Operation Monarch: Update

June 16, 2022

For the third year, WDM demonstrates commitment and support for the AZA SAFE species of Monarch butterflies.

In 2020, WDM approached the Sedgwick County Zoo with the idea to raise awareness of the Monarch’s plight by creating a milkweed garden at the zoo. Our goal is to educate zoo visitors and hopefully move them to plant milkweed in their own yards. The zoo welcomed our initiative and recommended a site for the pollinator garden.


Ready, Set, Dig

Our first workday in 2020, we began by manually busting up hard clay soil near the bison exhibit to make way for the pollinator garden. Removing the invasive Johnson grass was a long and grueling task. Jesse Swonger, Horticulturist, then cast wildflower seeds over the area.

Last year, Cheryl Rice, Curator of Horticulture at the zoo, invited WDM to return to further our project. We were pleased to find Blanket Flowers, Daisy Fleabane, Coreopsis and other wildflowers trying valiantly to get established.

Cheryl and Jesse provided flats of seedlings leftover from the zoo’s greenhouses for us to plant in the bare spots. It was a challenge to do so without trampling the existing wildflowers. The garden still had no readily-identifiable stand of milkweed we could use to educate zoo visitors, but undeterred, we knew the success would only be achieved after several years of investment. (More here)


This year, when we arrived for our WDM workday, the weather was lovely and recent rains rendered the soil much more amenable to our purposes. We donated six dozen milkweed plugs to the cause, most acquired through Monarch Watch. Our first task was to weed out the evil Johnson grass trying to make a comeback, then plant the milkweed and lastly cast wildflower seeds throughout as a finishing touch.



This was the first workday at the zoo for several new team members. Here’s what they have to say:


“It makes me proud to work for a firm that goes beyond the office and isn’t afraid to pull up their sleeves and get their hands dirty (literally). From butterflies to lions, these hardworking individuals carry their compassion, character and values for the betterment of all creatures, beyond design and into practice! Thank you WDM for this awesome experience!” — Nikki Wilken, K-State Architectural intern


“I loved the opportunity to give back at Sedgwick County Zoo, pulling out the Johnson grass to plant fresh new milkweed for the beautiful monarch butterflies. Feed their need, plant milkweed.” — Karlie Boeken, WSU Tech intern


“This initiative is what working as a zoo designer is all about – using my own hands to help shape a native garden beneficial to animals and humans alike. The measurable impact of this small project is already paying large dividends in the beautiful array of flower diversity and native wildlife present on site. Committed restoration projects like this which promote native ecologies should be an indispensable component of every zoological institution and wildlife conservation initiative.” — Jonathan Stechschulte, WDM Zoological Designer


“It was a great opportunity to give back to the community and support the zoo’s mission of protecting not just animals from other countries, but also those in our own backyards.” — Nick Pelisek, WDM Zoological Designer


We would like to invite you to join us in supporting the Monarch butterfly in your own community and in your own gardens.