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Tagging supported by teachers

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Tagging supported by teachers

Three teachers in particular are right behind the Monarch Butterfly NZ Trust’s tagging of Monarch butterflies this year.

The NZ Science Mathematics and Technology Teacher Fellowship scheme, funded by government and administered by the Royal Society of NZ, seeks to raise the profile of science, mathematics, social sciences and technology within the wider community.

“One way of achieving this is to provide teachers with new experiences and understanding outside the classroom,” said Jacqui Knight of the Monarch Butterfly NZ Trust. “This enables them to become more effective educators.”

Cherie Harris (Christchurch), Roseanne Andrew (Manukau City) and Lesley Standish-Wing (Bay of Islands) are already four weeks into their six-month scholarship, and on a steep learning curve.

They were selected last year from different geographical backgrounds and experiences, and have so far attended the conference of the NZ Association of Environmental Educators and the inaugural conference of the Monarch Butterfly NZ Trust.

“It’s been a trip of ‘firsts’ for me,” said Cherie, having travelled to both ends of the country. “I have learned so much about the Monarch butterfly from Brisbane’s Professor Myron Zalucki, and developed a new interest in NZ’s moths from Dr Robert Hoare.”

In Kerikeri, Lesley Standish-Wing is building a butterfly house in which to raise Monarch larvae free from predators. She said that many Monarch-lovers were experiencing difficulty with predators at this time of the year, and she hoped to measure which predators take the heaviest toll on Monarchs – and what the effect of controls has on the Monarch population.

“I am very excited by the potential outcomes,” said Lesley. “This is proving to be quite different to anything I’ve done before, and challenging, but the conclusions should be useful and rewarding.”

Roseanne Andrew plans to research the different milkweed plants available to Monarchs in NZ, measure their toxicity levels, and whether this has an impact on larval survival rates.

“I’m well aware of the concern that milkweed such as Swan plant is poisonous,” she said. “Hopefully, though, my trials will demonstrate that the rewards, educational outcomes and experience Monarch butterflies give our children are far greater than the risk of having milkweed growing at a school.”

The three teachers are all enjoying working with the Monarch Butterfly NZ Trust and their professional advisors at Auckland and Lincoln Universities.


“Each day we learn new skills,” said Roseanne. “I will be working in the lab at Auckland University on measuring toxicity levels.”

Cherie agrees: “We have learned so much already from Dr Mark Hauber (Auckland) whose focus is on tracking animal migration. It is amazing just what can be learned from Nature.”

The three teachers are also involved with the tagging of Monarch butterflies throughout the country, liaising with the tagging team and analysing the results of the butterfly’s flight in NZ.

After a change in its Trust Deed last year, the Monarch Butterfly NZ Trust is now focusing on the protection of all NZ Lepidoptera species, not just the Monarch. They are encouraging New Zealanders everywhere to get involved in tagging and walking transects, so that in future years any decline or hopefully increase in the Lepidoptera population can be measured.

Tagging begins on 1 March and the Trust particularly welcomes the participation of schools.

“There is so much to be learned from the Monarch butterfly,” said Roseanne. “We learn about the relationship between plants and animals, we learn about the effects of predators and parasites…”

“It’s all about ecology and protecting our beautiful country,” added Lesley. “The more we learn about Monarch behaviour in NZ, the more we can do to protect our insect life, so critical to the environment.”

More information can be found on the website, www.monarch.org.nz or by email to trust@monarch.org.nz.

ENDS

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