Student inspired by work with Missourians for Monarch’s and MUBG

Jessica Sherwin

MU journalism master’s student Jessica Sherwin’s part time job with Missourians for Monarchs and Mizzou Botanic Garden resulted in full time appreciation for the orange and black “creatures who weigh less than a paperclip” and the dedicated people working in both organizations.

Just as Jessica Sherwin was beginning her master’s degree in journalism at the University of Missouri in 2017, an advertisement for a part-time communications specialist with the Missourians for Monarchs (M4M) organization caught her eye.

A statewide collaborative of citizens, conservation and agricultural organizations, government agencies, utilities and agribusinesses, M4M was launched in 2015. Members share a commitment to increase and sustain pollinator habitat in Missouri, and through outreach and education efforts, they encourage others to follow their lead. The iconic orange and black butterflies have become a symbol for a national movement to increase habitat for declining beneficial — and beautiful — pollinator populations.

“When I came to the interview, I was confident that I knew about pollinators and monarchs,” said Sherwin . “I babbled about my mother and I planting milkweed. But almost every day I’ve been delighted to learn that I knew so little back then.”

From a Mizzou Botanic Garden (MUBG) office, Sherwin tackles social media, press releases and grant proposals.

“There are more than 30 partners and MUBG has an especially close relationship with the organization,” Sherwin said. She works closely with MUBG Director Pete Millier and Communications Manager Karlan Seville.

In addition to staffing member booths at venues around the state — talking about monarchs and handing out packets of milkweed seed for people to grow monarchs’ host plant — she also assists with some of the organization’s related events.

“MUBG partnered with Columbia Public Schools for a STEMs on the Ground program where we helped install pollinator gardens and plants at some of Columbia’s elementary schools,” she said.

Sherwin also produced M4M materials outlining monarch habitat best management practices (BMPs) aimed at landowners and farmers. She also produced backyard BMP materials.

“People don’t realize that even if you only have a 10-foot plot, you can plant milkweed and nectar plants,” she said. “Every bit of pollinator habitat is a refuge for migrating monarchs.”

Sherwin said she was surprised to learn about several less-obvious practices to boost monarch habitat, such as the Missouri Department of Transportation’s efforts to reduce mowing along highways.

“There are so many ways to help pollinators and those efforts are also part of a larger picture. For instance, by planting native plants, you can also help songbirds.”

Sherwin has found personal satisfaction in her role with M4M, and especially has been impressed by interactions with its members.

“Through my work, I’ve been exposed to a whole different ecosystem of interests by an intelligent and thoughtful community of people I never would have met without this job,” she said.

“It reaffirms your faith in humanity that people care so much about a creature who weighs less than a paperclip.”

Mizzou Botanic Garden Calendar

One of the benefits of membership in Friends of MUBG is receiving the garden’s annually produced calendar, featuring images taken by retired MUBG Research Assistant David Massey.

Millier tasked Sherwin with producing the 2019 calendar — from selecting photos to writing copy and then putting it all together.

“David Massey was an incredible photographer who chronicled every inch of this campus. I got to sort through 10,000 photos. It was hard to choose — and then they have to be matched up to months. I consulted a lot with Pete and Karlan,” Sherwin said.

“Working with Jessica has been a pleasure,” Millier said. “Her many talents and her enthusiasm for her work have served both Missourians for Monarchs and MUBG well.

“She did an excellent job with the MUBG 2019 calendar. And having her take on that project not only gives her project management experience, but the final product is something she can use in her portfolio.”

Designing the calendar was especially meaningful work for Sherwin because of her close ties to the campus that also is a garden.

“I have never been on a more beautiful campus than MU,” she said. “I applied to colleges on both coasts, over 15 of them. I got into them all, but MU was the only choice for me. The second I stepped on this campus, I knew it was the one.”


Jessica Sherwin is a Chicago native. The journalism master’s student received her bachelor’s degree in journalism from MU in 2017. Her graduate work is focused on corporate social responsibility (CSR), a new and expanding field. She has especially enjoyed the social and analytical work she’s been able to do in her position with M4M and would love to incorporate it into her future CSR career. She will graduate in May.

Story by Jan-Wiese-Fales