SAN ANTONIO – The University of Texas at San Antonio has been named a certified wildlife habitat by the National Wildlife Federation.
The university said it is in recognition of its commitment to the preservation of the state's insect -- the monarch butterfly.
President Ricardo Romo dedicated 6.8 acres of the main campus in April to the research and preservation of monarch butterflies. University officials said the top-tier research that was led by Janis Bush, UTSA professor of environmental sciences, is the result of a $300,000 grant from Texas comptroller Glenn Hegar.
"I'm excited for our research, the environmental sciences program here at UTSA and especially our students," Bush said. "I think the great benefit of certifying that area through the NWF helps us further solidify our commitment to maintaining that area to preserve and study monarch butterflies."
Faculty members and students have conducted roadside surveys throughout the state in the past year to determine the prevalence of monarch larvae and eggs in Texas. University officials said the results will help preservationists determine whether the monarch should be placed on the federal endangered species list.
"It's very inspiring to observe the tremendous impact our environmental sciences team is having on the monarch butterfly habitat and the repeated honors they are receiving for their work," said George Perry, Semmes Foundation Distinguished University Chair in Neurobiology and dean of the UTSA College of Sciences.
Early estimates from northern wildlife organizations show the population of monarch butterflies may have tripled this year as a result of efforts to maintain their Texas breeding grounds, according to Bush. But because specific numbers will not be available until they pass through the state again in October to return to Mexico, Bush isn't celebrating just yet, officials said.
"I think all of the attention that has been paid to the monarch butterfly over the last year is helping them begin to thrive again," Bush said. "I'm very excited to see how they've progressed since they were last here."
Bush is gearing up for another round of roadside surveys, which this year will stretch further out of central Texas into Eagle Pass and Laredo, university officials said. She is collaborating with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on a job fair to build a career pipeline for environmental sciences students.
"It's exciting to see so many opportunities for our students," Bush said. "It's great to see them reaching for careers with the federal government that would allow them to influence decisions to protect our wildlife."