Saturday, March 26, 2011

Rio Salado Monarchs Get a Helping Hand

Rio Salado 3-18-11
Students in Xavier High School's Environmental AP Class gave the monarch butterflies at Rio Salado in Phoenix a helping hand last weekend - and the monarch caterpillars "appeared" to thank them! Xavier received a grant to improve key nature projects at Rio Salado focusing on the monarch overwintering area and also enhancing tree protection from local beavers in a nearby pond. Students started milkweed seed for new plantings and created a kiosk to display information about monarch butterflies near the overwintering site. What great energy and enthusiasm to lend nature a helping hand!

Tom filling his bucket
Fifteen months ago twenty volunteers planted Desert Milkweed, Asclepias subulata, near the monarch overwintering area to offer a nearby source of host plants for monarch butterflies in the Spring. Since then the plants were watered by hand, gathering buckets of water from the nearby creek when funding was unavailable for a drip system for irrigation with the budget crisis.  There were many achy backs - but monarch-loving volunteers were determined to help this milkweed patch grow. We were all excited when Xavier offered to help!

Xavier High School students 3/18/11
The work wasn't easy - but the students and teachers were strong, often using picks and shovels to create irrigation channels in the rocky soil.

Xavier High School 3-19-11
Students worked hard Friday afternoon and all morning Saturday, and they were successful laying new drip lines to each plant and added new basins for future plantings.

Xavier High School students
Xavier students also installed a new irrigation valve so the milkweed can have its own dedicated watering schedule, a boon to newly established plants.

Xavier's new kiosk
The girls also created this wonderful kiosk that was installed on the path leading to the overwintering area. Now information about the monarchs is easily available offering visitors up to date information about the monarch's recent activity. Great job, Xavier!