A citizen army for science: Quantifying the contributions of citizen scientists to our understanding of monarch butterfly biology

Leslie Ries, Karen Oberhauser

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

41 Scopus citations


The first monarch citizen science program was launched in the 1950s and, since then, thousands of volunteers have made fundamental contributions to our accumulating knowledge of monarch biology. We quantified these efforts and the degree to which citizen science has contributed to monarch scholarship. We estimate that, in 2011, volunteers spent over 72,000 hours collecting data useful for monarch research. Of 503 monarch-focused research publications in which new results were presented from 1940 to 2014, 17% used citizen science data. We address persistent gaps in the use and coverage of these data and show that, despite a typical view of volunteers as mere data collectors for scientists, many citizens are deeply engaged in all aspects of monarch research and data use. Finally, we argue that monarchs provide a model system for understanding the impacts of citizen science on scholarship, public engagement, and conservation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)419-430
Number of pages12
Issue number4
StatePublished - Mar 30 2015



  • citizen science
  • monarch butterfly
  • monitoring
  • public participation in scientific research

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