Tallgrass Prairie Center


Pollinator Conservation

Butterfly weed and IRVM
Monarch on Liatris asperaRepeated threats to the survival of bees, and the decade-long decline in monarch butterfly populations have attracted widespread concern. The TPC is working to restore the necessary habitats of these important and beloved insects:


Working strategically
The Tallgrass Prairie Center is a partner and steering committee member of Monarch Joint Venture. Guided by the North American Monarch Conservation Plan, MJV partners across the US work in a coordinated way to address priorities for research, education and habitat restoration. This group has been advising federal land management agencies and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy on habitat restoration strategies for pollinators and the monarch butterfly, in response to the Presidential Memorandum on Pollinator Recovery.  Director Laura Jackson is a member of the US Geological Survey Monarch Science Conservation Partnership, which recently published an article in Environmental Research Letters. We are also members of the Iowa Monarch Conservation Consortium.

Building capacity for native seed production
Over the last 18 years, Natural Selections has released 36 species of native nectar plants for commercial seed producers, and another 19 grass and sedge species that also support native pollinators, such as skippers. The visionary, sustained support of the Iowa Department of Transportation’s Living Roadway Trust Fund has made this possible. New efforts in partnership with LRTF, the Iowa DNR’s Prairie Resource Center, and Monarch Joint Venture, are developing five species of milkweed and a prime, late-summer nectar species, Meadow Blazingstar for eventual release. Natural Selections tackles the essential agronomic/horticultural issues related to the production of wild species by answering questions about source populations, seed germination, weed control, field conditions for maximum yield, seed harvest and processing. We share this hard-won knowledge for the benefit of tallgrass prairie restorations across the region.

Distributing native seed for roadsides
The Integrated Roadside Vegetation Management program distributes more native, source-identified seed per year--and verifies its planting--than any other program nationally.  These roadside plantings include swamp and butterfly milkweed, plus grasses and dozens of species of nectar plants, feeding wildlife all season long. The diverse mixtures help to ensure that the road right-of-way resists erosion, intercepts blowing snow, resists weed invasion and remains functional for many years. 

Expanding our capacity to plant habitat on farms, roadsides and urban areas
 The Prairie on Farms project is extending habitat to prairie strips within crop fields, with web toos, field days and winter meetings to support practitioners. We developed and continue to update  PlantIowaNative.com, which provides information on a wide variety of habitat restoration services for homeowners. The Restoration and Research program  conducts applied research on seed mixes and planting techniques. Training videos, workshops, technical guides, and focused meetings provide professional development opportunities for beginning and experienced practitioners. We host regional and national meetings (see the Iowa Prairie Conference) to connect with the scientific community. See our recent Monarch Joint Venture Webinar on establishment of monarch habitat.

Engaging students and the agricultural community 
The Pollinator Habitat Evaluation Project consisting of  UNI students led by biology professors Laura Jackson, Mark Myers, Mark Sherrard, and Ai Wen, survey Conservation Reserve Program plantings across eastern Iowa, collecting data on vegetation, floral resources, bees and butterflies. Community volunteers help train students.  Landowners receive a report on the progress of their planting.  Students analyze data and share their individual research projects in a poster presentation in late July.  Visit our Facebook page for the latest updates.

Report your Monarch butterfly sightings

at Journey North!