MBF granted graduate student Grace Thomas from the University of University of Nebraska at Omaha and undergraduate student Fernanda Naomi Shimizu Romero from the Faculty of Higher Studies Zaragoza of the National Autonomous University of México (UNAM) the “Lincoln P. Brower Award” in May 2023.
Grace’s project is titled “The Effects of Bison and Cattle Grazing on Milkweeds and Monarch Butterflies”. Research indicates that 34% of the continental USA is grazed by livestock, primarily cattle. However, bison grazing, which occurs on many conservation sites and some beef production sites, may have a less negative effect on milkweed than cattle grazing. Grace’s project will compare and quantify grazing impacts on milkweed densities and juvenile monarch abundances among bison-grazed, cattle-grazed, and ungrazed lands
Naomi’s project is titled “Soil Properties in Ecological Restoration Zones Within the MBBR”. She will evaluate the effects of restoration efforts made in a 10-hectare area that was illegally logged in Sierra Chincua in 2015. Her research will assess the changes in the soil properties between the restoration and conservation zones to determine whether soil quality has improved in the area. Monitoring of the soil is important because the alteration of processes that occur in the soil are related to the functions and services that it can provide. The results of this soil analysis will help inform how well conservation efforts are doing in the MBBR.
MBF granted Masters graduate students Salvador Huitrón, from the Autonomous University of the State of Mexico and Darene Assadia, from the University of Michigan, the “Lincoln P. Brower Award” in May 2022.
Salvador has almost completed his research analyzing the biophysical, social and economic variables that influence the monarch butterfly’s overwintering habitat. His results indicate that 77.11% of the area with medium to high potential for the establishment of overwintering sites are found within a Natural Protected Area, with 44.96% of the areas located in the MBBR. This represents 23.76% of the total surface of the Reserve. An important finding is that 15.27% of the potential sites were in the Nevado de Toluca. which speaks to the relevance of the assited migration research being conducted. MBF is happy to contribute to this effort to further improve our understanding of the monarch butterfly’s winter habitat.
Darene Assadia is trying to understand the role of visual and olfactory perception, individually and in combination, between fall and summer monarchs when locating nectar sources. With a behavioral assay that uses potted Lantana Camara plants, she has been able to demonstrate that monarchs overwhelmingly choose the plant versus empty control. Preliminary results indicate that visual cues are sufficient and more important than olfactory cues for this choice. Results of this research helps conservation efforts by helping to make predictions about the effects of anthropogenic sensory pollutants on foraging monarchs. 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. As a result of interviews with campesinos, she found that the most frequently used pesticide in the entire sample population is glyphosate, which is a herbicide used by a third of the interviewees on their corn plantations. This herbicide was followed by the fungicide benomyl, the insecticide imidacloprid, and the herbicide paraquat, mainly used in avocado plantations in the municipality of Zitácuaro. Imidacloprid is an insecticide used in all the properties to control red spiders, a pest that attacks corn and avocado. Ana concluded that workshops about the proper use of pesticides, their risks and using appropriate agricultural practices are necessary. Communities need more information on how to prevent human health problems and the contamination of the ecosystems around the MBBR.
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.