As the leading edge of migration crosses the Rio Grande and advances south heading for the mountains of central Mexico young citizen scientists are at work with their teachers watching and reporting their observations.
Young reporters from Angangueo, Mexico have a sense that the butterflies are near as they visit the sanctuaries weekly to make and record observations. They are sensitive to the changes in the temperature and weather of their home and to the cultural signs of the season as their families begin to prepare for Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos). Fresh breads for sale on the migration trail now features Pan de Muerto, a delicate sweet bread made in the tradition of bones and skeletons. For more from the team of local reporters, read Estela's update at Journey South.
The story of how monarchs find their way home to Mexico every fall is one of my favorite stories of all time. While to many in the north the journey seems as impossible as improbable, every year monarch butterflies reappear in central Mexico, filling the skies like confetti as they seek refuge on the branches of the oyamel trees in the Sierra Madre mountains. Sustained by calories stored in their abdomens from the nectar of late-summer asters and golden rod and guided by a genetic compass passed down from their great-great grandparents who made the journey the year before, monarchs seem to defy the odds.
Dr. William Calvert tells a great story about how this happens. I heard this story for the first time in person while traveling with several colleagues to the monarch butterfly sanctuary of El Rosario in the late 1990's (see photo below) and find it as compelling a story today as I did then. "Explore the Possible Monarch Migration Pathway in Mexico" offers a research biologist's perspective on the mysteries of the migration from the Rio Grande in the north to the overwintering sites in the Mexican state of Michoacan.