A new beginning

The Teacher Fellows have started working with us!

These are three primary school teachers, based  in Christchurch, South Auckland and Bay of Islands, who will be doing research over the first half of this year into the Monarch butterfly and their migratory patterns over the autumn.

I am starting this blog (web log) so that they can share with us some of the highlights of their six months.


  1. Posted February 8, 2008 at 1:16 PM | Permalink

    Hi I’m Cherie Harris – from Christchurch. I have just returned home after 3 intensive weeks away at the Enviornmental Education conference, the Royal Society Symposium and the Monarch Butterfly conference in Russell. It’s been a trip of ‘firsts’ for me! I have seen my first Tui, flocks of swallows, heard Kiwi and Morepork in the wild, went sailing in the Bay of Islands (the Field Trip), trotted round Waitangi, Russell, Kerikeri and Auckland. Slept in 7 different beds and came home 8 1/2 kgs over weight!!!! (with a BIGGER suitcase!!!!) I learned so much about the Monarch from Meron Zulaski (from Australia) and I’ve developed a new interest in our NZ moths from Robert Hoare (Auckland). After meeting with Mark Hauber (Auckland University) I’m really buzzing with the projects we will be involved with. A fantastic learning experience – but boy am I glad to be home!!! Cherie

  2. Posted February 8, 2008 at 2:23 PM | Permalink

    Hi I’m Lesley Standish-Wing from Kerikeri. I too am glad to be home after 3 weeks of hectic, but exciting experiences. It is great to speak with knowlegable and enthusiastic people, I have found out so much about monarchs, but know there is much more to learn! They are fascinating, I look forward to the research that Cherie, Rosanne and I will be doing over the next few months.
    The speakers at the Russell conference were great and the field trip was awesome.
    I am currently building a butterfly house in which I can raise caterpillars away from any predators. I can’t wait to get it finished. I’ve been clearing and planting a milkweed patch in my garden to encourage the monarchs to visit my place more.Lots to do.

  3. Posted February 11, 2008 at 2:44 PM | Permalink

    Hi, I’m Roseanne Andrew from Manurewa, South Auckland. Over the past three weeks I have joined Lesley and Cherie all round the country learning heaps of new things. It was tiring but a lot of fun and I’ve learnt so much already.
    One of the highlights for me was talking with Prof. Meron Zalucki at the conference in Russell. He is such a wealth of knowledge when it comes to Monarchs. The other speakers spoke on related topics such as moths, plants and migration and were also fascinating to listen to. Talking with people like them makes one realise how little we know at times.
    I am really looking forward to our projects over the next six months. I will be involved with tagging, transect walks to observe Monarch numbers and behaviour. Hopefully I will also be able to do some lab tests on the toxicity levels of various milkweed found in NZ and whether it has an impact on caterpillar survival rates. Well, that’s the plan at this stage.

  4. Posted February 11, 2008 at 2:51 PM | Permalink

    It has been a busy period for you. You must be all wanting to get back to the “peace” of a classroom environment!

    This will be a great place for our members to come and see how you’re donig. I will tell them about it in our March newsletter – if I ever get the time to put it together!


  5. Posted February 13, 2008 at 8:28 PM | Permalink

    I’ve spent the week since I got home trying to brush up on my knowledge of the Monarch, sourcing and buying plants for my projects and finding relevant research to review. Today I went to meet up with my Host at Landcare at Lincoln. We had some good discussions on how to run the projects. Julia has arranged for me to meet with an insect expert (Hugh Gourlay) next week to see if there are ways they can assist with equipment (VERY sensitive scales) and other equipment that will aid my projects. I am also sorting out my transect walk so that I can begin to get initial data. On Tuesday I spent a very interesting morning with Vicki Steele – she is SO knowledgeable – i came away buzzing – but with the knowledge that I have a LOT more studying to do!! Thanks Vicki.

  6. Posted February 23, 2008 at 6:06 PM | Permalink

    I’ve been busy lately sorting out things like my transect walk, trialling small caterpillars in plastic cups for my project which have gone well. With the drought here in Auckland it’s meant having to water my plants often but I did notice something interesting when we got rain for a short time about a week ago. The sky had got very dark and I knew it would rain shortly so decided to take some shelter and watch what the butterflies in my garden would do. Some were on my swan plants and two others on a nearby tree and bush. When the rain was light at first they just sat on the bushes with their wings open. I thought they would’ve looked for shelter. As the rain got heavier the ones on the swan plants moved to the trees and closed up their wings. However, they stayed quite exposed to the heavy rain. This surprised me as I expected them to find better shelter. Interesting stuff!

  7. Posted February 29, 2008 at 8:59 AM | Permalink

    I have had a busy time. I needed to construct a predator proof butterfly house, so used all my construction skills ( and my husbands), I am pleased with the results. I have planted a swanplant patch outside and have planted some in the butterfly house as well. I have sourced plants for experiments I am doing. There have been some interesting firsts, This morning I was lucky enough to watch a caterpillar completing the process of changing into a chrysalis…an awesome memory. Each day I eagerly check the line up of chrysalis to see which are about to hatch, I’ve yet to be in the right place at thr right time. I’ve begun transect walks and am really enjoying talking to people about monarchs when I am out and about.

  8. Posted March 16, 2008 at 10:01 AM | Permalink

    I’m now in the middle of hatching some 65 caterpillars!

    I should probably remind you of my research question: how much does a single caterpillar eat?

    20 have hatched and 45 to go!!! 25 are on the watch list for today – and the first ones are now starting their first moult!

    I’ve taken samples of 3 species of milkweed – Swan Plant (Gomphacarpus fruticosus); Giant Swan Plant (Gomphacarpus physocarpus) and Asclepias curissavica (Tropical – both Silky Gold and Silky Scarlet). The leaves have been weighed, then dried and re-weighed so that I will be able to convert fresh weight leaves to dry weight, so that moisture loss in the leaves is not impacting on the data.

    Once the caterpillars are preparing to moult as 2nd instars I will be weighing the caterpillars prior and after moult and the leaf material in the mornings when I replace eaten material. The reason I’m waiting til they are 2nd instars is that they eat such small amounts it’s incrediably hard to weigh such small amounts. The research methodology I’m following also waited to 2nd instar to collect data.

    I’ve also been out to visit a couple of schools and a kindergarton – the children were fascinated and really involved. It’s been fantastic sharing the knowledge I’ve learnt with other adults and the children. The children’s faces really light up when they talk about “their” butterflies!!

    Many thanks to the children at Greendale School for their beautiful butterflies and letters – they are decorating my “study” come /nursery come /spare room!!!

  9. Posted March 24, 2008 at 3:41 PM | Permalink

    Cherie has sent in some photographs – they can be seen here:



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