Kara Weber is a research assistant for the Iowa State University monarch butterfly research team. She is a senior in biology and she has worked with the ISU monarch team in the field and in the lab since 2018.
What did you enjoy the most about growing up in Iowa? I loved being around my family and friends. I also enjoy the variety of areas that Iowa has to offer for exploration. As a kid who always loved the environment, growing up in a state that offered great conservation programs was a great opportunity to learn and explore.
Why did you choose Iowa State for college? My dad and my uncle had a large influence on my coming to Iowa State, since they are both alumni. The Iowa State program in biology incorporates a lot more ecology classes than other programs I was considering. I also loved the campus and how beautiful it is in the fall.
What's the most useful thing you've learned as a student? Time management has been an important skill to master while being a student. Balancing work, class, homework, and a social life can be difficult! But it’s possible if you have great time management and motivation.
Why did you choose biology for your major? I chose biology at first because I wanted to go into the medical field, but after taking my ecology class my sophomore year, I changed my degree focus on ecology and natural resources. I have always had an interest in conservation and land management, and I think those classes are really interesting.
Why are you interested in the monarch butterfly (and/or native plants)? Since I’m discovering land and watershed management to be a future career for me, knowing how different species such as the monarch and other pollinators will react to certain stressors in the environment is valuable to know. Management strategies, such as planting native plants and preserving existing remnants, are a great examples of providing habitat for monarch adults and larvae, as well as other species that are beneficial to the environment.
Describe your internship experience with the monarch team: The past two years I have helped ISU graduate students with ongoing research projects such as monarch movement ecology and toxicology studies that examine how insecticides affect monarch caterpillars.
What's the most useful thing you’ve learned as an intern? Probably the most useful thing I have learned as an intern is how the behavior and life cycles of an organism can be impacted by many factors: predators, insecticides, land management, extreme weather, and more!
How do you hope to apply what you have learned in the future? I hope to use the knowledge I have gained about prairie ecosystems and riparian buffers to implement sustainable conservation management practices in a watershed management role.
How can Iowa citizens help the monarch butterfly? Iowans can help the monarch butterfly by establishing more habitat for them. Plant milkweed and other native flowering species that support pollinators!