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Xerces Member Augustin Garnier Comes Full Circle as a Monarch Advocate

By Melissa Manuel on 30. June 2023
Melissa Manuel

Augustin Garnier of Redondo Beach, California is a dedicated Xerces Society monthly donor. Augustin is an active advocate for pollinators in his community, especially the monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus). From serving as a senior officer on two local nonprofit organizations, to being a musician and composer, his many positive outputs have had a lovely ripple effect on folks near and far. Most recently, we were encouraged to learn about how Augustin worked to establish a pollinator garden at his local library, where he planted milkweed (Asclepias fascicularis), California poppies (Eschscholzia californica) and more. The cheerful colorful garden now greets library visitors and is a living invitation to folks to learn more and join in the cause.


Augustin with resting monarch butterfly on his sun hat
Augustin Garnier is especially fond of monarch butterflies. (Photo: Augustin Garnier.) 


Augustin’s interest in invertebrates and conservation began in childhood, where he grew up in a large family as the third youngest of eight kids. He remembers exploring the local fields and parks observing the local lizards, snakes, skunks, possums, raccoons, and occasional red foxes. Handling grasshoppers, crickets, and occasional butterflies was simply a part of his childhood in Redondo Beach, a coastal town in Los Angeles County. Augustin was a nursing major earning his RN at a local community college when one day he noticed a number of monarch caterpillars on a milkweed plant.


Monarch butterfly on Augustin's hand
Monarch butterflies feed on milkweed plants as caterpillars. As adults, they feed on nectar plants. (Photo: Augustin Garnier.) 


“Intrigued, I started counting them and it quickly became evident that this was a beautiful little world of its own,'' said Augustin. The college’s microbiology professor, Dr. Teresa Palos, noticed Augustin’s curiosity and came out of her classroom to tell him about the garden about the horticulture professor, a Dr. Horner, who had planted the milkweed to support the monarchs. “As a science major, I began to read research papers on the monarchs shortly after. It quickly became apparent that many of the papers that I studied were authored by the Xerces Society.” Augustin became a Xerces monthly donor soon after and began gardening for monarch butterflies.


Augustin posing with Xerces pollinator habitat sign
Providing native pollinator habitat is one of the best ways to help pollinators. (Photo: Augustin Garnier.) 


Augustin started posting his own gardening successes and failures on social media. “A handful of locals asked how they could get started so I started passing out local milkweed strains for free to get them started. They in turn shared the magic with their families and friends. One particular friend told me ‘Augie, you need to scale this up. Find a city plot that might work for a pollinator garden,’” recalls Augustin. 

As it turned out, the underdeveloped plot of land at the Redondo Beach Main Library branch was a perfect fit. Determined to manifest his vision of a pollinator garden at the library, Augustin prepared a presentation to his city council, where he made an appeal for the purpose of the garden, referencing research papers he had written in his studies. Augustin’s presentation also included details such as landscaping blueprints and a cost breakdown. Furthermore, Augustin secured outside funding for the project and volunteered to do the physical labor. 


Augustin posing with the prepared beds at the library
Augustin not only planned and facilitated the pollinator garden project, but also volunteered to do the physical labor and planting. (Photo: Augustin Garnier.) 


Augustin’s presentation was a resounding success, with the mayor, Bill Brand, declaring, "Yes! Let's make this happen." Augustin then set about installing the garden at the library. This spring, the garden brought him full circle from that first moment of inspiration:  “After our very wet winter and subsequent sunshine, I am happy to report that the poppies are blooming beautifully! And much to my delight, I saw the first migrating monarch during my errands around town yesterday.”


Blooming California poppies
A thriving pollinator garden provides a safe and delicious space for pollinators like the monarch butterfly. (Photo: Augustin Garnier.) 


Melissa joined Xerces in 2022 as the Donor Engagement Specialist, working with the Membership team. She is a "retired" young farmer with over a decade of expertise in urban farming, agroforestry, garden design and education. Before joining Xerces, she worked as a horticulturist at Leach Botanical Garden. Melissa holds a Bachelor of Science in psychology from Portland State University and has worked with a number of environmental non-profit groups throughout her career.

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