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White House to honor professor Karen Oberhauser as Champion of Change for Citizen Science at ceremony Tuesday

June 24, 2013

University of Minnesota Professor Karen Oberhauser has been named a White House Champion of Change for Citizen Science for her work in the field of monarch butterfly citizen science and her role as director of the Monarch Larva Monitoring Project (MLMP).

Oberhauser and other Champions will be honored during a ceremony at the White House from 7:30 to 9 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, June 25. The ceremony will be live streamed. To watch, go to whitehouse.gov/livestream.

"Professor Oberhauser represents the best and the brightest in our faculty here at the University of Minnesota. Her work with citizen scientists, teachers and elementary school students exemplifies the deep importance we place on public engagement, which is a core part of the University’s land grant mission," said President Eric Kaler.

The Champions of Change award recognizes the value citizen scientists provide, particularly as it relates to collecting and analyzing data over broad geographic areas and timeframes that would otherwise be cost prohibitive. To gain a large perspective on monarch biology and population trends, Oberhauser has worked for decades to integrate data from several different monarch citizen science projects including the MLMP, which has coordinated hundreds of volunteers throughout North America since 1996. At the same time, citizen scientists allows for what Oberhauser called "fine-scale data, often literally from people’s back yards."

"I’ve called citizen scientists an ‘army for conservation’ for many reasons: they collect data with conservation applications, they often become stewards for local habitats, and they reach out to others about the importance of conservation," said Oberhauser, who is a professor in the College of Food Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences department of Fisheries, Wildlife and Conservation Biology and Extension Specialist.

At the U, Oberhauser researches and teaches in the fields of conservation biology, insect ecology, global climate change and monarch butterfly population dynamics. Her teaching extends beyond the University and into K-12 schools through her "Monarchs in the Classroom" project that began in 1991 and the educational workshops she conducts for teachers.

"We are extremely proud of Professor Oberhauser," says CFANS Dean Allen Levine. "The impact and reach of her teaching simply amazes me. For many students in her classes at the U today, it was the "Monarchs in the Classroom" project that first sparked their interest in science and Monarchs."

Oberhauser’s research and education reflects the strong partnership between the university and Minnesotans, said Bev Durgan, Extension dean.

"Karen Oberhauser’s research deepens our understanding of how habitat loss threatens monarch populations. Through Extension’s statewide connections, ‘citizen scientists’ help support essential conservation efforts aimed at stabilizing the butterfly population," Durgan said.  

Oberhauser was nominated by colleagues -- citizen scientists, researchers, former and current graduate students, and others -- throughout the United States. Her research depends on traditional lab and field techniques, as well as the contributions of multiple audiences through citizen science.

 "I really feel that the award is for the entire monarch citizen science community, which includes hundreds or even thousands of individuals," Oberhauser said.

After the ceremony, video of the event will be posted on YouTube once it’s uploaded and pictures and blog posts by the awardees will be posted at www.whitehouse.gov/champions.

Oberhauser Champion of Change
Karen Oberhauser named Champion of Change for Citizen Science

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