The new mobile app HabiTally can improve data collection about pollinator habitat. The app was developed jointly by Bayer and The Climate Corporation, with support from Iowa State University’s Center for Survey Statistics and Methodology. The app is free but only available for iOS devices from the App Store.
The app is part of the “Standing Innovation” theme of ISU’s exhibit at the 2019 Iowa State Fair. It helps document monarch butterfly habitat by mapping milkweed.
Monarch butterflies face challenges that have contributed to a major decline in their population over the last two decades. More breeding habitat and food resources, including milkweed and nectar, across the migration route will help monarch populations recover. HabiTally enables farmers, landowners and private citizens to support these efforts by entering data about monarch habitat conservation efforts on their farms or yards, or in locations like churches or parks where groups may create new habitat.
Landowners can share information
“Increased habitat is essential to protect populations of monarch butterflies and other pollinators,” says Charlie Wooley, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Midwest director. “Digital tools to help citizens enter the quantity and general location of pollinator habitats can play a big role in advancing conservation efforts, not only for pollinators, but also for other animals and birds that rely on the same type of habitat.”
Farmers play a key role in protecting monarch butterfly habitat, and HabiTally will help ensure their efforts are documented. Information collected through the HabiTally app is completely anonymous and aggregated entirely at the county level. It won’t be shared at the farm level. Users will be able to see national and state accounts of efforts logged within the app.
“The 45 organizations engaged with the Iowa Monarch Conservation Consortium have worked the past four years to encourage Iowa farmers and landowners to follow best, science-based practices to increase existing pollinator habitat,” says Steve Bradbury, ISU professor of natural resource ecology. “The new HabiTally app is a great opportunity to see our progress across non-crop acres that are part of our ag landscape and to show Iowa’s commitment to long-term recovery of the monarch population.”
Fine-tuning your pollinator plot
To participate, users drop pins on a map to mark their conservation habitat location and enter basic, key characteristics of the habitat, which include estimated number of milkweeds, percent of nectar flowers and, if known, date the habitat was planted. HabiTally then automatically calculates the size of the habitat based on the user’s entry and auto-populates information about milkweed density and land-use classification.
Users can also record whether they have seen monarchs in their habitat. The data can help provide information on gains in milkweed across the U.S. The data collected by HabiTally will be housed at ISU and shared with the USFWS to guide future conservation and protection decisions.
“HabiTally gives farmers a new tool to help their efforts to manage and conserve monarch habitat,” says Craig Hill, Iowa Farm Bureau president. “We anticipate that the data collected through this app will not only support the conservation of butterflies and other pollinators, but will be beneficial to broader conservation goals in Iowa and neighboring states.”
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is evaluating monarch conservation efforts along the migration route. In December 2020, the agency will determine its final listing decision of the monarch and, possibly, its habitat, under the federal Endangered Species Act.
Voluntary efforts to establish and restore monarch habitat could lead to reversing population losses, potentially rendering a listing unnecessary. Farmers can get involved by planting monarch habitat and tracking the acres through the app.