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UTSA to conduct research on monarch butterflies

University among three-country coalition involved in research project

SAN ANTONIO – The University of Texas at San Antonio has been chosen to participate in a research project involving monarch butterflies.

UTSA will join dozens of prestigious research facilities from the U.S., Mexico and Canada for the Monarch Joint Venture project in hopes of keeping the butterfly from becoming endangered.

"We're losing monarchs at an incredible rate," said Terri Matiella, UTSA senior lecturer of Ecological Sciences. "If they all disappear, we wouldn't be around very long. They used to cover an area the size of 15 football fields."

The butterfly was once a common sight across South Texas and Mexico.

San Antonio lies in the migration path of the monarch, which has resulted in citywide efforts to protect the insect.

George Perry, UTSA dean of science, said the the university is honored and qualified to be involved in the project.

"We're making strides and we're providing leadership across three countries," Perry said. "We had tremendous expertise in plants; plant biology."

The expertise includes years of research into milkweed, the Monarch's most important food source.

"They have to have milkweed in order for them to complete their life cycle," Matiella said.

Monarch butterflies serve an important role in the food chain as a major pollinator.

A butterfly house, which sits inside a university greenhouse, serves as a laboratory for the research.

The research project involves looking at issues such as climate change and its effect on the insect and how fire ants may be affecting the monarch population.  

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