The Nature Conservancy, alongside Full Sail University, have launched The Monarch Initiative’s community effort in Orlando. The Initiative, focused on the iconic and imperiled monarch butterfly, a symbol of the many conservation challenges that pollinators and wildlife, natural systems, and people face in Florida and around the globe, enables positive action to support nature. The unique program is launching in Central Florida to increase awareness of the value of nature in our lives and encourage conservation action. The multifaceted campaign features new digital platforms and content, on the ground activities, compelling public art, and community partnerships.
The Nature Conservancy is the world’s largest conservation organization, working to protect lands and habitats that are critical to monarchs and pollinators and support healthy natural systems that sustain us. The Conservancy is addressing climate change, promoting sustainable agriculture practices on our farmland, and supporting greenspace in urban areas. In Florida, the Conservancy has helped protect more than 1.2 million acres of vulnerable lands and waters, and owns and manages more than 52,000 acres in 25 Conservancy preserves.
“The Monarch Initiative brings the importance of well-functioning natural systems into sharp focus. Monarch butterflies rely on the same landscapes that support clean air and water and benefit all of us,” said Temperince Morgan, The Nature Conservancy in Florida’s executive director. “The initiative aims to inspire action from Floridians who are passionate about creating a healthier, more sustainable world. The world we depend on, also depends on us – as a community, we can build a future where people and nature thrive together.”
The orange and black monarch butterfly, Danaus plexippus, completes an astonishing, nearly 3,000 mile multi-generational migration from Mexico to the United States and Canada, and requires habitat in our cities and throughout our natural places. Meadows, marshes, pastures, and fields offer the milkweed on which they must lay their eggs, and upon which their caterpillars feed. It is required for their survival. Over the last two decades, monarch numbers have dropped by more than 85 percent. Major threats to monarch butterflies and all pollinators include habitat loss, pesticide use, and climate change.
As lead collaborator and sponsor of The Monarch Initiative, Full Sail University, an award-winning educational institution focused on entertainment, media, arts and technology, is playing a pivotal role. Full Sail is engaging its university community comprised of students, staff, faculty and alumni, as well as bringing community partners, including local municipalities, institutions, and businesses on board to create a broader reach and highly visible campaign. Businesses like those located in Audubon Park’s Garden District have embraced The Monarch Initiative as community partners, engaging patrons to inspire conservation awareness and action. Full Sail is also designing and hosting multiple digital and graphic campaign components, and engaging its alumni network to increase impact. The University has an on-campus commitment to environmental responsibility and students and faculty that are engaged in conservation issues.
“In listening to our own community, I learned that our students, staff and alumni were interested in taking part in an environmental effort where they could utilize their talents to make a global impact for good. By partnering with The Nature Conservancy and Ink Dwell studio over the past two years to bring The Monarch Initiative to life, and spearheading community engagement efforts on-the ground, Full Sail has been instrumental in creating a template for community activation that can be replicated across the nation and beyond. We’re overjoyed by the response from the community thus far, and excited to see continued acceptance and participation in The Monarch Initiative,” said Full Sail University President, Garry Jones.
The Monarch Initiative is further raising awareness through the Migrating Mural, an acclaimed public art initiative. Founded by Ink Dwell studio, the Migrating Mural is a series of public art installations that celebrate wildlife along migration corridors it shares with people. The installations add beauty to the local environment while driving conservation education focused on species and ecosystems under threat. This new multi-year Migrating Mural, which will stretch across North America mirroring the monarch’s migration from Canada to Mexico, focuses on this butterfly, their habitats, its role as a pollinator, and the challenges it faces.
“Monarch butterflies and other pollinators are beautiful animals vital to the health of our planet, but they’re small and easy to overlook,” said Jane Kim, the artist who is creating the work and co-founder of San Francisco-based Ink Dwell art studio. “Public art of this magnitude makes them impossible to ignore.”
The premier central Florida mural, titled Milkweed Galaxy, features monarchs painted in exacting detail and spectacular color and appears on the campus of Full Sail University across the entire front façade of Full Sail Live 3 located at 3150 University Boulevard in Winter Park, Florida. It is surrounded by butterfly-friendly landscaping. The mural is highly visible to the public from University Boulevard, where approximately 40,000 viewers pass by each day. The second mural, titled Midnight Dream, is located in downtown Orlando across the entire rear wall of 520 South Magnolia Avenue. Facing Orange Avenue, the arresting and dramatic mural highlights monarch butterflies among their essential milkweed.
The Monarch Initiative invites a collaborative approach to conservation and awareness efforts in Orlando, Winter Park and beyond, a coming together of the community.
Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer stated, “Through our Green Works Orlando initiative, we’ve worked to make Orlando a showcase model for sustainable cities and realize that our collective quality of life is inherently tied to the health and protection of our natural resources.” Mayor Dyer further added, “We are delighted to collaborate and partner with The Nature Conservancy and Full Sail University in the launch of the Monarch Initiative and are excited to officially unveil the Migrating Mural in downtown Orlando that serves as a reminder that each of us can take action to ensure people and nature thrive together.”
Winter Park Mayor Steve Leary further added, “In 2012, during the process of becoming a Green Local Government, the City of Winter Park began crafting plans to protect our wetlands, preserve our native plant community and continue removal of undesirable exotic vegetation, all of which are critical to the ecological health of our community. These efforts became what is known today as our Sustainability Action Plan, comprised of goals to preserve and grow the natural ecology of Winter Park today and in the future. We are honored to work side by side with The Nature Conservancy, Full Sail University, and the City of Orlando to support the Monarch Initiative. I encourage the central Florida community to be inspired to support the initiative by visiting Winter Park to see our orange fountains in Central Park, mini butterfly gardens along Park Avenue, and the beautiful butterfly gardens of Mead Botanical Garden.”
Several of The Nature Conservancy’s programs have come together to support The Monarch Initiative, including the educational program Nature Works Everywhere, which provides curriculum, tools, and grants to help K—12 students understand the science behind nature, and the citizen science project Habitat Network, developed in partnership with the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, to help transform residential landscapes into more diverse and healthier spaces for wildlife and people.
Additionally, The Nature Conservancy is working with Monarch Joint Venture, a partnership committed to conserving the monarch butterfly migration by coordinating conservation efforts across the United States and implementing science-based habitat conservation, research and monitoring, and education.
The Nature Conservancy owns and manages more than 2 million acres of land across the globe, as well as the largest network of private preserves in the U.S. The vast majority of U.S. lands protected by the Conservancy directly support habitat that enables milkweed to thrive. In Florida, there are 21 species of native milkweed, many of which can be found on the Conservancy’s preserves and lands we’ve helped to protect, including Disney Wilderness Preserve in Kissimmee, and Tiger Creek Preserve in Babson Park.
Monarchs and other pollinators foster diverse ecosystems and serve as a cornerstone to global food security. The federal government estimates that native wild pollinators contribute $9 billion annually in crop benefits to U.S. farmers. Many of our favorite foods—apples, potatoes, tomatoes, strawberries, and onions—as well as staples like cheese, butter, sugar, and meat rely on pollinators. They are vital to our food supply. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is currently considering protection for the monarch butterfly under the Endangered Species Act. Protection of habitat and proper management of working lands is essential for monarchs and pollinators around the world that need immediate attention and conservation action.