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  • Monarch Butterfly Migration Update: February 25, 1997

    Journey South Heads North!
    As part of the Symbolic Monarch Butterfly Migration, Angangueo's Escuela Issac Arriaga has been the winter home of 365 paper monarch butterflies since November. The first leg of their journey north is about to begin! Next week, six teachers will visit Escuela Issac Arriga and pick up the butterflies. These teachers each represent a U.S. science museum and are traveling as part of the Science Learning Network. Watch for their report next week. Before the butterflies leave, join us in a virtual visit to their school. Who knows? You may spot your very own paper monarch.

    Tomorrow, monarch biologists Dr. Lincoln Brower and Dr. Karen Oberhauser are heading to Mexico. They have timed their trip carefully in order to study the monarchs during the final weeks of their over-wintering period. What do you suppose is happening in the colonies now? What might they hope to learn from these butterflies, who have survived there for 5 months after their long fall migration? survivors? Here's a quick note which Dr. Oberhauser sent before she left:

    "We will be studying mating behavior, the condition of roosting butterflies compared to nectaring and mating butterflies, the incidence of disease in the monarchs, and factors that affect mortality. We'll be working with Mexican graduate students Eneida Montensinos and Eduardo Rendon from UNAM (pictured at right), and four students from the University of Minnesota are also joining us. We'll send you a full report when we get back!"

    Karen Oberhauser
    Although you can't join her in Mexico, you are invited to work with Dr. Oberhauser on a research project this spring and summer. Volunteers are needed who can count--monarch eggs and larvae, that is! Her study addresses a central question, one that is fascinating to consider:
    Since a single female monarch can lay 400 eggs, why isn't the world over-run with monarch butterflies? Have you ever wondered what happens to them all?

    Dr. Oberhauser explains the value of the project:

    "This study will provide the first large-scale assessment of larval densities throughout the course of an entire summer, and will be extremely valuable in determining the importance of different times and locations in monarch population numbers. I think that it will be very interesting to track reproduction during the journey north, and will definitely share all of our results with your readers."

    Dr. Lincoln Brower has studied the monarchs in their wintering sanctuaries for 20 years. Whenever he describes the monarchs' winter habitat, he uses this analogy:

    "The pine forest serves as an umbrella and a blanket for the monarchs"

    Since you're already familiar with blankets and umbrellas, you can apply your knowledge to a question about monarch habitat. You may be surprised how helpful analogies can be when answering any challenging question. Try this one!

    Challenge Question # 3
    "How does the pine forest serve as an umbrella and a blanket for the monarchs?"

    To respond to this question, please follow the instructions at the end of this report.

    The world of science and invention is filled with examples of analogous thinking. Here's a fun activity you can do to practice thinking by analogy:

    Canadian naturalist Don Davis has been tagging and studying monarch butterflies since 1967. Don tags anywhere from 500 monarchs to 5000 monarchs each season! To date, 18 of his tagged monarchs have been recaptured at the various overwintering sites in Mexico. An amazing accomplishment, considering the odds. Last week, he visited the Mexican monarch sanctuaries for the first time. Here are some of his initial impressions. (Thanks for sharing them with us Don!)

    Last Week's Challenge Question:

    Challenge Question # 1
    "How many factors can you name that make life difficult for the people who own Cerro Chincua? Do you think these factors will make conservation of the monarch reserve difficult?"

    Thanks to Daniel Westerling of Mrs. McGinley's class in Maryville Tennessee for sending his ideas:

    "I think that some limiting factors for the people who own the Cerro Chincua are a bad water supply, very little money, a late rain season and also alchoholism. It is too high to make it easy for workers to get to the reserve. I also think that these factors will make it extremely difficult for the conservation of the Monarch butterfly reserve." Sincerely, Daniel Westerling

    Meet the man who must answer this challenge question on a daily basis! Jose Luis Betancourt is a rural sociologist. This one man works with the ejido communities surrounding all 5 monarch reserves. There are a half a million people in this region, so this is an extremely difficult job. One of his greatest concerns is the rate of population growth in the communities. Since each family often has 8-12 children, he wonders how the already fragile economy will handle so many people in the future. According to Jose Luis, for every 10 people today there will be 35 people in 20 years! Blake School students Vanessa Bartram and Anna Curtis and interviewed Jose Louis last month.

    Interview with Sociologist Jose Luis' Betancourt

    Finally, here is today's report from our Angangueo correspondent Fernando Romero. Special thanks to Jon Dicus and Blake School students for providing their translation services!

    How to Respond to Journey North Monarch Challenge Question # 3

    1. Address an e-mail message to: jn-challenge-monarch@learner.org
    2. In the Subject Line of your message write: Challenge Question #3
    3. In the body of the message, give your answer to this question:

    Challenge Question # 3
    "How does the pine forest serve as an umbrella and a blanket for the monarchs?"

    Don't Forget!
    Please include the name of your school and your location so we can credit you properly for your answers.

    The Next Monarch Butterfly Migration Update Will be Posted on March 4, 1997.