The Altamont School certified as an International Monarch Waystation

Photo by Sara Bright

On July 13, The Altamont School became the first school in Birmingham to register as a certified International Monarch Waystation.

The project grew out of a long-term interest of Altamont science teacher Dr. Mary Williams.

“I teach my students about monarch migration in connection with a variety of topics: pollinators, plant reproduction, climate change, endangered species, and interesting animal migrations. Because monarchs come through Alabama, I have wanted, for years, to start an official waystation. It’s finally happening!”

Monarchs are in danger.


Birmingham Alabama
A section of The Altamont School International Monarch Waystation – photo via The Altamont School

According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, “Habitat loss and fragmentation has occurred throughout the monarch’s range. Numbers of monarchs have decreased significantly over the last 20 years.”

However, the agency suggests that projects, such Altamont’s waystation, can help save the monarch:

“In the United States, there is a massive effort to provide habitat for monarch butterflies, imperiled bumble bees and other pollinators. There is no one group or agency responsible for providing habitat needed for monarch conservation. All organizations, agencies and individuals must work together to improve, restore and create habitats to save monarchs.”

Partnering with Dr. Williams on Altamont’s waystation is rising 9th grader Anja Trierweiler, who was interested earning her Girl Scout Silver Award with a gardening project. Using seeds from Monarch Watch, Anja and Dr. Williams germinated and planted almost 200 pots, or over 600 seeds, in the early spring in Dr. Williams’ room and in the Altamont greenhouse.


Birmingham Alabama
The Altamont School’s Anja Trierweiler and the Altamont Monarch Waystation – photo vi The Altamont School

Once the seedlings were ready, Anja and Dr. Williams transferred them, as well as a variety of mature plants, to a totally organic garden behind the school. Included in Altamont’s garden are zinnia, Mexican sunflower, salvia, joe-pye weed, blanket flower, French marigold, black-eyed Susan, butterfly bush, phlox, purple coneflower and three types of milkweed: common, swamp and butterfly.

“Monarchs lay eggs on milkweed and need the other plants mostly for nectar,” said Dr. Williams. “It’s important to plant the correct milkweed. One of the types of milkweed most commonly found actually carries a parasite, which has hurt conservation efforts.”

In addition to planting the garden, Anja and Dr. Williams also keep the plants watered, no small task during an Alabama summer.

Dr. Williams’ family played a large role in making the garden a reality. Her daughter, rising sophomore Mary Elisa Wagner, helped start the seedlings and waters the garden. Her husband, Frederic Wagner, tilled the flower beds, contributed many bags of garden soil and helped with the planting.


Dr. Williams and Anja hope that the monarch waystation will continue to grow and that other students will become involved in the work.

Altamont’s Knight and Monarch Waystation is one of only a handful in the Birmingham area.

More International Monarch Waystations Needed

According to the Monarch Watch – International Monarch Waystation registry there are only five schools and over fifty places that are certified “waystations” in Alabama. Tennessee has 226 waystations while Georgia has 177.  We can do better Alabama.


Want your school, church, community or backyard to become a certified International Monarch Waystation?

Learn how you can join by signing up at Monarch Watch’s International Monarch Waystation Program today.

Author: Pat Byington

Longtime conservationist. Former Executive Director at the Alabama Environmental Council and Wild South. Publisher of the Bama Environmental News for more than 18 years. Career highlights include playing an active role in the creation of Alabama's Forever Wild program, Little River Canyon National Preserve, Dugger Mountain Wilderness, preservation of special places throughout the East through the Wilderness Society and the strengthening (making more stringent) the state of Alabama's cancer risk and mercury standards.