WHEELING - As Monarch butterfly populations are plummeting nation wide, Oglebay Good Zoo staff and master naturalists are participating in a project to study the butterflies' decline and create more of their milkweed habitats.
Naturalists study, rear, tag and release monarchs prior to their migration to Mexico for the winter. They also raise and plant several species of milkweed in home gardens, local farms and throughout Oglebay Resort including golf courses, the Good Zoo, resort gardens and at the Schrader Center.
Area residents interested in learning more about the monarch project and many other citizen scientist projects can attend Master Naturalist classes that begin Sept. 6. Classes cost just $6 per hour of instruction and under $400 for the entire certification program; students participate at their own pace and take up to three years to complete the program or finish in one year. The fall classes are held at the Good Zoo or West Liberty University on Saturdays and Sundays. Fall classes include terrestrial and aquatic habitats; screech owls; insects; dressing for the outdoors in winter.
MONARCH TAGGING?PROGRAM — A monarch butterfly is tagged by Good Zoo Master Naturalist Carol Sasseen just before being released. Classes are held at the zoo on Saturdays and Sundays and often involve walks in the woods and occasional field trips to a farm, university, woodlands or streams. -- Contributed
Classes can be taken in any order, and students can join the program by enrolling in any class.
"Anyone of any age or background fits into the group, you just have to be a nature lover," said Vickie Markey-Tekely, curator of education.
Spring 2015 classes will include core classes by area naturalist Scott Shalaway teaching West Virginia birds; and Bill Beatty teaching trees, wildflowers and medicinal plants. Electives taught by Good Zoo staff include West Virginia otters, box turtles and Monarch butterfly conservation.
"The program is a fun and interesting way to learn about nature," said Daniel Caron, master naturalist. "I enjoy the program's interactive, hands-on format. The classes teach me to see something different every time I step outside."
Students conduct 16 hours of volunteer work on nature projects of their own choosing in order to become certified.
"Our students participate in backyard bird projects, put up bluebird boxes, survey and report frog calls, raise and tag monarch butterflies, and improve their garden and property to attract wildlife," said Penny Miller, zoo director. "Others like to help out at state or zoo wildlife events, or pass on their knowledge to children."
"I enjoy teaching my grandkids and neighbors about the monarch butterflies I rear and tag," said certified Master Naturalist Carol Saseen.
The curriculum was developed by the West Virginia Division of Wildlife to develop citizen scientists and naturalists across the state. Students from Ohio and Pennsylvania are welcome to participate also.
Those interested can visit www.oglebay-resort.com/goodzoo or call Markey-Tekely at (304) 243-4033 or Miller at (304) 243-4027.