LAWRENCE — Monarch Watch, an international program at the University of Kansas dedicated to the conservation and study of monarch butterflies, has a new director. Kristen Baum, well known for her work on monarchs and pollinators, began this week as director of Monarch Watch and as a senior scientist at the Kansas Biological Survey & Center for Ecological Research and a professor in the Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology.
Baum comes to KU from the College of Arts and Sciences at Oklahoma State University, where she was a professor in the Department of Integrative Biology and associate dean for research. The Monarch Watch directorship will be supported in part by the Chip and Toni Taylor Professorship in Support of Monarch Watch, established last year by founding director Orley “Chip” Taylor and his wife, Toni Taylor. Chip Taylor announced last year that he would be stepping away from day-to-day operations of the program to focus on completion of several projects.
Baum has worked with monarchs and pollinators in the Great Plains for more than 25 years. Her research also focuses on the effects of land use and management practices on monarchs, native bees and other pollinators. She has served on numerous state, regional and national working groups to support pollinator conservation efforts.
“I started a small monarch tagging project in 1992. This project grew and changed through the years from a focus on research and outreach to an international program dedicated to monarch science and conservation,” Chip Taylor said. “When close to retirement, I realized that the program was reaching at least 100,000 people a year and that it simply had to continue.
“I’m excited and pleased to see this program continue and to be able to turn the directorship over to Kristen Baum. Kristen is an outstanding scientist, a dynamic and experienced leader with a strong research program. She also has an outstanding record as an adviser to developing scientists.”
Baum said she was excited about the opportunity to join the Monarch Watch team.
“I’ve participated in several Monarch Watch programs over the years, including tagging monarchs as part of my research and creating a Monarch Waystation at my home,” she said. “Under Chip’s leadership, Monarch Watch has developed an international reach through research, education and on-the-ground conservation efforts that have benefited the monarch butterfly, as well as other pollinators and wildlife. I’m honored to have been selected to lead Monarch Watch and build on these efforts that have been decades in the making.”
The Kansas Biological Survey & Center for Ecological Research, a KU research center, houses a variety of environmental research labs and remote sensing/GIS programs in Takeru Higuchi Hall and the West District greenhouse. It also is the administrative home for Monarch Watch. In addition, the research center manages the 3,200-acre KU Field Station, a site for study in the sciences, arts and humanities.
Photo: Kristen Baum, director of Monarch Watch.