MBF Board member, Gail Morris was interviewed by NPR News and she discussed the downward trend in monarch populations and possible actions that all of us, as well as the federal government, can take to address the issue. To listen click here.
An unusual event is happening in Mexico. Usually by the end of March all the monarchs have dispersed from the overwintering sites and are on their way back to the United States. But the last week of March they found 30 trees still filled with monarchs! Scientists are asking many questions, all wondering why? Our board member, Dr. Isabel Ramirez says she has not seen this phenomena in twenty years of monitoring the area and Dr. Chip Taylor, member emeritus, said that the monarchs moved on later that day, but there is still some question about how successful they will be reaching the USA this late in the season with higher temperatures en route. Read about this event on the Journey North.
With funding from MBF, the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve printed three large signs informing visitors to the butterfly colonies that the area that they are visiting is under restoration. These signs were placed in strategic areas in Sierra Chincua that were damaged by a storm in March, 2016 and where the Reserve is carrying out recovery and restoration work. Among the activities they are performing are reforestation, soil retention and perimeter fencing aimed at protecting the seedlings that were planted with the support of several institutions, ejidos and communities.
Pablo Jaramillo and Lincoln Brower collaborated with Rob Mackay from the University of Hull, U.K. to set up a live streaming of the sounds from the ecosystem of a monarch colony on Cerro Pelón. The sound is quite remarkable, and it is the first time that this has been accomplished in Mexico! You can hear the monarchs at:
MBF board member Isabel Ramirez was in the monarch butterfly colonies and sent us some lovely pictures of monarch clusters overwintering in Sierra Chincua, Cerro Pelón, and Piedra Herrada. Enjoy!
Every fall millions of monarch butterflies begin their long spectacular migration to the mountains of Mexico or coastal California. Through tagging monarchs in the fall we are learning their migration destinations and, very broadly, the routes that they take to reach these destinations. However, we do not know details of the routes they take or perils they face en route. Conservation is a hallmark of the Monarch Butterfly Fund’s (MBF) mission, but advocacy for suitable habitat along their migration route is a challenge because we just don’t know enough. Through tagging programs, starting with a program led by Dr. Fred Urquhart from the University of Toronto, and continuing to day with Monarch Watch, we know that most monarchs from east of the Rocky Mountains migrate to Mexico, but we still lack information about their destinations on the eastern seaboard and Florida. In the west, tagging data through the Southwest Monarch Study reveal that some monarchs in Arizona and New Mexico migrate to Mexico but others fly to California. There is so much more to learn!
Dr. Karen Oberhauser, MBF Treasurer and Director of the UW-Madison Arboretum, explains why MBF is engaging in research focused on understanding more about monarchs’ migratory pathways. “Habitat conservation in the breeding, migratory, and wintering areas is the most important focus of what we do, and will always be the main focus of MBF’s efforts. However, learning several things about their migratory path can have key conservation outcomes. For example, knowing the time taken on the flight, the degree to which individual monarchs diverge from ‘straight line’ pathways, and the kinds of habitat that lead to those divergences will help us to understand the best way to focus migration habitat conservation and restoration. We don’t have the tools to learn these things now.”
The goals of the Flight Challenge are to answer remaining mysteries about monarch migration, and finding the answers to these questions engages everyone from budding scientists in elementary schools to graduate students and more established scientists.
Habitat conservation will always be key to MBF, but pushing the science forward so that we can ensure that our habitat conservation work is based on the best available science will always be important. The purpose of the “Flight Challenge” is to encourage development of new, exciting leading edge technology and the MBF is excited to support this effort! None MBF’s “general” funds will go to the Flight Challenge. This is completely separate effort, so you can be assured that your donations to MBF will continue to be used as for monarch habitat conservation.
To learn more about how the Flight Challenge will accomplish its goals, see https://www.generosity.com/animal-pet-fundraising/the-monarch-butterfly-flight-challenge
As part of their training, arborists from Butterflies and Their People project conducting surveys on Cerro Pelón, (see our Scientific and Research and Monitoring section) have spotted and photographed several species of mushrooms, birds, and wildflowers. Below are some of the images. In the near future, Dr. Guillermo Ibarra, a renowned botanist, and Dr. Pablo Jaramillo will carry out workshops to help the arborists identify and label them.
The latest issue of American Entomologist recently published a paper on Butterfly Mortality and Salvage Logging from the March 2016 Storm that occurred in the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve. Dr. Lincoln Brower, Dr. Ernest Williams, Dr. Pablo Jaramillo and Dr, Isabel Ramirez, among others, participated in this valuable research that concluded that salvage logging “is almost always profoundly disturbing and detrimental to the environment.” To read a detailed analysis and view photos of the storm click here.
This summer the Crescencio Morales, Donaciano Ojeda and Nicolas Romero indigenous communities joined us to plant 23,400 trees in 20 hectares! Our supporters were delighted too and posted their feedback on the GlobalGiving report we sent recently. Some of their comments were:
“Outstanding work at creating a community effort to reforest lands, teach skills and help local communities be the guardians of their own forests. Excellent planting techniques that result in a high survival rate for the seedlings. Well done!”
“I am truly dedicated to helping the survival of the Monarchs and tell everyone I know about my passion.”