Butterfly research gains media attention

KCRG-TV9 reported a story on a summer research project on monarch butterflies on the morning of Aug. 29. 

The story featured Cornell College Professor of Biology Tammy Mildenstein, Camden Grundeman ’19, Marin Dettweiler ’19, and Peyton Ort ’19.

A couple of members of the group recently presented some of their research at an international conference. They say their results are unexpected because there’s a widespread belief that monarch butterfly populations are limited by milkweed habitat in the Midwest. They anticipated finding milkweed plants full of monarchs.

“We found that although the milkweed plant is important, it is not a limiting factor, which means the butterflies are not fighting over the last few milkweeds,” Dettweiler said. “We also noticed a decrease in monarchs from the year before, which we think is from a cold front earlier that year which wiped out many of the monarchs.”

Grundeman points out that the study is still very young, and they have a lot to learn. He, however, finds it interesting that their results go against popular thought.

“This leads me to hypothesize that the problem is more complex, and there are a number of factors that are contributing to the decline of the monarch population,” Grundeman said.