• Education and Outreach
We support environmental education programs that lead to a greater understanding, appreciation, and support of the challenge of monarch conservation. Our programs focus on engaging communities in conservation by providing training as eco-tour guides and in reforestation activities. Eco-tourism workshops combine indoor presentations and hands-on activities with outdoor field work to raise awareness about the importance of conserving the monarch overwintering sites. Participants learn basic monarch biology, including information on the part of the monarch life cycle that occurs in the United States and Canada, as well as skills that will help them become tour-guides and engage in monitoring activities.
Education and Outreach 2018
Citizen Science with Correo Real
MBF is among other organizations supporting a citizen science project run by Correo Real in Northern Mexico along the migratory route and overwintering sites of the monarch butterfly. This project includes strengthening an ongoing program titled “My Municipality with the Monarch (Mayor´s Monarch Pledge). Started in 2017, this initiative involves adding municipalities where monarchs rest, feed and fly during the fall migration, to participate in creating pollinator gardens and other activities. The project includes carrying out pollinator garden workshops, increasing outreach efforts through websites and social media, among others. Read all about this initiative in Correo Real’s latest Spring 2018 newsletter (in English).
Ambiente Cielo Rojo, an organization created by filmmakers and forestry, social, environmental, and technology experts, produces multimedia projects that foster awareness of the environment, culture, and art. As members of the Red Monarca (Monarch Network), Cielo Rojo received a grant from MBF to work on an audiovisual communication project for the Network for 2018-2019. The first stage of the project is to provide a video introduction to the monarch region focused on the challenges it currently faces. The initiative led by José Antonio de la Cruz Hernández, will help promote Red Monarca among people and organizations in the region. During the international symposium on the Monarchs in Morelia, Red Monarca used one of Cielo Rojo’s videos in their presentation! You can see the Red Monarca video on Cielo Rojo’s Facebook page.
Monarch Symposium in Morelia
The 5th International Monarch Butterfly Research and Conservation Symposium, was held in the city of Morelia, Michoacán on March 7-8, 2018. MBF board member, Alfonso Alonso, gave introductory remarks encouraging everyone to make an extra effort to connect with other participants and create partnerships to continue seeking and finding strategies for the long-term conservation of the monarch butterfly migration, an endangered phenomenon.
Alfonso gave encouraged everyone to make an extra effort to connect with other participants and create partnerships to continue seeking and finding strategies for the long-term conservation of the monarch butterfly migration, an endangered phenomenon. He also commented on the increased impact tourism is having on the two sites that are currently open to the public and suggested the possibility of opening other sites. However, this idea requires very careful planning and consideration.
Alfonso at the podium in the Symposium
MBF was also represented at the meeting by other board members and collaborators, including Isabel Ramírez, Diego Pérez, Cuauhtémoc Saenz, Guadalupe del Río (Alternare), Claudia Guerrero (UNAM), and Arnulfo Blanco (University of Michoacán). They presented and discussed topics that included reforestation strategies within the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve (MBBR), management of fire, genetics of fir forests, natural regeneration, and management of riparian systems. Additionally, Red Monarca (Monarch Network) which includes Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) that work in the MBBR and surrounding areas, discussed the importance of joining efforts to achieve lasting conservation in the overwintering areas.
As part of the Monarch Network (Red Monarca), MBF started funding the development of a Geographic Information System (GIS) geared towards creating a tool to help plan, analyze and communicate all the activities undertaken by the NGOs that are part of the Monarch Network. Led by Colectividad Razonatura, A.C., the project evolved into the creation of a Documentation Center in the Monarch Butterfly Area that organizes information on different topics pertaining Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve (MBBR) in a data base. This digital platform organizes, classifies and makes available to the interested public and society in general, information related to the MBBR area. The portal is also available in English and users can search information by different criteria, such as title, author(s), year and type of publication, thematic area classified by activities in the MBBR, general topic, key words, among others.
• Forest Conservation / Reforestation
Reforestation and forest restoration in the monarch’s Mexican overwintering sites and surrounding areas are important for the well-being of the local residents and for the monarch butterfly. We support comprehensive, science-based reforestation and conservation projects that engage local communities.
The partnerships MBF has established with different organizations have helped us support reforestation projects within the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve (MBBR). Our collaboration with Alternare and CIGA (UNAM’s Center for Research in Environmental Geography), which started in 2011 has led to successful reforestation of many areas and strengthened our relationships with the local communities who participate in our projects.
Reforestation sites – 2017
Our Summer 2017 was completed successfully! Thanks to the excellent work relationship that Alternare has established with the local communities, 24 trees nurseries have been established in schools and communities to provide healthy seedlings for the reforestation. This year, 720 people from six communities participated in the reforestation planting 23,056 trees on 19 sites and covering an area of 25.46 hectares. Incentives for acquiring the trees were given in-kind and included cleaning supplies, sports equipment, construction materials, improvements, and implementation of the school/community nurseries and in some cases, labor was paid for work that was carried out in their facilities. Below some of the participants carrying out reforestation activities.
Overwintering Season 2017-2018
According to the report by CONANP-WWF (National Commission of Natural Protected Areas-World Wildlife Fund), the area occupied by overwintering monarchs in 2017-2018 decreased by 14.77% compared to last year. There were nine butterfly colonies (three in Michoacán, six in the State of Mexico), occupying 2.48 hectares.
From January to March, MBF board member, Isabel Ramírez, was also out in the field with her graduate students collecting data about the monarchs. A a researcher from UNAM’s Center for Research in Environmental Geography (CIGA), Isabel and her team collected data that will be used for four projects (see scientific research and monitoring below for more details).
Images from overwintering sites in Sierra Chincua and Cerro Pelon
• Scientific Research and Monitoring
Recognizing that sound science is key to effective conservation, we support scientific research, including habitat and species assessments, with direct relevance to conservation in the overwintering sites. Our research funding supports scientists studying ecology and the conservation of monarchs in Mexico.
Collection of Data During 2017-2018 Overwintering Season
From January to March, MBF board member, Isabel Ramírez, and her team collected data that will be used for four projects: one for the North American CEC (Commission for Environmental Cooperation), to analyze the sampled monarch’s natal origin (stable isotopes analyses will be done by Dr. Tyler Flockhart from the Appalachian Lab in Maryland); the second, in collaboration with Dr. Jeremy McNeil from the University of Western Ontario and Dr. Jocelyn Millar from the University of California, Riverside will attempt to find chemical signals that overwintering butterflies may leave behind on the branches and soil as clues for future butterfly colonies; the third, includes the collection of forest regeneration data in areas that were identified as being damaged by the illegal logging in 2015 to follow-up the forest restoration plan drafted by the reserve; and finally, Isabel and her students continued to collect climate data and soil cover changes for the long term environmental research project that she has been working on for the past fifteen years.
Monitoring of Forest Health
The Butterflies and Their People, A.C. (B&TP), led by Dr. Ellen Sharp and Joel Moreno, are training residents from Ejido El Capulín, Ejido Nicolás Romero and Nicolás Romero indigenous community to participate in multiple monitoring projects. In September 2017, B&TP hired one full-time forest arborist from each of these communities who regularly visit the overwintering colonies and provide detailed information about wildlife, species, and forest health over the winter period. In collaboration with MBF board member, Dr. Pablo Jaramillo, arborists have been trained to monitor a natural regeneration project as well as documenting birds, flowers, and mushrooms in Cerro Pelón. They will continue monitoring forest health year-round providing valuable information for researchers, authorities, and local stakeholders.
Arborists from the Butterflies and Their People
While the monarch butterfly is our main concern, many other organisms also inhabit the MBBR. A National System to Monitor Biodiversity Reserves (SNMB) is already in place in Mexico, but the information it is providing needs to better organization so it can be more accessible for local decision-makers. MBF will fund a project that will focus on organizing, reviewing, processing, and analyzing the acoustic, ultrasonic and wildlife camera files collected during 2016 in the MBBR by several NGOs (members of Red Monarca). The project, led by Belinda Ibarra López, will enhance the existing biodiversity data base by defining biological corridors for vulnerable species, community-based surveillance in priority sites, while carrying out awareness and outreach campaigns as well as environmental education for the protection of species. These in turn will provide useful information for local decision makers charged with updating the MBBR’s Management Plan.
Ecologic and Genetic Variation in Oyamel Research
Another project that will be supported by MBF is for doctoral student Claudia Guerrero Vizcaíno, who will describe, both ecologically and genetically, multiple populations of oyamels (Abies religiosa) in the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve (MBBR).
Claudia will analyze the ecological and genetic features in the recovery of Abies religiosa in forest gaps where wood was extracted under various management conditions inside the MBBR. Her methodology includes identifying sampling sites with clearings caused by extraction in the oyamel forests as well as natural regeneration and/or reforestation sites. She will also collect soil samples to determine nutrient availability and record the various species of plants in the understory, to learn what factors facilitate or inhibit the regeneration of oyamels. In addition, she will carry out genetic analyses by collecting oyamel needles to learn about their genetic diversity, flow, and structure.
The maintenance of genetic diversity is key to conservation programs since it promotes adaptation and the evolution of populations and species. MBF is very pleased to support Claudia’s work. Her project will be one of the first studies on genetic and population ecology of Abies religiosa in the MBBR, as well as one of the first to compare the recovery of populations under natural recovery programs and reforestations as a component of public policy. We are sure that the results of her research will provide new guidelines to improve conservation public policies and management in the MBBR.
Research on altitudinal genetic differentiation among natural populations and assisted migration of oyamel seedlings is ongoing in Dr. Saénz-Romero’s (MBF advisor) lab. In December 2017, Marisol Ortiz-Bibian, one of Dr. Saénz Romero’s students and lead author published the results of this study in a scientific journal.
Cuahutémoc, Marisol and team with oyamel seedlings in a common garden test
The research consisted in collecting seeds from fifteen oyamel (A. religiosa) populations along 50-meter intervals at elevations between 2850-3550 meters. Seedlings were evaluated in a common garden test over a period of 30 months. Significant differences were found among populations in total elongation, height, date of growth cessation, foliage, stem, and total dry weight, as well as frost damage. These differences were strongly associated with the cold temperatures. When collecting seeds close to mountain peaks, the altitudinal shift would exceed the highest elevations within the MBBR. This led the authors to conclude that A. religiosa stands need to be established outside the MBBR, on higher mountains and volcanoes, such as Nevado de Toluca, Popocatépetl, Iztaccíhuatl and Pico de Orizaba, as potential future overwintering sites. Food for thought as the future approaches and climate change is upon us and the monarchs!
• Sustainable Development
We support the livelihood of local residents by encouraging artisan projects, and activities that increase tourism-related income. Our focus has been on supporting Alternare’s ongoing capacity-building workshops. During 2011-2016 period, MBF provided funding to Alternare to facilitate 946 workshops in different topics, training 11,806 people from the ejidos and indigenous communities in the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve.
Alternare Celebrates 20 Years of Promoting Conservation
Alternare recently celebrated its 20th anniversary with two exciting events ! On January 27, 2018 in the training and demo center in Michoacán, held ‘community encounter’ with the indigenous communities and ejidos who live in and close to the monarch overwintering sites. During this event, attendees learned about the different programs that Alternare carries out in the MBBR. The event was an outstanding success with more than 400 people attending from the various communities .
Alterare’s star team: Gabriel, Elia, Anita, and Lupita