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  • Geographer's Challenge
    How to Map Monarch Butterfly Migration Data

    Before plotting today's data on your own wall map of North America (see recommended map below), consider this:

    • As the monarchs migrate across the continent, how can a map portray changes that take place over time?
    • How can a map depict movement?

    1. Assemble a wide variety of maps from atlases and other resources. Look at the many ways maps use color, shading, icons and titles to present information.

    2. Note that maps usually represent information at a single point in time. However, maps can also be used to show how information changes over time, just as a graph does. Look through weekly news magazines for examples of maps that present information that is changing. Changes in population, political boundaries, and environmental conditions are often shown on maps. Such maps represent information at different points in time, much like a "before and after" snapshot. Collect these maps on a bulletin board and examine the various types of static and dynamic maps.

    3. To chart the movement of monarchs this spring, we suggest using color to portray time. Self-adhesive, color-coded labels come in various sizes and work well. Use different colors to show intervals of time. For example, monarch locations could be marked in red during Weeks 1 & 2 of the monarch migration (early March), in blue for Weeks 3 & 4 (late March), in yellow for Weeks 5 & 6 (early April) and so on. A map key will help readers understand the progression of the migration. The exact date of a sighting can also be written on the label. Since the labels will cover the name of places on the map, students might want to make a date/location table and post it beside their map.

    Recommended Map for Tracking the Monarch Migration
    Now is the time to select the map you will use to track the monarch migration this spring. We recommend purchasing a wall map of the United States. (This is because the only map we could locate which included the monarch's entire range from Mexico to Canada cost over $30--and it was out of print!) Most U.S. maps include the portions of Canada at the northern extent of the monarchs' summer range, so should suffice. We also suggest having a road atlas on hand which lists U.S. and Canadian towns in its index. This will help you locate the sightings on your wall map. If you cannot find these maps in your town, they can be easily obtained from Latitudes Map store at: (612)927-9061