Virtual Reality Immerses Viewers in Monarch Butterflies’ 3,000-Mile Migration

EDF and NCGA debut “The Monarch Effect,” an interactive experience about solutions that benefit farms and monarchs

June 19, 2019
Hilary Kirwan, (202) 572-3277,

(WASHINGTON, DC) The Monarch Effect, an interactive, virtual reality experience, will debut today during National Pollinator Week in Washington, DC. Created by Environmental Defense Fund and the National Corn Growers Association, The Monarch Effect immerses viewers in monarch butterflies’ incredible 3,000-mile migration through North America.

The journey begins in the oyamel fir forests of central Mexico, where tens of millions of monarchs spend the winter. Viewers then join consecutive generations of monarchs as they fly north into the American heartland looking for the milkweed and wildflower habitat they need to survive.

“Being surrounded by millions of monarchs during our shoot in Mexico was one of the most surreal and magical moments of my life,” said Eric Holst, associate vice president for working lands at EDF. “This technology transports people there, letting them feel that same sense of awe.”

Monarch populations have plummeted 90% over the past two decades due to habitat loss, pesticide use, and extreme and variable weather. The species is a bellwether for the overall health of ecosystems and working lands.

Now, farmers, ranchers and entire communities are stepping up to ensure this beloved butterfly recovers and thrives for generations to come.

“What is good for monarchs is also good for farmers. By adding pollinator habitat to existing conservation practices, producers can simultaneously increase biodiversity, soil health, water quality — and ultimately, overall operational resilience,” Holst said.

“Monarch butterflies migrate right through the Corn Belt. Farmers along that migration path, including those featured in The Monarch Effect, prove that pollinator habitat can be integrated into productive operations,” said Nathan Fields, vice president of production and sustainability at NCGA.

Meet the farmers and ranchers behind The Monarch Effect

Monarchs, and the viewers accompanying them, make two pit stops on the migration north. Amy and George Greer, sixth-generation cattle ranchers, greet them at Winters-Wall Ranch in Brady, Texas. Kevin and Sara Ross and their kids, sixth- and seventh-generation grain and cattle farmers, greet them at Ross Land and Cattle in Minden, Iowa.

“While we say that this is our ranch, it’s not really ours. It’s really habitat for all the other critters that live here, use it and move through, like the monarchs,” said Amy Greer.

“For us it’s about biodiversity. We need different grasses and feedstocks for our operation,” said Kevin Ross, first vice president of the NCGA Corn Board. “When you’re walking along these rural roads seeing milkweed and the monarch life cycle in action, watching that process, it’s a neat deal.”

Learn how farmers and ranchers like the Rosses and Greers are setting The Monarch Effect in motion at

How to experience The Monarch Effect

Experience the full monarch journey at The Monarch Effect will soon be available on the Oculus Go as well.

We also invite you to experience The Monarch Effect during the following National Pollinator Week events:

  • Briefing on monarchs and voluntary conservation hosted by the Congressional Pollinator Protection Caucus: Wednesday, June 19, 2-3:30 p.m., 1300 Longworth House Office Building, 9 Independence Ave. SE, Washington, DC 20515
  • Reception hosted by the American Society of Landscape Architects and the Pollinator Partnership: Thursday, June 20, 6-8 p.m., 636 I St. NW, Washington, DC  20001
  • 10th Annual Pollinator Festival hosted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture: Friday, June 21, 10 a.m.-2 p.m., Independence Ave. and 12th St. SW, Washington, DC 20560

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