Update: monarchs and milkweed

Here is an update on monarch and milkweed happenings… Over the past few weeks I have visited several natural history venues for a modest book tour — it has gone very well, with the added pleasure of meeting some well-known citizen scientists and old friends.  It started with a Chats in the Stacks at Cornell which is now online on youtube!  On earth day I presented at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto. This was followed by talks at the California Academy of Natural Sciences, Seattle Town Hall, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, and the Houston Museum of Natural Science. See pictures below.

Angurag, Don, Carol, Jim s
Anurag with three legendary citizen scientists: Don Davis, Carol Pasternak, and Jim Ellis at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto.

Anuragonstage s

nature review
Mention in Nature from a couple of weeks ago… see also  an excellent and insightful review in a r s  T e c h n i a .
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With my friend and collaborator, Noah Whiteman in Berkeley, CA
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With a grad school buddy, ant biologist, Brian Fisher in San Francisco.
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With one of my first graduate students, Nile Kurshige, with her daughter Kili at the Seattle Town Hall… great to catch up!
anurag with Linda Currie Houston
With citizen scientist Linda Currie in Houston
With entomologist Mike Quinn and master naturalist Jim Barr at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center
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Asclepias prostrata, in the flesh, south of Laredo, Texas.
With Stegosaurus in Houston.
Perhaps the coolest venue, Houston Museum’s new planetarium
A spectacular find, a narrow endemic to south western Texas, Matelea brevicornata

3 Replies to “Update: monarchs and milkweed”

  1. Dear Dr. Agrawal,
    I am an elementary science teacher, working in Northern Louisiana. My passion as become teaching children about monarchs and milkweed species. I studied biology as an undergraduate with a botanist named, Dr. Steven Lynch, who was interested in coevolution between monarchs and Asclepias sp.

    If my students have specific questions which I cannot answer or other teachers can’t answer, could we email you for more information and or help you in any of your research.

    Questions they currently have:
    1. How do female monarchs locate milk weeds?
    2. How do monarch locate each other and aggregate and how do they find their way during migration.

    Finally, thank you for your research. I am sharing your articles with all the educators in my school.

    Thank you and most sincerely,
    Helen Richard
    South Highlands Magnet School
    Shreveport, LA

    • Thanks for your note. Yes, I was a huge fan of the research Steve Lynch did. I never met him, but has seen many of his pictures of Asclepias from field work and collecting trips. Yes, you can feel free to email me… I will try to respond, but am often teaching, on field assignments, and currently and writing a lot. Check out my new book on Monarchs and Milkweeds which covers a lot of the biology of M&M and tried to explain it all at a level that your students should be able to grasp (it is not a highly technical book).

      As for your current questions, Females use mostly chemical cues from milkweed to find and them and to decide to lay eggs (or not). Some of the chemicals have been identified… some are volatile and others are sensed when monarchs scratch the leaf surface with their spiny feet. Finding their way south and aggregation is a much bugger topic. They use something called the “time compensated sun compass” — I don’t have the time to explain it all here, but it is in the book, with good illustrations as well. Still, there are some unsolved mysteries about the “map” sense and how/why the aggregate.

      best wishes, -Anurag

  2. Dear Dr. Anurag,
    I enjoyed reading your Monarchs and Milkweed book and it will be the focus of our discussion for our Pismo Monarch Grove docent book club next week. I am wondering if you are going to visit the California overwintering o sites during your sabbatical. If so, we would welcome your visit to the Pismo Monarch Grove in Pismo Beach CA. I am one of the volunteer coordinators of the grove, one of the Xerces monarch overwintering counters for the Thanksgiving count, and I also was Nile K’s AP Biology teacher. I was excited to see her name in your book as well as her photo on this site. We have been addressing the tropical milkweed vs native CA milkweed problem in California as well as the significant changes in the CA overwintering sites in recent years, and we would love to talk to you about our concerns. I graduated from Cornell as a Biology major in 1966, and I am glad to see some monarch research going on there.

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