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
MMBF and other organizations are supporting an education and citizen science program in Northern Mexico along the migratory route and overwintering sites of the monarch butterfly. Under PROFAUNA, A.C’s watch and coordinated by Correo Real 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. In October 28, 2018 Cielo Rojo’s movie “Taco Mazahua” was selected for the “Planet in Focus” movie festival in Toronto, Canada and received the Mark Haslam award given to documentaries that give a voice to individuals, communities and conflicts that are underrepresented in the media.
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.
Funding for Carpinteros Indigenous Community
The indigenous community of Carpinteros has one the best conserved forests in the MBBR’s core zone, with forest cover greater than 50% on 92% of its surface, thus making it a strategic site that is ideal for overwintering monarchs. Since 2000, this community has been receiving payments for conservation services for their efforts from the Monarch Fund as well as the National Forest Commission (CONAFOR), and they have proven worthy of it! In 2013, they were awarded a prize by CONAFOR and won second place in the “Films for the Forest” international short film festival for their movie “Ejidatarios del Bosque”, in which they describe community forest management for the conservation of biodiversity. MBF added funds to complete the conservation services payments for this year due to adjustments made to the property maps in the MBBR. The payments were given on October 7 in a community assembly. MBF proudly supports Carpinteros in their efforts to maintain a conserved forest!
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 – 2018
Six indigenous communities: Carpinteros, El Capulín, Crescencio Morales, Nicolás Romero, Francisco Serrato and Manzanillos reforested 28 hectares on 13 sites with 30,000 trees produced in collective nurseries. Below is the map of the reforested sites.
A total of 2,537 women, men, and children enthusiastically participated in the tree production process on 26 community and seven school nurseries. The planting was done with 594 people who also helped in the site selection. Communities asked to plant more pine trees since they can be managed more sustainably so 95.2% of the trees used in the reforestation were pines. Other species were included as well such as oak (0.2%), oyamels (1.5%), and alders (3.1%).
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 Pelón
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. Thanks to this grant, the program began last year and has now grown, thanks to an online GoFundMe campaign allowing B&TP to hire additional arborists. We are happy to have contributed to this budding project that promises to continue helping local communities and the forest!
Arborists from the Butterflies and Their People
While the monarch butterfly is our main concern, many other organisms also inhabit the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve (MBBR). This year, MBF funded a project to organize, review, process, and analyze acoustic, ultrasonic and wildlife camera files collected during 2016 in the MBBR by several NGOs (members of the Monarch Network-Red Monarca) as part of the existing data base in the National System to Monitor Biodiversity (SNMB).
Led by Belinda Ibarra López, independent consultant, in collaboration with the Mexican Fund for the Conservation of Nature (FMCN), this project will improve the information on species dynamics and their populations over time.
FMCN received 39,520 received files which were organized, classified, and integrated into 62 fauna databases. Forty five percent of the data was analyzed and a total of 86 species were identified, out of which 31% are not registered in the MBBR´s Management Plan. Specifically, 60 species of birds were identified in the acoustic files, 15 of bats in the ultrasonic recordings and 11 of mammals in wildlife cameras. Below are some photographs from the wildlife cameras. The bat pictured below is under special protection and is endemic to Mexico.
Mexican Dog-faced Bat
The results not only helped to learn about species’ presence, abundance and activity patterns but will allow researchers to update species distribution maps, conduct censuses of the domestic fauna, detect and map habitat fragmentation among other things. All this data will contribute to better management practices in the protected area such as restricting human activities in certain areas during relevant periods for the health of wildlife populations and identify priority areas to promote the connectivity of forest landscapes among others.
MBF is very excited with the contribution this research will make to improve the MBBR’s Management Plan. Additionally, government institutions, the Reserve and local communities are all collaborating and now, thanks to this research, have the necessary tools to make informed decisions to implement the best management strategies for the area that are compatible with the ecological requirements. This will promote the ecological integrity of the MBBR and protect wildlife, the forest, and our beloved monarchs!
Evaluation of Ecological Restoration
This summer MBF funded undergraduate environmental sciences student Salvador Huitrón, from the Autonomous University of the State of Mexico, to evaluate the ecological restoration activities in the monarch butterfly overwintering sites during 2012-2107.
Since overwintering sites of the monarch butterfly were discovered in Mexico, four decades ago, actions geared towards recovery of the forests that have been degraded need to be documented and assessed in a systematic fashion. Salvador will evaluate the approaches and strategies related to the restoration of the monarch butterfly’s overwintering sites carried out by the ejidos and indigenous communities during 2012-2107 and highlight their successes and lessons learned. This will allow stakeholders to analyze the current restoration activities and foresee future trends, as well as guide and strengthen the ecological restoration efforts in the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve (MBBR).
To do this Salvador will identify priority micro-watersheds of the monarch butterfly’s overwintering sites based on the historical records of the colonies, identify the main impacts of deterioration and/or recovery in the forests, and the ecological restoration activities carried out to revert the damage, evaluating these activities. This research will give important input for the development of a Best Practices for Ecological Restoration Plan for the MBBR and aims to identify all the local strategies and existing initiatives to provide approaches that are in tune with the current situation of the forests, restoration priorities and climate change trends acknowledged to date.
Evaluation of Ecological Restoration
Funded by UNAM’s Center for Research in Environmental Geography (CIGA) and MBF, the “Monarch Cartographic Series: Vegetation and Land Covers 2006”, published in 2007, will be updated for 2018. This work is a continuation of long-term monitoring of land cover in the MBBR and its surrounding areas, one of the research actions established in the North American Monarch Conservation Plan (2008). The maps will be updated, and outreach posters and brochures will be developed and distributed as a tool to use in the field.
Assisted Migration 2018
Dr. Cuauhtémoc Saénz-Romero, in collaboration with Dr. Arnulfo Blanco-García and students Esmeralda Navarro-Miranda, Erika Gómez-Pineda, among others, carried out several experiments related to assisted migration of oyamels in his lab with encouraging results! After one year in the field, an evaluation revealed 96% tree survival rate. Seedlings were originally rescued from natural regeneration sites and grown for two years in a nursery. Afterwards they were planted under the shade of nurse plants on a deforested site. The figure below shows the results.
This amazing survival is due to several reasons including the fact that the seeds originated from the core zone in the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve, were rescued from natural regeneration in mossy sites which were carefully transplanted into nursery containers, were grown at a communal nursery at high altitude (3000 m) and planting on the field was done under the shade of nurse plants.
This made Cuauhtémoc and his team realize that it is necessary to produce local shrubs in communal forest nurseries and plant them on perturbed sites that don’t have any shrubs, two years before planting the oyamel seedlings.
The series of photos below show the assisted migration field tests for pine (Pinus pseudostrobus, reforestation site at 3010 m of altitude), with treatments of: (a, b) 30 % of rain exclusion, (c) shade without rain exclusion, and (d) control (no rain exclusion or shade). The project’s aim is to see the effect of rain reduction, projected by some climatic change scenarios.
MBF is very excited with this results that give us a clear strategy to follow when planning reforestations!
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.
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
Alternare Workshops and Sustainable Development Projects
Thanks to support from MBF during 2018, Alternare trained 105 people from the MBBR. Nineteen community cisterns were constructed for 93 families and another one was built for a school where 53 students will have access to rain water. Additionally, 2,537 people cultivated and nurtured 33,606 trees in 33 community and school nurseries.
To promote food security and improve living conditions, 545 people were trained to use agrological and ecological techniques in 67 workshops. These techniques include fuel-efficient stoves, organic vegetable production, dry latrines, and medicinal plants production.
A pilot project is currently underway to produce organic blackberries and blueberries! In partnership with other non-profit social enterprises, Alternare has set up greenhouses at their Training Center with the goal of eventually selling the produce locally and internationally. This will provide campesinos with the opportunity to become entrepreneurs and receive an income!