Much like the life of a monarch butterfly, research of the orange and black flappers at Maumee Bay State Park has changed since it began more than a decade ago.
Research started off small, inside a lab at the park's nature center in 1993, with only 21 butterflies raised that year.
The project was moved to an outdoor tent the next year, which was more in sync with the monarch's natural environment.
In 1999, a gazebo was purchased with grant money from the Division of Wildlife to house the ever-growing project, and researchers and volunteers now raise and release 500 to 800 monarch butterflies on average each year.
The center raised 780 butterflies last year.
Dana Bollin, naturalist supervisor at the nature center, credits Toledo's renowned "Butterfly Lady," Doris Stifel, with the project's success, and the monarch gazebo was named in her honor during a ceremony yesterday afternoon.
"I'm quite thrilled and feel very honored," the 82-year-old said, with a monarch-themed corsage pinned on her left shoulder.
More than 50 of Mrs. Stifel's friends watched yesterday as a monarch was placed on her fist, and seconds later it fluttered its wings and flew away. Several monarchs were released as a part of the ceremony.
A plaque with Mrs. Stifel's picture and name now hangs above the entrance to the gazebo.
Although Mrs. Stifel "planted the idea in Dana [Bollin's] head," she said she doesn't want to take all the credit for the project's success. But Mrs. Bollin said she is the reason it all began.
"She's so genuine, and so focused on conservation," she said.
Mrs. Stifel became fascinated with monarchs because of their incredible migration patterns.
Monarch butterflies are unlike any other butterflies because they migrate up to 2,000 miles from Canada to Mexico during the winter. In an attempt to learn more about their migration, Mrs. Stifel began netting and tagging monarchs more than three decades ago.
Maumee Bay State Park is along the butterflies' main migration route, she said.
Mrs. Stifel said she used to tag hundreds of monarchs each year, but her age has kept her from going out in recent years.
She serves as a volunteer consultant for the nature center answering people's questions about the butterflies.
Miriam Smead, one of Mrs. Stifel's closest friends, traveled close to two hours from a Cleveland suburb to be at yesterday's ceremony.
The two met when Mrs. Stifel attended a presentation that Ms. Smead gave on monarch butterflies more than 20 years ago.
Since then, they've tagged monarchs together and have traveled to Mexico to see the butterflies, she said.
"She has done a beautiful job of increasing knowledge and interest of monarchs," Ms. Smead said.
"She truly deserves the title, Butterfly Lady."
Contact Laren Weber at: email@example.com or 419-724-6050.