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College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences
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Karen Oberhauser

FWCB-faculty-oberhauserimgProfessor, Department of Fisheries, Wildlife and Conservation Biology
Phone: 612-624-8706
Ph. D. University of Minnesota, Department of Ecology, Evolution and Behavior
Oberhauser Lab Website

Fields of Interest

Invertebrate conservation and ecology, with particular interest in monarch butterflies; Citizen Science and ecological monitoring; Promoting a citizenry with a high degree of scientific and environmental literacy.



My students and I conduct research on several aspects of monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) ecology. Our work has addressed their reproductive ecology, effects of investment in ejaculates by males on fitness and mating patterns in both sexes, a neogregarine protozoan parasite of monarchs, factors affecting the distribution and abundance of immature monarch stages, and risks posed by global climate change, insecticide use and genetically-modified crops. I have a strong interest in engaging K-12 students and teachers in inquiry-based science and promoting a citizenry with a high degree of scientific and environmental literacy. To this end, I have developed a comprehensive science education program called Monarchs in the Classroom. The program involves courses and workshops for teachers, a nationwide Citizen Science project called the Monarch Larva Monitoring Project, curriculum development, and distribution of monarch eggs and larvae to classroom teachers.

Recent Publications

Oberhauser, K.S., O. R. Taylor, S. M. Reppert, H. Dingle, K. R. Nail, R. M. Pyle, C. Stenoien. 2013. Are monarch butterflies true navigators? The jury is still out. PNAS 110(39):E3680.

Diffendorfer J.E., Loomis J.B., Ries L., Oberhauser K.S., Lopez-Hoffman L., Semmens D., Semmens B., Butterfield B., Bagstad K., Goldstein J., Wiederholt R., Mattsson B., Thogmartin W.E. 2013. National valuation of monarch butterflies indicates an untapped potential for incentive-based conservation. Conservation Letters. DOI: 10.1111/conl.12065.

Zipkin, E., L. Ries, R. Reeves, J. Reetz, K.S. Oberhauser. 2012. Tracking climate impacts on the migratory monarch butterfly. Global Change Biology 18:3039–3049

Pleasants, J., K.S. Oberhauser. 2012. Milkweed loss in agricultural fields because of herbicide use: Effect on the monarch butterfly population. Insect Conservation and Diversity. DOI:10.1111/j.1752-4598.2012.00196.x

Oberhauser, K.S., G. Lebuhn. 2012 . Insects and plants: Engaging undergraduates in authentic research via citizen science. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 10: 318–320.

Oberhauser, K.S. 2012. Tachinid flies and monarch butterflies: Citizen Scientists document parasitism patterns over broad spatial and temporal scales. American Entomologist 58:19-22.

Bartel, R.E., K.S. Oberhauser, J.C. De Roode, S.M. Altizer. 2011. Monarch migration, seasonal habitat use and parasite transmission in eastern North America. Ecology 92(2): 342-351.

Fargione, J.E., T.R. Cooper, D.J.Flaspohler, J. Hill, C. Lehman, T. McCoy, S. McLeod, E.J. Nelson, K.S. Oberhauser, D. Tilman. 2009. Bioenergy and wildlife: Threats and opportunities for grassland conservation. Bioscience 59:767-777.

Lindsey, E., M. Mudresh, V. Dhulipala, K. Oberhauser, S. Altizer. 2009. Crowding and disease: effects of host density on resonse to infection in a butterfly-parasite interaction. Ecological Entomology, in press.

Solensky, M.S. and K. S. Oberhauser. 2009. Sperm precedence in monarch butterflies Danaus plexippus). Behavioural Ecology, doi: 10.1093/beheco/arp003

Solensky, M.S. and K. S. Oberhauser. 2009. Male monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus) adjust their ejaculates in response to risk and intensity of sperm competition. Animal Behaviour 77:465-472.