About

The Monarch Research Project is a non-profit organization headquartered in Marion, Iowa. We seek to add native pollinator habitat and reestablish the monarch population in Linn County, establishing a model for the whole country. Founded by Clark McLeod and Cam Watts, MRP has defined three objectives to accomplish its mission. These three bold goals have been dubbed “moonshots.”

  • Rebuild natural habitat on both public and private land in Linn County (Pollinator Zones™)
  • Boost monarch population in the spring to augment natural reproduction by fall in Linn County (Monarch Zones®)
  • Make Linn County a model for America, encourage other communities to join us (Zones Across America™)

Why This? Why Now?

That’s a question that’s been asked many times. The monarch is the “canary in the coal mine.” Its plight signals that pollinators in general cannot survive without the natural habitat that sustains them and, furthermore, it signals a ecological change that could become catastrophic. The Midwestern population of the iconic monarch butterfly had decreased by more than 90 percent in two decades. In 2014, a petition was submitted to protect the butterfly under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. Ahead of the monarch was the bumble bee, which was added to the list in 2017. Honey bee colonies continued to face record colony losses. The monarch and bumble bee are pollinators, and as a group, they are essential to $24 billion in agricultural crops each year and more than 180,000 plant species. They are critically important to a healthy ecosystem, since most flowering plants require help from pollinators to produce food or seed. Yet their homes and food sources have disappeared and won’t return. Nearly 24 million acres of natural habitat had been converted to crop production between 2008 and 2011.

Why MRP?

In June 2016, Pulitzer Prize-winning environmental author Dan Fagin visited MRP. He commented, “What you are doing in Linn County really is extraordinary; I’m not aware of anyone else rearing monarchs and creating habitat in a particular county or city at the scale you are attempting. In fact, I don’t think anyone is even close.” “What you are doing is audacious in the best sense of the word: You’re trying something difficult, and you’re doing it for good reasons,” Fagin said.

Mission Statement

The mission of the Monarch Research Project (MRP) is to restore pollinator habitat, while re-establishing the Monarch population. To accomplish this, the MRP is engaging the entire community—all ages and socioeconomic groups—where they live, work, and play. Our community’s success will enable us to invite other communities to join our effort.

Key Volunteers

Photo of Clark McLeodClark McLeod—Chief Executive Officer

Clark McLeod is a life-long Iowan and resident of Cedar Rapids who has spent nearly four decades working to build and grow his community. Perhaps best known for his corporate endeavors, he built numerous companies from scratch in Cedar Rapids, taking two to publicly traded status on the New York Stock Exchange. He now focuses his efforts and resources on environmental restoration of pollinator habitat, with a special focus on monarch butterflies. More.

Photo of Cam WattsCam Watts—Monarch Zones® lead

Cam Watts is a former teacher and tennis professional who reared monarch butterflies as a child. He returned to this hobby at age 68, when he and Clark formed the Monarch Research Project. With a life-long passion for invention, he developed many teaching tools for tennis centers, as well as products for the fishing industry. Cam’s love of creative thinking is evident in the Monarch Zones program.

Jim Hoffman—Pollinator Zones™ lead

A retired utility and business development professional, Jim Hoffman has remained actively involved with both nonprofit and for-profit board governance and Cedar Rapids’ recovery from the epic flood of 2008. He leads MRP’s Pollinator Zones™ program, partnering with governmental and nonprofit agencies across the region and state.

Other Key Volunteers

  • Cindy Edge, Health Tech Solutions—Database Management
  • Becki Lynch, Linn County Master Gardeners—Habitat and Seed Pantry
  • Lisa Wiebenga, Coe College—Webmaster and  Social Media Manager

Staff

  • Hilery Livengood, CFRE—Chief Administrative Officer, hilery.livengood@gmail.com
  • Mike Martin—Manager, Monarch Research Station, mrmonarch2017@gmail.com

Board of Directors

  • Clark McLeod—Co-Founder and President
  • Cam Watts—Co-Founder and Vice President
  • Steve Knapp—Secretary and Treasurer
  • Tom Aller, Retired President, Interstate Power and Light, Alliant Energy
  • Jim Hoffman, Retired President, Alliant Energy Resources
  • John Myers, Executive Director, Indian Creek Nature Center
  • Al Ruffalo, Executive Chairman, RuffaloNoelLevitz