The Monarch Ultra Project


You are invited to be a part of an incredible project!  One that connects Monarch butterflies, ultra-running and film-making with resiliency, inspiration & beauty that surrounds us all....

The Monarch Ultra is the first attempt to run across North America (Canada, United States, & Mexico) in order to raise awareness of monarch butterflies who make the migratory journey every year, and whose populations are in serious decline.

A team of documentary film-makers, runners, and pollinator advocates will be telling the story of the flight of the monarch butterfly seen through the eyes of ultra-runners who will run the same distance of 4,300 km from southern Ontario to Mexico in the fall of 2019.  

Our 47-day running adventure will invite runners to traverse wild landscapes as well as populated urban areas while building camaraderie, overcoming adversity, and sharing a singular adventure with monarch butterflies.  The Monarch Ultra is a celebration of two types of superheroes: monarch butterflies and ultra-runners.  Both cover long distances using their incredible body strength to arrive at a new (unknown) destination.  Most importantly, the Monarch Ultra is an opportunity to connect us as human beings across North America with common goals of Earth stewardship and biodiversity conservation. 


Jessica Lister is the co-founder of the Mid-Atlantic Monarch Initiative (MAMI) and Vice President of Restoration at Environmental Concern Inc. in Maryland (  As EC’s VP of Restoration, Jess facilitates the creation and restoration of tidal marsh and wetlands in the Chesapeake Bay region.  Through MAMI, Jess educates the public about monarch butterflies and collaborates with organizations and landowners to restore monarch butterfly habitat.

Jess has a deep passion for the monarch butterfly, which began back in high school when she conducted field work with the University of Maryland for their research on the impacts of Bt corn pollen on monarch butterfly populations.  During her months of field work observing and learning everything she could about the monarch, her love for the species grew.  Jess considers the monarch butterfly her “spirit animal”, representing the hope, change, and endurance that she strives to have in life. 

In addition to the monarch butterfly, Jess’s other great passion is for trail running and obstacle course racing.  Jess’s husband, Matthew Lister, is an elite obstacle course racer and endurance runner, and their family of five (three kiddos - Zach 10 yrs old, Alex 9 yrs old, and Ali 7 yrs old) travel all over the United States for races.  They have a small 14-acre farmette in Cordova, Maryland where they have created a 3-acre meadow full of milkweed and nectar sources for monarchs, as well as a 2-mile training course with 28+obstacles – the Tardigrade Obstacle Course (  Their family hosts training groups, birthday parties, summer camps, and fundraisers…encouraging people to push their limits and conquer their fears.

As Jess puts it, the Monarch Ultra Project is a “dream come true”….it’s very rare in life when your two utmost passions…your two worlds “collide”.  She couldn’t be more excited to embark on this journey and support this amazing project.  For Jess, this will be her very first ultra run.  She is ready and excited to put in the work, and go through the “transformation” to become an ultra runner.

Fun Fact:  Jess’s first and only tattoo is of a monarch butterfly, which ironically… on her foot. 


Please consider making a donation towards this project.  All donations will go directly to Environmental Concern Inc., a 501(c)3 not-for-profit located in St. Michaels, Maryland.  The funds will be used towards Jessica and Environmental Concern's expenses for The Monarch Ultra Project, including travel, speaking engagements, raising awareness, and promoting this incredible project.   Additional funds raised beyond what is needed for the Monarch Ultra Project will go towards the Mid-Atlantic Monarch Initiative's (MAMI) Seed Stewards for Monarchs Program.  For more information, please email [email redacted].

Stay tuned for more information on the upcoming documentary!


Jessica Lister
Saint Michaels, MD
Environmental Concern Inc
Registered nonprofit
Donations are typically 100% tax deductible in the US.

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