This past week board member Dr. Isabel Ramirez was in the monarch overwintering areas and spotted some monarchs! She visited the Sierra Chincua and Cerro Pelón sites and reported seeing thousands flying around the very same spots where they established their colonies last season. People around the area started to see monarchs by mid-October and were surprised with this early arrival. Monarchs were feeding everywhere! One of the most amazing congregation was on a Tepozan tree (Buddleja cordata) in a corn parcel at Ejido Cresencio Morales. We still don’t know if the sanctuaries will be open to tourists this season but we’ll let you know a soon as we recieve any information. Below some photos of the recently arrived monarchs.
Monarchs are about to arrive in Mexico but this overwintering season things are going to be different. For one, the day of the dead is going to be celebrated virtually, but most importantly there will be new health protocols (article in Spanish here) due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Since the visits are outdoors the risk of contagion is not too high but nonetheless certain restrictions will be applied. Local tourists, national and international will be required to wear a mask, physically distance, have their temperature taken before entering the sites and will be limited to 20 people at a time. So far, authorities have indicated that the Sierra Chincua and El Rosario sanctuaries will be open under this new protocol, but Cerro Pelón will be closed. We can only hope for the best as we keep on being vigilant of the pandemic and follow the guidelines to stay safe and healthy.
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, schools in Mexico have closed but the Environmental Education Alliance of Georgia are carrying on with their “Beyond the Mexico Book Project” as best as possible. In July resident of Angangueo and Journey North collaborator, Estela Romero purchased 60 copies of books about trees which will be distributed among the school children with letters describing the importance of trees and forest conservation. Still in development are a set of laminated picture cards highlighting about a dozen trees found in the region. Estela is speaking with local families and will ask at the ejidatario meetings in the different communities if there is a safe and viable way to deliver the lessons come November, as was scheduled initially. We are hoping it works out!
Our dear friend, Francisco Ramirez Cruz or as we fondly called him “Don Pancho”, a campesino from Ejido La Mesa died on September 11, 2020. He was 77 years old. A great collaborator, he assisted Dr. Cuauhtémoc Saénz-Romero in his assisted migration experiments helping with collecting seeds, growing Abies religiosa (oyamel) seedlings at a forest nursery at his home, locating sites to plant assisted migration field tests, and taking care of the surveillance, maintenance and measurements of the experiments. On April 19, 2019 Dr. Saénz and Don Pancho were featured in a wonderful article in the LA Times by Kate Linthicum, which describes the experiments. We will miss you Don Pancho!
Supported by MBF funding, Alternare and nine communities have reforested 23.6 hectares with 21,040 trees! The trees were grown and maintained in 21 school nurseries and seven in community nurseries. Around 500 women, men and children participated, averaging 25 people per reforestation due to the physical distancing requirements necessary to comply with the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions. An additional 10 hectares were reforested with 8,000 trees in Carpinteros indigenous community to restore the forest under their care as indicated by the forest management plan of the MBBR’s buffer zone. MBF is happy to see that the pandemic did not stop Alternare and the communities from maintaining the beautiful forests for the overwintering monarchs!! Additionally, we are pleased to report that none of the community members that participated in the reforestation or Alternare´s team have experienced any symptoms of COVID-19. Below some images from the reforestation.
In 2017 the Monarch Butterfly Fund issued a public challenge to create a system that could track the flight of individual monarch butterflies on their migration. Dr. David Blaauw and his colleagues at the University of Michigan and the University of Pittsburgh have been working on developing tiny sensors that can be attached to individual monarchs and record information throughout their flights. They recently completed a paper on their development of a deep learning algorithm that can estimate a butterfly’s daily location by analyzing light and temperature sensor data continuously obtained from an ultra-low power, millimeter (mm)-scale sensor attached to the butterfly. With the help of 82 volunteers across the U.S., they have collected over 1500 days of real-world sensor data! Thanks to all of you who contributed to the challenge, MBF has been able to support this wonderful achievement!