MBF granted Masters graduate students Salvador Huitron, from the Autonomous University of the State of Mexico and Darene Assadia, from the Universtiy of Michigan, the “Lincoln P. Brower Award” in May 2022.
Salvador is going to use historical information on the monarch butterfly colonies to analyze the social and economic variables that influence their winter habitat. He will also conduct surveys to prioritize the biophysical, social, and economic variables that may affect the vulnerability of monarch overwintering sites. Rounding up this research Salvador will model potential priority overwintering areas. MBF is happy to contribute to this effort to further improve our understanding of the monarch butterfly’s winter habitat.
Darene is going to quantify the role of the monarch’s olfactory and visual systems in locating nectar sources. Quantifying monarch perceptual ranges helps us understand how monarchs locate resources. Darene is posing several interesting experiments that will give us some insights on how vision and smell work to increase perceptual range in monarchs during foraging and whether monarch sensory cue perception changes in summer non-migrants and fall migrants. This work will be an excellent follow-up to the work conducted by past Brower awardee Libesha Anparasan.
MBF granted PhD student Ana Merlo Reyes, from the Institut des Géosciences de l’Environnement – Université Grenoble Alpes in France, the “Lincoln P. Brower Award” in May 2021.
Ana is researching the environmental risk of pesticides used in the avocado and corn plantations of Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve and its influence zone. She is analzing the mobility of pesticides on the soil and its impact in water of two micro-watersheds in eastern Michoacan, the upper part of which is the overwintering site of the monarch butterfly from November to March. The pesticide analysis sites range from the reserve’s zone of influence to the core zone, in streams where the butterflies hydrate. The project also includes a qualitative analysis of information gathered through interviews to learn about current agricultural practices and the pesticides used in the area. This will lead to an evaluation of the environmental risk to the ecosystems and the health of the people exposed to them.
MBF granted PhD students Libesha Anparasan, from the University of Western Ontario, Canada and Natalie Melnokoff, from the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix, Arizona, the “Lincoln P. Brower Award” in May 2020.
Libesha’s research project is titled “Identifying critical nectaring sites for migrating monarch butterflies: New promise from stable isotopes and fatty acids” and is focused on developing new ways to identify critical stopover nectaring sites for Monarch Butterflies. The Fall migration of the Monarch Butterfly requires frequent stopovers where they rest and refuel. At overwintering sites, individuals must have enough stored lipids to last through the winter and fuel part of the return and reproduction. Libesha completed her research in 2022 and her results support the growing hypothesis that monarch butterflies do not generate large fat reserves for their fall migration and thus may be highly dependent on en route nectaring until getting closer to their overwintering grounds where more lipid accumulation has been seen. Additionally, she observed that during its actual migration in the wild, monarchs must use gliding flight and make frequent stopovers to be able to hold onto their lipid reserves for future reproduction.
Natalie’s research project is titled “Plant trait analysis and environmental niche modeling to determine the future demography of native milkweeds and their capacity to support monarch butterfly populations in Arizona and the arid West”. As monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) populations decline at an alarming rate, the need for advanced conservation and monitoring becomes clearer. With visits from both the eastern and western migratory populations, Arizona is uniquely poised to impact monarch conservation in the arid West. In May, 2022 Natalie reported she had successfully gathered critical information on Arizona milkweed and carried out species distribution and future climate scenario modeling. This initial funding from MBF has allowed her to seek more complex and extensive funding proposals to expand many aspects of the project. Among these she secured funding to construct an experimental heating array onsite in order to measure physiological responses of these plants under warming conditions that will mimic episodic heat waves. She also received funding to perform trial restoration techniques with these native milkweed taxa as very little is known about milkweed restoration in the desert southwest. Natalie’s research will lay the foundation for carrying out and evaluating habitat restoration projects in Arizona and the arid West.
MBF granted entomology MSc Student, Anna Skye Harnsberger from the Wisconsin Energy Institute and BS/MS student Cody Prouty from the University of Georgia the “Lincoln P. Brower Award” in May 2019.
Anna’s research is focused on understanding the effects of milkweed patch size and surrounding landscape on monarch presence and survival in the Upper Midwest United States. Anna will survey habitat characteristics and monarchs at 60 sites in Wisconsin that vary in patch size and the landscape context within which the patches exist. This will help her explore how monarch presence, density, and survivorship vary across sites to understand the effect of habitat size and isolation on monarch presence and survival. She has presented a poster with her preliminary results. Anna statistically analyzed the data collected in 2018 and 2019 and will eventually publish her results so that Anna can disseminate this research which will contribute to the improvement of breeding habitat restoration for monarch butterflies
Cody concluded his experiments to determine how exposure to neonicotinoids affects monarch behavior and population size. Three studies examined how monarch caterpillars and adults respond to increasing doses of two different neonicotinoid insecticides. Cody concluded that monarchs are more susceptible when exposed to neonicotinoids as larvae than adults, and the milkweed species they were reared on can also affect their response to the insecticides. Monarchs exposed as adults will have lethal and sub-lethal effects at concentrations much higher than what could be found in wild nectar. Cody’s study will provide an understanding of the impacts of neonicotinoids on monarch behavior and physiology, including potential consequences for the long-distance migration of this iconic butterfly. On November, 2019 Cody presented a summary of his research so far and presented his final report.