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You Visit Tour. Webb Lion Fountain. June 1 2017. Photo David B. Hollingsworth

Monarchs for Monarchs Milkweed Planting Volunteers Sought

It's planting season in southeastern Virginia, so that means it's time once again for the dedicated volunteers of the "Monarchs for Monarchs" service-learning project to resume their quest to help threatened monarch butterfly populations.

Volunteers from across the Old Dominion University community will gather at four locations around campus and the neighborhood next week for planting sessions intended to promote sustainability at the University.

"We are very excited about expanding to new areas on and off campus," said Tatyana Lobova, senior lecturer of biological sciences at Old Dominion and director of the "Monarchs for Monarchs" program. "The more people are interested in supporting the project and in planting milkweeds in their yards, the better chance for the population of monarch butterflies to recover. No milkweeds - no monarchs, it's that simple."

The program, introduced at Old Dominion University in 2014, is a partnership among the biological sciences department of the College of Sciences, student botanists, the Orchid Conservatory, the grounds department and Norfolk Botanical Garden.

Milkweed plants, which are native to the region, provide perfect habitat for monarch butterflies as they complete a multigenerational migration each fall and spring, traveling thousands of miles to and from wintering grounds in Mexico. Milkweed provides both food and habitat for the beautiful insects, and causes the monarchs - so named because they are considered to be "King" of the butterflies - to secrete a toxin that makes them poisonous to predators, including birds.

Four planting events are scheduled for next week as part of Blue Goes Green Week, the annual event dedicated to environmental awareness and activism at Old Dominion. They are:

  • Monday, April 20 - Bluestone Park milkweed planting (Bluestone Avenue and Longwood Drive), 2 - 3:40 p.m., by "Monarchs for Monarchs" volunteers and Biology 113 service learning course;
  • Tuesday, April 21 - Brock Commons ponds milkweed planting (47th Street and Monarch Way), 10 - 11:50 a.m. and 1:30 - 3:20 p.m., by "Monarchs for Monarchs" volunteers and Biology 113 service learning course;
  • Wednesday, April 22 - Planting event for milkweed and other native plants (Arthur and Phyllis Kaplan Orchid Conservatory) , 5 - 6:30 p.m., including students from Bayside Middle School under an outreach program sponsored by ODU's grounds department; and
  • Friday, April 24 - ODU Inn oak planting (Hampton Boulevard and 42nd Street), 10 a.m. - 12 p.m. The Monarch Oaks project a collaboration of the ODU Child Study and Research Center and volunteer students, will see students from the center plant oak seedlings.

The effort to create a greener, more sustainable campus is part of the service-learning initiative at the University. Emily Eddins, assistant director for service-learning at Old Dominion said Blue Goes Green week provides an ideal opportunity for students to engage in public service that makes a difference.

"Sustainability takes so many forms and so many people on campus are making an impact in different ways, and we wanted to highlight that in Blue Goes Green Week," Eddins said.

The creation of a service-learning course, Biology 113, around the "Monarchs for Monarchs" program is an example of best practices in the new paradigm, combining academics and service, Eddins said. "This is a project that positively impacts not only the lives of Norfolk residents and ODU students, faculty and staff but is global in scope and impact through supporting vital butterfly migration patterns."

The academic component of the initiative comes through trying different milkweed plants to determine which pollinate best in Hampton Roads' environment, and which provide the best monarch butterfly habitat.

"We are trying to test which species of milkweeds will grow better in different locations and we have already learned some lessons from last year's growing season," Lobova said.

Volunteers interested in joining the "Monarchs for Monarchs" initiative can contact Lobova at tlobova@odu.edu.

For more information about Blue Goes Green week at Old Dominion, email volunteer@odu.edu or call 757-683-6948.