Sustainability Jan. 27, 2020

HabiTally: A Habitat-Tallying App to Support Monarch Conservation

Biodiversity is a word that holds a lot of meaning for me, as I’ve focused my career on conserving and sustaining those systems that ultimately support us. I’d like to share with you an exciting new project, HabiTally, an iOS mobile application (app) with an Android version currently in development, which brings biodiversity and agriculture together.

At the end of this year, we will reach a critical milestone in the conservation of the monarch butterfly, one of the most iconic North American insect species. In December 2020, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) will publish its decision regarding whether and how to list the monarch butterfly for protection under the Endangered Species Act. 

The USFWS will collect data on monarch butterfly populations and the habitats that support them to help make this decision. HabiTally, created by our team at Climate LLC, enables farmers, ranchers, landowners, and private citizens to record their monarch habitat data (while protecting personal privacy), and share the information with the USFWS to help with monarch recovery and other pollinator conservation initiatives. 

Monarchs have become synonymous with biodiversity and a healthy environment in the United States, and have been in significant decline over the last two decades. Multiple factors such as disease, predators, and loss of overwintering habitat in Mexico have been documented as contributing to the decline in monarch populations, and addressing these is beyond the average person’s control.  However, habitat to support the breeding and migration of monarchs throughout the U.S is also needed. This is where we all can contribute. 

Milkweeds are needed to support the next generation of monarchs, while a variety of blooming nectar flowers, throughout the migration path, fuel the butterflies. The beauty of monarch/pollinator habitat is that it’s easy to create in your own environment; the diverse, multi-floral habitat provides resources for monarchs and many other species including bees, other beneficial insects, and birds throughout the year.

The agriculture sector in particular has been identified as critical for engagement in habitat creation due to the overlap of monarch migration pathways and America’s farmlands. Bayer Crop Science committed early to championing involvement in monarch butterfly recovery. This was the origin of the Farmers for Monarchs campaign and it was from this same recovery need that HabiTally was born. 

Conservation and supporting biodiversity are not just activities for ecologists and non-governmental organizations. As users (including you!) add information to HabiTally, a tracker will not only report gains made in milkweed stems/acres across the U.S., but will allow both better estimates of how much and where current habitat exists, as well as better facilitate analysis of gaps and opportunities for further habitat development. 

A screenshot of the HabiTally interface, where users help track monarch butterfly habitat by entering their information anonymously into the app database. 

In developing HabiTally, our team leveraged the regulatory science base of Bayer Crop Science and the technical know-how of Climate LLC to spearhead app development. HabiTally has been donated fully to Iowa State University (ISU), and through ISU’s stewardship of HabiTally it will remain a transparent and public entity. Our team is honored that the Iowa Monarch Conservation Consortium and ISU collaborated with us on HabiTally. 

As we learn more about the overwintering monarch population numbers for 2019 across North America, it’s a great time to start thinking of how you can plan for and support monarch conservation on your land. One of the greatest honors of my work with Climate is my ability to talk to farmers about how their land can support biodiversity. I encourage all of you, regardless of your background or the land you have available to you, to download the app and to consider adding monarch habitat to your landscapes. Spread the word about HabiTally!

Let’s get monarch habitat in the ground and MAKE IT COUNT.

HabiTally is just one small part of our broader commitment to sustainability in agriculture as part of our mission to help the world’s farmers sustainably increase productivity with digital tools.

About the Author

Dr. Bachman has gained an international reputation in regards to the ecological impacts and risks of conventional and biotechnology-derived crop protection products.  Dr. Bachman’s belief has been that partnerships across sectors are necessary to achieve outcomes related to ecological conservation, restoration, and sustainability. She has worked to find common ground across private sector, academia, NGOs, and government on issues related to pollinator conservation and biodiversity.  At Climate LLC, Bachman is building a new program to use data science and develop digital tools to aid the agricultural community in adopting more sustainable practices aimed towards reducing the environmental impacts of farming including greenhouse gas emissions. Bachman has been recognized as an advocate for diversity and inclusion in science and served as a resource for the visibility, development, and promotion for women and LGBTQIA+ individuals in the workplace.

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