Practice :: Migration Station

Migration Station

Diversifying the post-agrarian landscape.

The monarch butterfly population has decreased by 90% in the last 20 years. Their decline is caused by land use and management decisions on both ends of the butterfly’s annual migration route. In Mexico, logging has reduced their winter habitat. In the United States and Canada, a combination of agriculture and urbanization has reduced their summer breeding habitat. Papillion, Nebraska was named by French explorers for the bounty of monarchs living within the banks of its local creek. The butterfly remains the town’s mascot, marking water towers, city hall, schools, sports teams and more. But a living butterfly is a rare sight.

Sarpy County, where Papillion is located, is 59% intensively cultivated commodity cropland and 36% urbanized. Only 5% remains uncultivated. Because of these land use patterns, the entire county is now what anthropogenic landscape ecologist Erle Ellis, calls a “populated cropland anthrome.”  These anthromes, or anthropogenic human biomes, are entirely impacted by humans. Even areas that appear wild have been altered by surrounding activity. For example, the network of natural corridors that once spread across Sarpy County are now fragmented by agriculture and urbanization. The 5% uncultivated roadsides, drainage ditches, and floodplains, are the butterfly’s only hope of finding the one plant it needs to reproduce: milkweed.

Migration Station is a 24-acre parcel ideal for experimenting with the kind of ecosystem required by monarchs and other threatened pollinators in a populated cropland anthrome, dependent on pollinators for crop production. It is shielded by a tree windbreak from nearby agricultural herbicide drift detrimental to pollinator habitat, it receives full sun required by pollinators’ favorite habitat, and it is bordered by mature hardwood trees that pollinators need for weather protection.

Migration Station isn’t about bringing back what was, but deciding what should be, based on what we choose to keep around for subsequent generations. How will humans steer a geologic period driven entirely by us? Should ecosystems be kept in historical configurations? Should we engineer landscapes to be resilient to tomorrow’s conditions? Or should we leave them alone to change and adapt? With so much uncertainty, Migration Station is trying all three: restoration, hands-off observation, and innovation. 15 acres, The Pollen Field, will be restored to the last native historic landscape of record. 7 acres, The Roosting Woods, will be left alone to adapt. 3 acres, The Nectar Bank, will experiment with native and non-natives, for maximum nectar and pollen foraging.


Upcoming Events:


April 29, 2017, 9am

iNaturalist Training, adults $5, kids free

Please RSVP on the event Facebook page, so we can plan for you.

During the first season at Migration Station, we discovered many living near Migration Station who keep a close eye on pollinators in their yards. These are citizen scientists; the people who provide the most important observations about the world around us. The Flint water crisis was exposed by citizen scientists who took it upon themselves to observe and test their water. Join us for a morning at Migration Station’s barn to learn about a helpful online tool called iNaturalist, where you can record pollinator observations from your own yard. Collecting this data in one central place on iNaturalist makes it possible to track local trends. We hope you will reserve a seat and join us!


August 2017, TBD

Butterfly Tagging Training, adults $10, kids free

During this workshop we will demonstrate the proper way to tag monarch butterflies and offer each attendee 5 tags to take home for the butterflies in your yard.


October 2017, TBD

Seed Harvesting, adults $10, kids free

Come walk through Migration Station and collect seeds for your garden next year. We’ll cover how to collect seed, how to store the seed over winter, and how to germinate or spread them in the spring. You’ll take home 1/4 ounce of your favorite wildflowers in our field. Spread the goodness!