The Importance of Extension and Outreach: Living the Land-Grant Mission….Just do something!

by Lynne Campbell, Education Extension Specialist, 4-H Youth Development                                                                                 

Just do something: Research

In 2013, Iowa State University was the founding partner of the Iowa Monarch Conservation Consortium that was started by then Dean and now President Wendy Wintersteen. The Iowa State University Monarch Research Group is the research arm of the consortium and conducts research to provide guidance to stakeholders to help reverse the declining monarch population trend.

Just do something: Outreach

It has been an honor to serve as an Extension and Outreach partner of the ISU Monarch Research Group and USDA-ARS Unit. I witness scientists doing their work and apply my experiences as a member of this team to develop educational programming to share with the citizens of Iowa through our "99-county" campus. My role is to support educational outreach where I serve mostly youth through grants designed to create programming to deepen the understanding of the problem for monarch butterflies and other pollinators and emphasize solutions especially adding habitat.

Just do something: Work collaboratively

In 2018, a team from Iowa State University Extension and Outreach 4-H Youth Development was selected as the lead state for the National 4-H Council's Ag Innovators Experience (AIE) Monarchs on the Move Challenge. The Ag Innovators Experience challenges youth to apply critical thinking and STEM skills to an agriculture challenge. A team of extension specialists, researchers from the USDA ARS Unit, and researchers on campus developed the facilitator guide and created the activities that help participants learn about the monarch butterfly's plight and possible ways to help increase the monarch butterfly population.

Throughout the grant period, over 13,000 youth from five states (Kansas, Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, and Nebraska) participated in the AIE Monarchs on the Move Challenge to learn the following about the plight of the monarch butterfly:

Flagship: The iconic butterfly is a flagship species with distinctive bright orange and black coloration that is representative of pollinators. But even more distinctive than its appearance is the monarch's life cycle that includes a long migration to Mexico.

Loss: The monarch population has been in decline. Habitat loss occurring BOTH in the breeding grounds in the United States and at the overwintering grounds in Mexico are major factors of the decline in the monarch butterfly population.

graph of monarch population decline

Just do something: Take action

You: You can be part of the solution! "You" can be defined as an individual, 4-H club, school, farmer, business, city, or government. The best way to help is to add habitat---milkweed to provide food for caterpillars) and nectar plants that bloom throughout the growing season to provide food for monarch butterflies.

Just do something: Work together

Over the past five years, more than $275,000 in grants have been secured to develop and support pollinator education through K-12 education and 4-H programs. Partners include Iowa DNR REAP Conservation Education Program (CEP) grant program, Prairie Lakes AEA, and numerous awards from the National 4-H Council with funding provided by Bayer, Corteva, Nurien, Nationwide Insurance, and others.

Most recently, in 2021, our Iowa State University Extension and Outreach team was awarded the National 4-H Council's Corteva Pollinator Habitat Grant to teach youth and adults about the importance of planting habitat for pollinators. That grant period is now through early December 2021. Corteva is also a valuable partner of the Iowa Monarch Conservation Consortium.

The Iowa DNR provides funding to support through grants for the REAP Monarch Eggs Project. The USDA-ARS Corn Insects and Crop Genetics Research Unit maintains a monarch colony to support monarch butterfly research and educational programming. At the end of the summer research season, there is an opportunity to share extra monarch eggs with teachers so students can rear monarch butterflies from eggs to adults. Through the support of REAP Grant funding over the past five years, more than 14,500 students have worked as scientists to rear the monarch caterpillars and tag monarch butterflies for their migratory journey to Mexico.

To learn more about the AIE Monarchs on the Move facilitator guide, check out the link:          

These grants and partnerships have resulted in the development and support of Pollinator Conservation Education across Iowa, the United States, and even collaboration with international partners. If you are interested in implementing the 2018 Monarchs on the Move Challenge, the 2019 Native Bees Challenge, or the 2020 Water Connects Us All Challenge; please contact Lynne Campbell or 515-710-1381 (cell)