The Monarch butterfly is one of the world’s most beautiful and mysterious creatures. Nowhere in nature is there a more powerful mix of scientific marvel, awesome beauty, and epic struggle for survival. What scientists are at a loss to fully explain is how the Monarch makes a seemingly impossible three thousand kilometre journey from Canada over mountains, through storms, and across large bodies of water to its small and remote over wintering grounds in the mountains of Mexico.
Montreal conservationists work to save vanishing Monarch butterflies from extinction
Surviving for Monarch butterflies is getting harder and harder. Scientists believe the population of the butterflies has diminished by as much as 80 per cent since the 1980s.
What’s going on, isn’t good news. Pinpointing the reasons behind the decline isn’t simple, but in Canada, partly to blame is loss of habitat: The precious milkweed plant. You don’t have to go very far to find a Monarch habitat in danger of disappearing.
This week, amateurs and experts alike across North and South America, are taking part in the International Monarch Monitoring Blitz.
The Montréal Insectarium is conducting a huge scientific research program to help save monarch butterflies in Canada. The goal of the “Mission Monarch” study is to inventory and describe habitats where these splendid butterflies reproduce, to see whether the number and distribution of milkweed plants has an impact on the significant decline in monarch butterfly populations in North America.
Researchers are already hard at work mapping the geographic distribution of monarchs and milkweed in Canada – milkweed plants are the only ones where monarchs lay their eggs. But given the vast territory to cover, and since these scientists can’t be everywhere at once, they’re calling on members of the public to help collect data.
It’s easy, free and fun
Mission Monarch is a community science program aiming at gathering data on monarch and milkweed distribution and abundance. This knowledge will allow researchers to identify the monarch’s breeding hotspots and implement efficient conservation actions. Participants find milkweed, look for monarch caterpillars and share their observations with scientists on the Mission Monarch website.
The program is a joint initiative of the Insectarium – Montréal Space for Life and the Institut de recherche en biodiversité végétale. It is part of an international research and education effort aimed at saving the migratory populations of this endangered species.