Alumni Spotlight: Margot Monson
Margot Monson received her BS in physical therapy, and later, following a life long interest in insects, received her MS from the Dept of Entomology in 1994. She and her advisor, Ralph Holzenthal, shared an interest in Trichoptera. After graduating, she taught the insect taxonomy course while Ralph was on sabbatical in Brazil. She also taught aquatic entomology at the U of M Itasca Biological Station. She has been an avid promoter of our discipline at every opportunity that comes her way. Her early postgraduate work centered on using aquatic insects as bioindicators of water quality in the Long Prairie River watershed. She also worked on contracts with the MN DNR and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency on streams and wetlands containing interesting caddisflies.
Over the years she has been involved in using live insects at the MN State Fair, from working with John Luhman for the Dept of Ag displays, to the honey bee exhibit in the Dept of Horticulture, various Water Day festivals on the State Fairgrounds and at Lake Phalen, and the Bell Live program at the original Bell Museum.
As she became known locally as an entomologist in her St Anthony Park neighborhood, it led to numerous opportunities for educating children and adults, from teaching them about rearing insects for science projects, to educating teachers about the common insects in their environments that they could use in their science curriculum, to bringing live aquatic insects into classrooms in several elementary and middle schools, instructing teachers and children about insects in urban and rural landscapes, including on an organic farm, working with 4 H clubs, scout troops, garden clubs, and church and community educational forums. She believes that teaching about the insects found in our own local environments, is important in appreciating their amazing diversity, and critical to understanding of their roles in environmental integrity.
Originally while visiting her own children's classrooms, she began to receive calls from other teachers and often worked as a volunteer in different schools. Since entomology is rarely taught in public schools, she felt strongly about teaching children at the elementary and middle school levels to capture the curiosity and enthusiasm so apparent in youth when they can be up close and hands-on with live insects.
Much of her work in the last several years has been as a volunteer working in classrooms and teaching summer camps in the new Bell Museum. Becoming a beekeeper 10 years ago, led to bringing honey bees and native pollinators into classrooms. She has testified many times at the MN legislature in advocating for bills that draw attention to the pervasive use of chemicals that end up in our soil and water supply, contributing to their degradation, and impacting both our aquatic insect fauna and our pollinators. In 2018-19 she met with legislators asking for their support for bills that provide for the establishment of more natural habitats along roadways and open spaces normally mowed, for funding for adding native and other flowering plants in urban and rural landscapes, and argued for passage of the Lawns to Legumes bill, providing funds for establishing bee lawns (research by our own James Wolfin).
Given population growth and agricultural land use that often works in opposition to healthy soil and water conservation, her interest in insects as valuable protein for human consumption, from land conservation and economic perspectives, has led to an interest in entomophagy. Many other cultures consume insects on a regular basis, so she has been experimenting with insects in recipes and trying them out on occasion in the Dept. Margot's life long curiosity about insects expanded greatly under Ralph's mentorship, and her fascination with insects and their diversity just continues . . .
Alumni, get involved! The UMN Alumni Association recently developed and funded the Maroon and Gold Network, a free, online platform for career-related advice and networking that has grown to more than 5,000 alumni and students in 44 countries and 46 states plus Washington DC!