Frequently Asked Questions

Project Timelines:

When should I begin observations?

We have designed protocols to be flexible for different needs, so you can begin at any time.  If you can, start making observations in early spring to record milkweeds from emergence through their whole life cycle; we recommend data collection every two weeks.  However, we also welcome one- or several-time observations, especially for larger groups of plants, that can be completed at any time during the life cycle. We hope that this project will be ongoing for many years.

Since most growth and flowering is in the summer, when would students participate?

Our goal is to include students in data analysis at any point in the year. This can take the form of observations in the fall and spring, more similar to traditional class data gathering and analysis, or students can analyze pre-collected data by teachers via videos of the plants collected throughout the summer growing season. We are currently developing a guide for remote media-based analysis.

Does the time of day make a difference for observations?

It could. Many of the herbivores are resident on milkweeds, but we ask for you to observe between 10am and 5pm for the Pollinator project, and we ask that you record the time of day and amount of time you spend observing pollinators.


Is there a specific media platform to use?

No. Our goal for media sharing is accessibility. If you have a phone or video camera with good picture quality capabilities, then you will be able to contribute photos and videos to the MAREN Library, our iNaturalist project, or our YouTube playlist. Instructions for uploading media are on our Field Media page. All we ask for media contributions are steady hands for clear visuals. 

Is there a library of videos to collect data from or would the instructor need to make their own videos? What needs to be in the videos if so?

We currently have a Video Data Collection Library that contains examples of an instructor narrating their process of collecting data for a variety of protocols, along with a more general library of submitted videos for remote data collection opportunities. The idea is that instructors can go into the field and take videos of each plant for students to later watch and write down virtually collected data to then analyze with the instructor. We are in the process of creating a document with more specific instructions on what to include in videos and tips to ensure easier data extraction. We urge you to try this and give us more feedback to enhance this experience!

Could we also use the Seek app by iNaturalist?

In order to share your observations with the MAREN community, you only need to have access to the Invertebrates on Milkweed community project. If you can join us on the Seek app, then have fun seeking out more invertebrates!

Data Collection:

Are the projects only for common milkweed?

No. The protocols have been designed for common milkweed, but we think they are adaptable. We welcome data from all different species of milkweed, as long as you can identify which species of milkweed you are studying. Please choose one milkweed species to collect data on in a patch.

Can I use milkweeds in pots or milkweeds that are connected underground?

For most protocols, you can use any source of milkweeds. Although common milkweed is especially prone to spreading underground, we count each milkweed stem emerging from the ground as one unit of observation in our studies, whether they are connected underground or not. The exception to these rules is Seed Contribution. We only accept seeds from common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) plants that occur naturally in an area (that is, you didn’t plant them; the seeds arrived and germinated on their own). Seed pods should be collected individually from stems that are 5+ meters apart (so we can infer that the stems are not part of the same plant connected under ground).

I need to plant milkweed seeds. Can I get them from you?

While we accept seed submissions for research purposes, we are not in the practice of distributing them. However, if access to seeds is a barrier to your participation in this project, please let us know how we can help. We typically purchase seeds from Prairie Moon. For seeds local to your area, also check out the Xerces Society Milkweed Seed Finder or the Monarch Watch Milkweed Market. Milkweed seeds typically need to be cold stratified prior to planting, so please follow the directions in the Seed Contribution protocols to prepare your seeds for more successful germination.

What if I mow my site or remove pests from my milkweeds?

You should maintain your site as you normally do; please be sure to record information about your management practices in the Site Data Form. Please do not remove invertebrates from the milkweeds you are observing (unless you are doing so for rearing purposes). We suggest you wait 1-2 weeks after a disturbance to start collecting data.

Data Submission:

How many data google forms do I fill out?

Complete a single Site Data Form in preparation for all your observations at that site. Most project forms on the Data Submission page are designed for up to 3 plants at a time. If you have 5 plants you are studying, then you will be submitting 2 data forms

Website Issues:

I can't access certain pages?

If you attempt to enter a page and get an error message, then a few things might be happening.

  1. The marenweb server might be experiencing some difficulties, so check back later.
  2. If you are a student, then your denied access is most likely based on your registration status, so ask your instructor if you have questions about the content.
  3. If you know your registration status should be giving you the access, then you are currently not logged in to, and when you are, you will be able to enter the page.
  4. Data access is granted only to instructors who have contacted directly for permission.
Why are some pages blank or "broken" looking?

If you experience any pages on marenweb appearing completely white or text in places it obviously shouldn’t be (eg. overlapping), then we are experiencing some technical difficulties. In each case, the content is on the page (and will appear if you drag over the screen with your cursor), but the correct formatting isn’t being communicated to your screen properly. In the case of the Teaching Material Lesson pages, logging into marenweb might fix the appearance for you! Please contact us with information on which pages are acting difficult and we will fix them as soon as possible!