Milkweed: Fitness, Friends, and Foes

Lesson Overview


Students will explore the phenomenon of monarch butterfly migration. They will also study and research the dynamics between monarchs and milkweed and the effects humans, the environment, and other pests may have on monarch and milkweed survival. Comparisons will be made between species of milkweed and between adaptations of milkweed and monarchs. Students will consider what impacts this information could have for the future and what could be done about it.

About the Scientist

Carrie Olson-Manning

Institution: Augustana University

Hi! My name is Carrie and I'm an assistant professor at Augustana University where I teach courses in genetics, computer science, and evolution. I grew up on a farm in Minnesota and graduated with 47 people in my high school class. I decided I wanted to get out of my small town and try something very different so went to college at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis/St. Paul. At the U of MN, I took all of the science courses I could fit in my schedule and started doing research. Actually, I did research in five different labs over those four years where I learned about corn and fungus, insects and their host plants, and how cancer cells are different than normal cells. Finally, I found Dr. Tony Dean's lab where I studied how single mutations to DNA could changed the ability of bacteria to survive and reproduce. I also spent some of my time learning how to teach and how people learn. I decided to combine my love of science and being in the lab with my interest in trying help people learn and went to get a PhD at Duke University in North Carolina. There I studied how plants evolved new chemical weapons against the insects that try to eat them, started to learn how to write computer programs, and taught my first course. After a postdoc at the University of Chicago studying how molecular machines (proteins) evolve, I started my own lab at Augustana University in Sioux Falls. My research uses laboratory and field experiments along with computational studies to understand how plants (specifically, in milkweeds native to South Dakota) defend themselves against predators. I am also surrounded by other amazing researchers and teachers and get to figure out how best to teach students how to learn science, no matter what they want to do after college.