Lindsay Martinez

Lindsay Martinez

In my last blog post, I introduced myself and the resource monitoring work I will be doing at Dinosaur National Monument later this summer. I will be lucky to spend time in the field collecting data on Monarch Butterflies, as well as working on projects to educate visitors about the butterflies. I expect that there will be lots of families visiting Dinosaur to see the fossils – young kids are notorious for loving dinosaurs and wanting to be paleontologists! I hope that I can teach these visitors a little something about (living) biodiversity at Dinosaur too.

In my science communication role, I will be working to develop new interpretive programs that educate the public about butterfly research at Dinosaur National Monument. I will also help with existing interpretive programs related to the fossils and other attractions at the monument. Most of my experiences prior to this internship have been focused solely on research, so I am very excited to interact with everyday people visiting Dinosaur to teach them about what I do. I also am interested in science and nature writing, so I look forward to writing about my experiences for the LHIP blog and other media supported by Dinosaur NM or its partners in Monarch conservation/research. 

Along with educating people about research, I will also be promoting citizen science so that people themselves can get involved in monarch research. Citizen science is already a huge part of Monarch Butterfly research. Communities across the country keep an eye out for Monarch Butterflies during migration seasons. When Monarchs arrive at a location, the public enters their observations online. With information coming in from all sorts of people across the country, scientists can create maps that show when and where Monarch populations appear. Meanwhile, when citizens or biologists put small identification tags on individual butterflies and record when they see a tagged individual, we can track the fate of individuals to see their exact migration routes. Monarchs are a famously charismatic and beautiful species, which makes people excited to be citizen scientists of Monarchs.

We think that Western Monarchs migrate to coastal California (as opposed to Mexico for eastern populations), however we need more data from citizen scientists and biologists to have a better understanding of the migration patterns. During my internship, I will be teaching people how to collect data on butterflies. I also may have the chance to be involved in some big citizen programs to get many citizens to Dinosaur to catch adult Monarchs and then apply tags. With the help of citizens, biologists can get so much more data than if they were working alone.

Finally, it is important for the public to engage with butterfly research and conservation so that they can learn the easy things they can do to help conserve Monarchs. People can plant and protect milkweed to provide breeding habitat for butterflies. People also should understand the negative impacts of chemical herbicides or insecticides on butterflies. Monarch migrations in the West have been declining over the years, and it’s vital for individual citizens to do what they can to maintain this amazing species and its incredible migrations. This summer, I hope that by teaching people about Monarchs and getting them involved in citizen science, I will encourage them to become protectors of Monarchs. I start my internship about one month from now and am very excited to begin my work.

Beginning later this summer, I will be working as the resource monitoring and communications LHIP intern at Dinosaur National Monument. Dinosaur is 200,000 acres spanning Eastern Utah and Western Colorado. It is of course named for its abundant dinosaur fossils from the late Jurassic period. While visitors will certainly be attracted to the 1,500 fossils present in the Carnegie Dinosaur Quarry, Dinosaur also has diverse wildlife and abundant outdoor recreation opportunities. I grew up in Northcentral Montana hiking, camping, fishing, watching wildlife, biking, and canoeing. I look forward to the chance to do all of this while working and while enjoying in my free time at Dinosaur.

In my resource monitoring role, I will focus on conservation biology field research on monarch butterflies. My internship runs from late July to mid-October so that it coincides with the expected migration of Western monarchs through Dinosaur and surrounding areas. I will survey the abundances of eggs, adult monarchs, and the milkweed plants that caterpillar monarchs eat. When catching adults, I will also apply small tags to help track the butterflies’ migration and I’ll take swabs of their abdomens for analysis for parasitic infection. My work will be important because Western monarch butterflies’ migration patterns have not been studied as well as Eastern monarch migrations. The research I do this summer and fall will improve our understanding of the fascinating monarch butterfly ecology and migration. Additionally, monarch butterflies are currently under review for listing under the Endangered Species Act. The data I produce will be important to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as it makes a decision on whether to list Western monarchs as threatened or endangered.

In previous summer experiences, I have performed other types of field work. As a high school student, I interned one summer with Montana Fish, Wildlife, & Parks. During that summer, I worked at a trout hatchery and I surveyed wild fish around the state. During college at Princeton University, I studied ecology and evolutionary biology and performed lots of field research for courses and my independent research. For my research, I spent two summers in Kenya studying parasitic infection in two species of zebras. Working at Dinosaur will be a completely different experience in a totally new place, but I hope that the skills I have built working in the field and my knowledge of ecology and conservation biology will aide me this summer. Ultimately, my goal is to work in wildlife conservation. This summer, I think I will be doing just that, so I very grateful for this opportunity.

To learn more about monarch butterfly ecology and conservation, I would recommend checking out the online sites of the Monarch Joint Ventureor the Southwest Monarch Study. I will be studying the abundant resources created by these organizations and others to prepare myself for my work at Dinosaur. Armed with a good background on monarchs, I aim to be the best butterfly researcher and educator I can be. The second aspect of my internship – science communication – will be vital for educating Dinosaur’s visitors, some of who will work as “citizen scientists” that help with monarch research. I will be excited to discuss these roles in my next blog post.


Wednesday, 15 May 2019 14:18

Lindsay Martinez

I am from Great Falls, Montana and grew up exploring nearby Glacier and Yellowstone National Parks with my family, inspiring a love of the outdoors and wildlife. I graduated from Princeton University in June 2019 with a degree in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and minors in Environmental Studies and African Studies. For my undergraduate thesis at Princeton, I completed field work and lab work in Kenya to study parasitic infection in plains zebras and endangered Grevy’s zebras. I was a member of the Princeton University Conservation Society and traveled with the group to Puerto Rico in May 2019 to study the impacts of climate change on local ecology and communities. My main interest is wildlife conservation. I am looking forward to working with the National Park Service at Dinosaur National Monument, where I will use my field research skills to contribute to monarch butterfly research that can inform decision making concerning listing under the Endangered Species Act. I am also interested in creative communications methods and writing and am excited to work on science communications at Dinosaur.

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