 local schools, and engaged over 120 people in raising and releasing 2311 Monarch butterflies. The work of 2013 serves as the foundation for continued education, outreach and habitat restoration in northern Virginia. Nicole hopes that this campaign will serve as a catalyst for other communities to pursue similar initiatives.

Nicole leads the annual Loudoun County Butterfly Count and is author of the field guide, The Butterflies of Loudoun County. She is an avid birder and nature photographer and leads Loudoun's Amphibian Monitoring program. She enjoys sharing the wonders of nature with others through field trips and education programs throughout the year.

Nicole’s connection to Monarchs began early as she grew up on the coast of Massachusetts and enjoyed Monarchs in a big milkweed field each summer. Before leaving her childhood home, she witnessed a great Monarch roost in a favorite Oak tree and her connection to Monarchs was cemented.

In 1999, Nicole and her husband Gil moved into their home and created a garden for Monarchs and other wildlife, listed as #81 in the Monarch Watch Waystation Registry. Nicole and her husband traveled to the Monarch Sanctuaries in 2009 and 2013 and having developed wonderful friends in Angangueo, look forward to returning.

Nicole is a certified National Wildlife Federation Habitat Steward and a certified Virginia Master Naturalist.

She holds a B.A in Government and East Asian Studies from Colby College and an M.B.A with focus on Management and Marketing from Thunderbird. She has traveled through Central and South America, Europe and Asia.

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