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About Us

Karen Oberhauser

Dr. Karen Oberhauser Director, Monarchs in the Classroom Program; Associate Professor, Department of Fisheries, Wildlife and Conservation Biology, University of Minnesota; President, Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary Foundation.

Karen Oberhauser has been studying monarch butterflies since 1984. She works with teachers and pre-college students in Minnesota and throughout the United States using monarchs to teach about biology, conservation, and the process of science.

I am becoming more and more concerned with the impacts that humans have on monarchs and other organisms, and with the precarious balance between human needs and the needs of the species with which we share the planet. I'm convinced that learning as much as we can about our fellow earth-inhabitants and then sharing the amazing things that we discover will tip the balance in a direction that will be better for all of us.

Wendy Caldwell

Wendy CaldwellProgram Coordinator – Monarch Joint Venture

Wendy Caldwell began working at the Monarch Lab as an undergraduate research assistant in 2007, undertaking independent research on monarch parasitoid wasps and assisting with graduate student research and other lab activities. Currently she is working as a community program specialist for the Monarch Lab and is the coordinator of The Monarch Joint Venture and the Monarch Larva Monitoring Project. Through these programs she engages with land managers, conservation organizations, educators, citizen scientists and the general public to promote monarch conservation, monitoring, and education.

Katie-Lyn Bunney

Katie-Lyn BunneyProgram Coordinator - Monarchs in the Classroom

Katie-Lyn Bunney graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2008 with a degree in Environmental Sciences Policy and Management. Since then, she has worked as an informal educator at the Bell Museum of Natural History, nature centers, the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, Dakota County Parks, and most recently at Como Park Zoo and Conservatory where she was also the Camp Director. She serves on the board for the Minnesota Association for Environmental Education, a volunteer-run organization for promoting and advocating for environmental education in Minnesota. Katie-Lyn enjoys the opportunities the Monarch Lab has to work with so many people devoted to and interested in promoting conservation and education. She loves having such an integral role in providing them with the tools and skills they are seeking.

Sarah Weaver

Sarah WeaverProgram Coordinator - Schoolyard Ecology Explorations (SEE)

Sarah Weaver believes that informed and empowered kids can make an incredible impact on our environment and our future (ask about her salmon story!). Sarah is truly grateful to work with the Monarch Lab because she gets to support teachers and students getting outside to discover, learn, conserve and experience nature.

She graduated from Hamline University (1999) and completed her master’s degree at the University of Minnesota (2010). Her research focused on a Pesticide called permethrin and its impact on monarch butterfly growth and survival. In the classroom Sarah enjoyed (yes-really!!) 7 years teaching at Washington Technology Magnet Middle School in the St. Paul Public School District. She continues to volunteer in St. Paul Schools and maintains a 5-12 classroom teaching license. Sarah enjoys spending time with her family and teaching dance (ballet, modern and Irish) at O’Shea Irish Dance.

K.S. Oberhauser, S.J. Brinda, S.Weaver, R.D. Moon, S. A. Manweiler and N. Read. 2006. Growth and survival of monarch butterflies (Lepidoptera: Danaidae) after exposure to permethrin barrier treatments. Environmental Entomology. 35 (6):1626-1634.

Sarada Sangameswaran

Community Program Assistant

Sarada Sangameswaran graduated from Rutgers University in 1995 with a master’s in Ecology. She spent seven years in environmental consulting firms, conducting wetland and water quality studies, endangered species surveys and wetland restoration plans. In 2002, she joined the Chicago Botanic Garden as their Coordinator for Secondary Education Programs, getting first generation college-goers to engage in hands-on science and to spend time outdoors. She has also worked as a freelance consultant, evaluating projects and conducting workshops. Most recently, she worked as a naturalist at the Three Rivers Park District.

Sarada joined the University of Minnesota Monarch Lab in Fall 2013 as a Community Program Assistant. She is looking forward to engaging people, especially teachers and students, in citizen science projects. In her spare time, she loves to read a good book and spend time outdoors with her family.

Kelly Nail

Kelly NailGraduate Student

Kelly Nail is excited to work in the Monarch Lab as she pursues her PhD in conservation biology. As an undergraduate at St. Olaf College, she majored in mathematics and biology. Kelly also spent a year researching Mongolian paleoecology and has completed field work in the forests of Southern India. After graduation, she spent the next few years teaching high school biology in rural Mississippi. Currently, Kelly is working on mechanistically modeling monarch butterfly migration using physiological data determined from lab and field work. She especially enjoys working in the Monarch Lab because of the strong scientific outreach component, both through MLMP and Monarchs in the Classroom.

Carl Stenoien

Carl StenoienGraduate Student

Carl Stenoien began pursuing a PhD in Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior with the Monarch Lab in 2012. He is studying the ecology of plant defenses across multiple trophic levels and the behavior of parasitoid wasps. Monarchs are a particularly great model system for questions in these fields because they sequester toxins from their larval host plants and are attacked by both generalist and specialist natural enemies. Carl is a graduate of Gustavus Adolphus College (2011), where he majored in Biology, minored in Neuroscience, and competed in track and field. Carl is passionate about many things, including teaching and mentoring undergraduates, advocating for long-term environmental sustainability, and the intrinsic value of physical activity.

The best thing about the monarch lab is the diversity of things we do here; Everything from citizen science and implementing quality curriculum for K-12 students to research projects that span the basic to applied continuum.

Eva Lewandowski

Eva LewandowskiGraduate Student

Eva Lewandowski is pursuing a PhD in Conservation Biology. She has a BS from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and an MS from Michigan State University. She is interested in conservation outreach and environmental education, and she currently studies the conservation outcomes of participating in citizen science.

Amy Witty

Amy WittyWebsites Administrator

Amy Witty graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1995 with a BS in Mechanical Engineering. She worked as a manufacturing engineer, design engineer, and continuous improvement specialist at various local companies before leaving Corporate America to start a family and to develop her own web design and development company, Witty Web Design. Amy has been working with the Monarch Lab since 2005. In her spare time, she also enjoys photography and soccer.


Former Staff

Lis Young-Isebrand

Lis Young-Isebrand Elisabeth Young-Isebrand graduated from Macalester College in 1989 with a major in biology. She taught high school biology, chemistry, AP biology and environmental biology for seven years at Minneapolis Washburn High School. She left Minneapolis Washburn in 1999 to raise her son, work part-time in environmental education and finish her Masters degree.

Elisabeth began working with Dr. Karen Oberhauser at Monarchs in the Classroom (MITC) as program coordinator in 2001. Working with Dr. Oberhauser exposed her to the powerful impact monarchs have on motivating students to ask questions and learn.

In the spring of 2005 she began her current position as community program specialist for a new initiative called Schoolyard Ecology Explorations. She is interested in the ways students can learn science and other topics by studying the plants and animals in their schoolyard. She completed her M.Ed. in environmental education at the University of Minnesota in 2005.

Grant Bowers

Grant Bowers Grant Bowers first got involved with the Monarch Lab through a freshman seminar about monarch biology and conservation that Karen Oberhauser was teaching in his first semester at the U of M. After that, he took another class with Karen in the spring and was thrilled at the chance to work in the Monarch Lab in the summer of 2005. Grant spent three years as an undergraduate research assistant, helping out with graduate students’ research and maintaining the lab until he graduated in May of 2008. After graduation, he became the Program Coordinator for Monarchs in the Classroom. Grant is excited to have the opportunity to work with teachers and provide the tools they need to teach science, inquiry, and conservation biology.

I think back to the teachers that impacted me, and most were science teachers. Without their passion and dedication, I might not be in this field. To have the chance to work with teachers who impact their students in the same way my teachers have is rewarding and fun.

Reba Batalden

Reba BataldenReba Batalden is a PhD student with the Monarch Lab. Her research focuses on the effect that climate change could have on monarchs’ summer and migratory habitat. This project relies heavily on data collected by MLMP volunteers. Reba also participates in the MLMP as she monitors three sites in Minnesota and one in Wisconsin with the lab group. She is active in the Monarchs in the Classroom program as well, helping to teach teachers about insect ecology and give them tools to use in their schools. Reba joined the Monarch Lab in the summer of 2003, after completing her undergraduate degree at St. Olaf College.

Dina Kountoupes

Dina Kountoupes Dina Kountoupes graduated from Macalester College in 1993 with a degree in International Studies and Spanish. She also studied environmental issues and followed that interest immediately after college to work in environmental education centers around the nation: in California, Maine, Vermont, and Minnesota. In 1996 she took her interest in the environment to the tropics of Costa Rica where she applied her Spanish skills to work at sustainable development research centers, sustainable farms, environmental education centers and a sea turtle research center. In 2000 she returned to Minnesota and began working in children’s gardens programs while pursuing a Master's Degree at the University of Minnesota in environmental education, under the advisement of Dr. Karen Oberhauser. Her thesis project evaluated the MLMP program to learn more about how it could better serve a youth audience. Dina continues to work in the Monarch Lab at the University of MN, helping coordinate both the MLMP program as well as the Schoolyard Ecology Exploration (SEE) program.

Karen Christenson

Karen Christenson graduated in 2002 from the University of Utah with a degree in biology. She traveled extensively and worked in outdoor education in ME and CA before deciding to pursue a teaching degree. She taught eighth grade physical science for three years in Lamar, CO. In 2009 she began her graduate studies at the University of Minnesota in the department of Natural Resource Science and Management with a focus on environmental education and a minor in sustainable agriculture.

She is currently working with Monarch Lab by evaluating the University of Minnesota’s Schoolyard Ecology and Exploration Garden Grant program for her Master’s Plan B project.

Kenzie Kelly

Kenzie Kelly Kenzie Kelly is an undergraduate majoring in Ecology, Evolution, and Behavioral Science. She first got involved with the Monarch Lab as a middle school student with the MLMP. She started working as an undergraduate research assistant in the Monarch Lab in fall 2009. She has continued to work in the Monarch Lab since then, helping with the Insect Fair, Monarchs in the Classroom, MLMP, and research projects.

Alma De Anda

Alma De AndaAlma P. De Anda received her BS in zoology from California State Polytechnic University, Pomona in 2005, and her MS at the University of Minnesota in Ecology, Evolution and Behavior in 2010. She studied predator-prey and host-parasitoid dynamics using monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus) as model systems, and collected thousands of lines of MLMP data as a graduate student. She is now teaching in community colleges in southern CA.

While researchers have studied how host plant defenses and temperature affect larval survival, there are few comprehensive studies of predators, and no studies of the relative importance of predators, host plant defenses and abiotic factors. I studied the relative importance of interactions with host plants and predators in regulating monarch population densities. My work--involving observational field studies, empirical work, and a cooperative network of volunteer citizen scientists--provided the first comprehensive study of monarch population regulation during the breeding portion of their annual migratory cycle.

Sarah Kempke

Graduate Student, University of Michigan

Sarah Kempke graduated from the U of MN in May 2005 with a BS in Ecology, Evolution and Behavior, and a minor in Technical Communication. Interested in ecology, insects, and human impacts on the environment - as well as in communicating these topics to the public - she jumped at the chance to coordinate programs at the Monarch Lab. She is constantly inspired by the hard work and dedication of the monarch students, teachers and volunteers that she interacts with every day - in whom she sees hope for future generations of monarchs, and for our world as a whole.

Sonia Altizer

Associate Professor, University of Georgia

As a graduate student at the University of Minnesota, Sonia Altizer studied the interactions between a protozoan parasite and monarch butterflies. She is interested in how diseases affect natural populations of many organisms, and is currently teaching at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia.

A fascinating array of parasites and diseases persist in insect hosts, and I would like to understand factors affecting parasite outbreaks in insect populations. I hope that my research on host-parasite interactions will aid in the preservation of threatened species and habitats.

Michelle Prysby

As a graduate student in the Department of Ecology, University of Minnesota and as the first Director of the Monarch Larva Monitoring Project, Michelle Prysby studied patterns of monarch distribution and abundance, and the many factors that influence these patterns. She is now the Master Naturalist Program Coordinator for the state of Virginia.

I see a need for better communication between scientists and the public, and my passion is to help bridge this communication gap through both formal and informal education. The nationwide larval monarch monitoring program is just one example of the many possible partnerships between scientists and the public, and I intend to continue developing and promoting these partnerships throughout my career.

Athena Decker

Athena Decker worked on the original design of this website. She now works for Americorps in the southern US, and continues to help with Monarchs in the Classroom technical work.

I like working with monarch butterflies; they are fascinating creatures. Working in this lab has given me the opportunity to experience hands-on what research is like, something that you can't get in class.

Jolene Lushine

Jolene Lushine graduated from the U of MN with a Bachelor of Science in Biology in the Spring of 2002. She stepped into the monarch world in the summer of 2000 when she was hired as a field assistant and spent a majority of her summer monitoring monarchs in cornfields. She continued to contribute to monarch research by working on a summer Undergraduate Research Opportunity Project to determine if energy availability had an impact on male monarch mating success. Jolene is currently embarking on a new career in medical technology, but still finds time to help out at the Insect Fair every year.

Brij Bhasin

Brij Bhasin graduated with an Undergraduate degree in Computer Science in December 2003 and worked on the MITC website and Monarch Store.