ST. PAUL, Minn. (June 25, 2013)—University of Minnesota Extension specialist Karen Oberhauser has been named a White House Champion of Change for Citizen Science. The national award recognizes her critical research on the habitat and conservation of monarch butterflies and her use of volunteer "citizen scientists" to collect data over long periods and broad geographic areas.
Oberhauser and other honorees were honored this morning during a ceremony at the White House.
The Champions of Change award recognizes the value citizen scientists provide, particularly as it relates to collecting and analyzing data over broad geographic areas and timeframes that would otherwise be cost-prohibitive. At the same time, citizen scientists allow for what Oberhauser called "fine-scale data, often literally from people's back yards."
Oberhauser has spent decades researching monarchs, helped by data collected through citizen science projects at the Monarch Larva Monitoring Project. Developed at the University of Minnesota, the MLMP involves hundreds of volunteers from across the United States and Canada in monarch research. Since 1996, their combined efforts have helped create greater understanding about the decline of monarch populations due to habitat loss.
"I've called citizen scientists an 'army for conservation' for many reasons: they collect data with conservation applications, they often become stewards for local habitats, and they reach out to others about the importance of conservation," said Oberhauser, also a professor in the College of Food Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences department of Fisheries, Wildlife and Conservation Biology.
Oberhauser's research and education reflects the strong partnership between the university and Minnesotans, said Bev Durgan, Extension dean.
"Karen Oberhauser's research deepens our understanding of how habitat loss threatens monarch populations. Through Extension's statewide connections, 'citizen scientists' help support essential conservation efforts aimed at stabilizing the butterfly population," Durgan said.
At the University, Oberhauser researches and teaches in the fields of conservation biology, insect ecology, global climate change and monarch butterfly population dynamics. Her teaching extends beyond the University and into K-12 schools through her "Monarchs in the Classroom" project that began in 1991 and the educational workshops she conducts for teachers.
"Professor Oberhauser represents the best and the brightest in our faculty here at the University of Minnesota. Her work with citizen scientists, teachers and elementary school students exemplifies the deep importance we place on public engagement, which is a core part of the University's land grant mission," President Eric Kaler said.
More about Champions for Change is at whitehouse.gov/champions.
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