Western Monarch Thanksgiving Count: Nov. 14 – Dec. 6, 2020

Hello Western Monarch Thanksgiving and New Year’s Count Community!

Thank you for being a part of this incredibly important community science program! This remarkable volunteer effort collects invaluable data that gives researchers and conservationists a reliable picture of the western monarch population to inform conservation efforts. The Western Monarch Thanksgiving Count (WMTC) would not be possible without all of you – the volunteers and hard-working regional coordinators!

Monarchs have started arriving at some overwintering sites along the California Coast, and the Thanksgiving Count time is approaching quickly. This year the Western Monarch Thanksgiving Count runs from Saturday, November 14 to Sunday, December 6, and the New Year’s Count runs from Saturday, December 26 to Sunday, January 10. While we accept counts conducted anytime during the overwintering season, conducting a count during these three week periods help us compare monarch populations in a standardized way across years. This year, we are encouraging early counts so that we can start to better understand when butterflies arrive at overwintering sites, and better document how butterfly numbers change throughout the overwintering season.

You can find all the information you need to monitor your grove, including a step-by-step monitoring guide, data sheets, and answers to frequently-asked-questions on the Western Monarch Count website. At a minimum, we ask participants to fill out the Monarch Count datasheet and if you have the time, to fill out either the short- or long-Habitat Assessment datasheet to help us better assess the health of the grove. Please consider using the online data submission forms, and the new Survey 123 app to collect and submit data.

The health and safety of volunteers is our highest priority, and therefore this year the count will run a little differently to comply with COVID-19 safety guidelines and ensure everyone stays safe! There is a LOT of information in this email, and I hope you all take the time to read through it, and get back to us with any questions or concerns you may have about conducting counts during the pandemic ([email protected]).

No in-person training or group count events this year

The major difference to the count this year, is that regional coordinators will not be able to host in-person training or group counts. This means that we will not be able to pair new volunteers with experienced volunteers for their first count. As part of the training process, we usually require that all new volunteers conduct their first count with an experienced volunteer to make sure that they understand the protocol and collect data correctly. This helps us to maintain data consistency and accuracy from year to year and is super important when it comes time to analyze the data! So this year, new volunteers are encouraged to attend the online refresher training workshops (info below), watch the training video already on the website, and to connect with their regional coordinator to see how they can assist this year. Some regional coordinators may be willing to conduct socially distanced counts to get new volunteers up to speed, but it will vary so please be respectful of the regional coordinator’s time and availability during these difficult times.

Returning Volunteers

Please let us know if you WILL or WILL NOT be able to conduct a count at a site you normally count. You can use this form to let us know. Please fill this out so that we can track what sites are covered, and what sites still need to be assigned a volunteer this year! Thank you so much for helping us out with this!

With these changes, it also means that returning volunteers may not be able to have in-person contact with a regional coordinator or fellow volunteers (unless you can arrange to arrive separately to overwintering sites, and maintain social distance, with masks to conduct counts). We strongly encourage volunteers and regional coordinators to set up online video calls or group email messages to check-in frequently to stay connected, informed, and to share what you are seeing at overwintering sites as the season progresses. Also, please be sure to register for and attend the online refresher training for your region to connect with you coordinator (info below).

In the past few years, we have been trying to better understand when monarchs first arrive at overwintering sites. Many volunteers are already visiting their sites to see if monarchs have arrived. If you have the capacity, and can safely visit your site(s), the more data we can get the better! 🙂 If you do visit a site, please enter your data using the online data entry forms, or the new Survey 123 application for mobile devices. Even if you don’t see any monarchs, please fill out a datasheet because recording an absence of monarchs at a site is important data too! We will cover how to use Survey 123 in the online refresher training workshops, so if you have trouble setting it up, don’t worry, we will help you get it working!

As a reminder, you can submit data in the following ways:
1) Use the Survey 123 app and submit data directly from your mobile device (phone or tablet)!! This is by far the easiest way to collect and submit data!!!
2) Online survey forms
3) Email or mail a scanned copy of your datasheets to [email protected]
4) Monarch SOS app for iPhone

Online Refresher Training Workshops!

Instead of in-person training, we will be hosting three online training workshops presented by the Xerces Society and regional coordinators. (New volunteers are encouraged to join, so that they can start the training process this year!). Please register for the training for your region at the links below so that you have a chance to hear from your regional coordinator and get information specific to your area. To determine which training you should attend, consult this online map to find your county and regional coordinator.

Northern California Western Monarch Count Refresher Training (Mendocino, Sonoma, Marin, Contra Costa, Solano, San Francisco, Alameda, San Mateo, Santa Cruz,and Monterey Counties)
Tuesday Oct. 27
4:30-6pm
Click here to register.

Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo Western Monarch Count Refresher Training
Friday, October 30th
9-10:30am
Click here to register.

Southern California Western Monarch Count Refresher Training (Ventura, San Diego, Los Angeles, and Orange Counties, California and Northern Baja, Mexico)
Wed, November 4th
10-11:30am
Click here to register.

Field Work and COVID-19

Monarch overwintering sites are owned and managed by private, federal, state, county, and city entities. As such, we will ask that volunteers be sure to check with the specific land owner (state parks, forest service, county or city park etc.) before visiting an overwintering site to ensure that 1. A site is open to the public and 2. To make sure that you follow the local site-specific safety regulations for COVID-19. The safety guidelines vary from site to site within California.

We encourage volunteers to please comply with all federal, state, and local safety guidance regarding outdoor spaces and COVID-19. The following are general guidelines to consider following when conducting a count:
-Follow all local recommendations and guidelines (State, County, City etc.) .
-Maintain social distance of at least 6 feet.
-Wear a mask.
-Wash your hands often (before and after leaving home). Avoid touching your face. Keep sanitizer with you to use while you’re out.
-Only conduct a count with people that you normally spend time with (e.g. family, pod).
-Minimize contact with others, do not plan or attend group count events.

Most importantly, please only do what you are comfortable with. If you need to postpone a count to keep yourself and others safe, please do so! If you have any safety concerns about accessing your site for a count, please contact your regional coordinator or email [email protected]

This count would not be possible without all of the incredible volunteers and regional coordinators! A huge THANK YOU to all of the volunteers!