SPRINGFIELD, Mo.–Volunteering isn’t hard. In fact, thousands of people, right here in the Ozarks, are doing it every day. Each week, we’ll show you some the people doing good in our communities and let you know how you can help.
Our first volunteer knows a thing or two about butterflies. You’ve probably seen a lot of monarch butterflies lately. September is when they migrate through Missouri to Mexico, but they’re a staple as well in Springfield. More than 36,000 people a year come to visit the Dr. Bill Roston Native Butterfly House at Nathanael Greene Park. It’s all possible because of volunteers.
It’s the only native butterfly house in the state of Missouri, and it’s in Springfield. One of the volunteer curators is a Biology Professor at Missouri State University.
“I’ve been interested in butterflies since I was a kid, so it was a natural thing for us, for my wife Deb and I, to offer to raise butterflies,” Dr. Chris Barnhart said.
Dr. Chris Barnhart and his wife, Deb, spend countless hours at the butterfly house volunteering, and their work doesn’t stop when they leave the park.
“A lot of it happens at home because we raise most of the livestock at home,” Dr. Barnhart said. “Most of the butterflies and moths are raised table-top, in containers, until they reach the chrysalis stage and then we bring them in here.”
When he says most, he means hundreds, if not thousands, of moths and butterflies they raise, according to Lisa Bakerink, Executive Director of Friends of the Garden.
“Quite frankly, without them, we would not have the display we have,” Bakerink said.
She says Dr. Barnhart’s background helps him be the science behind their success.
“Sometimes we get plagued with diseases with some of our species, with butterflies or moths,” Bakerink said. “Sometimes there are parasites and things like that, and he helps us learn about that and takes steps to counteract some of those problems.”
And like in the classroom, Dr. Barnhart enjoys teaching visitors about our native moths and butterflies.
“It all works together in that the plants are food to the insects, the insects pollinate the plants,” Dr. Barnhart said.
While being involved in the ecology of it all, his favorite part about volunteering is giving tours.
“The only thing better than watching a butterfly is watching kids watch butterflies,” Dr. Barnhart said. “They get so excited.”
You don’t have to be a professor of biology to do this. There’s a group of about 30 to 40 volunteers that work in the butterfly house every season. If you’re interested in learning how to help, training sessions are available this spring. There are also countless other volunteer options at Nathanael Greene Park as well.
About 30,000 volunteer hours a year are logged at the 112-acre park, according to Bakerink. Just give them a call if you want to get involved.